Illini basketball barely escapes winless in conference Penn St

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For Illini basketball fans, this was Norfolk St., Gardner-Webb, Western Carolina, Auburn and Hawaii all over again- a narrow win, 64-59 over a supremely inferior opponent. It was a foul fest that just would not end. Penn State (now 8-18; 0-14 Big Ten) was in foul trouble quite early. Illinois was hacking too.

But the 52 fouls in this game was well short of the Illini single-game record for most personal fouls: 73 when Illinois played Purdue on March 1, 1952. Eight of the last 10 games in the series have been decided by five points or less and six by two or less and here the margin was six. The Illini basketball team improved to 20-8, 7-7 in conference. This is their 30th 20 win season in school history and 12th in the last 14.

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This was the lone regular season meeting this year and Penn State’s first game at Illinois since dropping a 68-51 decision in 2011. (the infamous snowstorm, impossible to travel game) and what a coincidence, the remnants of winter storm Q made the weather outside quite frightful. On Thursday night Champaign became the Ice system of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back. Of the 14,000 paid attendance, 7,000 showed up. And who could blame them? The snowstorm was fitting enough for Weather Channel Jim Cantore live shot.

Penn State last won at Illinois 38-33 in 2009, (YES, THAT’S NOT A TYPO- 38-33 WAS THE ACTUAL SCORE). Penn State now has a 18-game road losing skid, dating to a victory at Boston College in November 2011, and a 17-game Big Ten road losing skid dating to a victory at Minnesota on March 6, 2011. That is the worst among all the power conference teams in division 1.

So essentially losing to Penn State at basketball is like losing to Honey Boo-Boo’s mom at life.

However, Sasa Borovnjak did have a career high 17 points. Illini basketball had a very rough January at 2-6, but they’ve been pretty dominant in every other month this college basketball season.

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Illinois was led by 18 points from D.J. Richardson and 16 from Brandon Paul.

“I give them a lot of credit, they battled,” Illinois coach John Groce said of Penn State. “I love their attitude, their disposition and how hard they play. I give them a lot of credit. I thought they had a lot of energy today.”

Penn State out-shot the Illini hitting 43 percent to Illinois’ 39 percent, but was out-scored by 14 points at the foul line as Illinois made 23-of-36 foul shots.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Fox Sports, MSN, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Chicago Now

A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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