Penn State Beats Illinois 72-56 In Regular Season Finale
The Illini men's basketball team lost its final regular-season game 72-56 to Penn State Sunday in State College, Pennsylvania.
Josh Reaves scored a career-high 26 points, including 6-10 three-pointers, as the Penn State Nittany Lions swept the Illini for the season series, and stole their Big Ten Tournament bye in the process.
Illini Coach Brad Underwood said Reaves has never had a performance like Sunday's, in which the Lions senior shot Illinois out of its zone defense.
“First time in my career I’ve ever opened the game in zone,” said Underwood. “But we felt like, with the matchups being the way they were, that gave us the best opportunity to win.”
The zone worked in the first half, but then Penn State started making its shots. Illini guard Andres Feliz said it helped the Lions to be playing at home.
"And that’s the shot that they practiced, and they just was making shots," said Feliz.
Penn State shot 42% from the floor, but 50% in the second half. The Illini converted only 18-53 shots for the game.
Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili each scored 16 points to lead Illinois.
Illinois will face Northwestern in the Big Ten Conference tournament's opening round, Wednesday at 8 pm in Chicago.
Bezhanishvili said the team was not daunted by the prospect of five games in five days, which is what the Illini would need to win for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“We go into a tournament with a new mindset,” said Bezhanishvili. “Everything is possible. We know we can win against any team, but we’ll just compete and give our best and try to win every game. “
With the loss, Illinois set a team record for most losses in a season. The Illini finished the conference slate at 7-13, with an overall record of 11-20.