Illinois' Shaun Pruitt shoots over Penn State's Brandon Hassell, left, and Geary Claxton during the first half. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Christopher Weddle)
Feb. 24, 2007
Brian Randle scored 10 points and held Nittany Lion scoring threat Geary Claxton in check for much of the afternoon for Illinois (21-9, 9-6 Big Ten), which needs wins to strengthen its NCAA tournament resume.
The Illini led the entire way Saturday, but took control in the second half. While defense might be their forte this season, their offense stepped up against Penn State (10-17, 1-13).
Pruitt hit a layup in the second half after stripping a rebound away from Penn State's Mike Walker before Randle sailed through the Lion defense for a dunk that riled up about 50 noisy Illinois fans. Their bright orange shirts stood out in a sea of blue-and-white.
Pruitt hit another bucket after receiving a pass on the baseline from Chester Frazier to give Illinois a 57-41 lead with seven minutes left.
Mike Walker led the Lions with 14 points, a dozen of them off four second-half 3-pointers, and Claxton added 12 for Big Ten cellar-dweller Penn State, which lost its 13th straight.
Claxton struggled early and didn't hit a bucket until late in the first half against an Illinois defense that holds conference opponents to 55.9 points a game, the stingiest mark in the Big Ten.
Meantime, Illinois' starting front line controlled the inside and found close shots with crisp interior passing. Carter, Pruitt and Randle, who each stand at least 6-foot-8, combined for 47 points on 20-of-29 shooting.