Fighting Illini Move Past Penn State Into Big Ten Quarters
March 8, 2007
CHICAGO (AP) - Chester Frazier scored a career-high 21 points as Illinois survived a late scare from Penn State to beat the Nittany Lions 66-60 Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
Penn State's Mike Walker had a career-high 22 points - 19 in the second half - and made a tournament-record seven 3-pointers as the Nittany Lions nearly wiped out a 16-point second-half deficit.
The Illini (22-10) move on to the quarterfinals in a Friday night matchup against Indiana. Illinois now is 30-6 all-time at the United Center where it has won 17 straight dating back to 2001.
Frazier and Rich McBride opened the second half with 3-pointers to start a 14-3 run. Frazier's driving layup and another 3 against the Nittany Lions' zone produced a 41-25 lead.
But Penn State (11-19) kept scrapping.
The Nittany Lions closed to within 58-53 on Brandon Hassell's three-point play with 2:30 remaining, stole the inbounds pass and made it 58-55 on a basket by David Jackson.
Jamelle Cornley's jump hook in the lane cut Illinois' lead to 59-57 with 1:35 left.
But Shaun Pruitt took a pass and hit a layup for Illinois and then rebounded on the other end after a Cornley miss. Brian Randle's two free throws put Illinois up six but Walker hit a long NBA-range 3-pointer - he finished the game 7-for-11 - to cut it to 63-60 with 30 seconds to go.
Trent Meacham made one of two at the line for Illinois and after Walker missed a pair of 3-pointers, Frazier iced the win with two free throws with 12.4 seconds left.
Penn State finished 10-for-23 on 3-pointers and Illinois 10-for-28, including a 5-for-9 effort by point guard Frazier. Cory Bradford of Illinois set the previous 3-point record by making six in the 1999 tournament.
Jackson and Walker made 3-pointers and Penn State raced out to a 13-2 lead in the first six minutes of the game as Illinois missed four of its first five shots and committed three turnovers.
But just as quickly the Illini recovered their poise.
Meacham got the Illini rolling with a 3-pointer. Warren Carter, who finished with 19 points, hit two more from beyond the arc and Pruitt converted a three-point play in a 12-0 run. That was part of a 20-3 spurt overall and the Illini had forged six-point lead.