CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The numbers say it all and it’s in large part the same story we’ve been telling all season long. The Illini simply aren’t there yet.
Against Penn State it was an eight minute, 34 second scoring drought that started in the first half and went well into the second. Nine missed shots in that stretch with six turnovers and two missed free throws. It’s tough to win against the sisters of the poor when don’t score, let alone the Nittany Lions who won their 18th game of the year.
“We just got to get more ball movement,” junior forward Leron Black said. “When we went on that streak we weren’t really running offense. We’ve just got to move the ball more and make better decisions.”
The Illini lost by 22 but were in the game, even leading until that scoring drought started and it all hinged on a five-point turn of events. Illinois turned it over, couldn’t get a rebound, then Penn State hit a three. After a timeout, Mark Alstork stepped on the line trying to inbound it, another turnover. The Nittany Lions made a shot as time expired and the Illini never rebounded.
“I saw better body language and disposition at halftime,” Penn State head coach Pat Chambers said. “When I came in there, their shoulders and heads were held high and that definitely gave us some giddy up going into the second half.”
“They score on the inbounds and that’s been a problem for us,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “That time frame was huge.”
That second half was hard to watch at times, especially the first five minutes when both teams combined to start the half 2-of-14. Michael Finke missed the game with a concussion he suffered in practice on Saturday. Brad Underwood said it’s still too early to tell if he’ll be able to play Wednesday’s game at Indiana since he’s in concussion protocol. He watched the game from the training room.