Another Massive Late-Game Collapse Allows Lions To Steal Victory From #12 Illini

By IlliniGuys Staff

February 21, 2024

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Illinois was two minutes and thirty seconds away from posting wins at Maryland and at Penn State in the same season for the first time ever.

And then...disaster.

The Illini (19-7, 10-5 in Big Ten) failed to make a field goal in the final 2:30 to allow the underdog Nittany Lions to mount an 11-2 comeback, capped by Zach Hicks' three free throws with three seconds left to score an improbable 90-89 win Wednesday night.

The loss spoiled a career night by Terrence Shannon, who continued his dominant play with a career-best 35 points and scoring his first four game streak with 25 points or more.

The Nittany Lions moved the game from their cavernous on-campus Bryce Jordan Center into the cozy Rec Hall, which hadn't seen a Big Ten game since Wisconsin visited in 1996, in hopes of creating a more raucous home court edge.

That seemed to work early as Penn State built an early 14-5 lead and maintained that nine-point edge for the next several minutes.

That's when Shannon took over, scoring 14 of his 16 first half points to key a 32-16 Illinois run to take a 48-41 lead into halftime.  Shannon continued his dominance with eight points over the opening 4:38 in the 2nd half as the Illini built a 63-50 lead.

Illinois appeared to be on their way to victory when they took an 87-77 lead with 2:30 to go after Shannon hit a free throw to complete a three-point play.  Hicks then drained a three-pointer and a jumper on consecutive possession to cut the deficit to 87-82.  Then after Marcus Domask sunk a pair of free throws, Jameel Brown connected on a three-pointer and Puff Johnson scored on a fast break layup to make it 89-87 with 29 seconds left.

Coleman Hawkins had a chance to put the game away, but missed a pair of free throws with 18 seconds remaining.  Hawkins then fouled Hicks on his three-point attempt, setting up his game-winning free throws.

Shannon added 11 rebounds to record his third double-double of the season.  Domask finished with 15 points for the Illini, which suffered through its third late-game collapse this month. They led Nebraska 72-62 on February 4th, only to see the Huskers close on a 13-1 run to force overtime, in which Illinois won.  Then on February 10th, Illinois led 72-64 with 7:38 remaining at Michigan State, but scored just one field goal the rest of the way as the Spartans closed on a 24-10 run to score the 88-80 upset.

Penn State (13-14, 7-9) was led by Nick Kern's 22 points.

Illinois returns to action Saturday when Iowa visits State Farm Center (1:15pm, BTN).

Stay with IlliniGuys.com for more postgame coverage.

 

 

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