March 3, 2022
(Cover photo Joe Clark/IlliniGuys)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Da'Monte Willliams scored a season-high 14 points and the Illinois defense held Penn State to a single field goal in the final 6:02 as the 20th ranked Illini came away with a 60-55 win that was much harder to get than they would have liked.
The victory clinches a double-bye in next week's Big Ten tournament for Illinois (21-8, 14-5), which still has a shot at catching Wisconsin for a share of the conference title and the #1 seed in Indianapolis. The win also is Illinois' 30th in Big Ten play over the past two seasons, breaking the school record of 29 set last year.
Kofi Cockburn took just seven shots in the game, making four of them to score 11 points while Trent Frazier finished with ten points.
Penn State's defense focused on denying Cockburn the ball and sticking to the Illini's top outside shooters in Plummer and Frazier. Williams took advantage. With his defender often backing away to guard against an entry pass inside, the super senior tied a career high with four three-pointers on a career-best ten attempts. It was his best scoring night ever in a Big Ten game and his highest total since a career-high 18 against Lindenwood in November, 2019.
The Nittany Lions' gameplan of slowing the game down and limiting Illini possessions worked for most of the game as they led 30-29 at halftime and stayed close throughout. Illinois put together a Cockburn dunk with a Jacob Grandison layup to take a 46-41 lead.
After a Dallion Johnson three-pointer gave Penn State a 52-50 lead with 6:02 left, the Illini defense clamped down and held them scoreless for the next 5:55. Illinois finished the game on a 12-3 run get the victory.
Jaden Pickett led all scorers with 18 points for Penn State (12-15, 7-12), which falls to 5-7 this season in games decided by six points or less.
The Illini will finish the season Sunday night when 24th ranked Iowa visits (6:30pm, FS1) on Senior Night. Williams, Trent Frazier, and Alfonso Plummer will be honored before the game. If Illinois beats the Hawkeyes and Wisconsin loses at home to Nebraska, the Illini and Badgers will be co-Big Ten regular season champs.
Stay with IlliniGuys.com for complete postgame coverage and analysis.
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