Illini in balancing act
No go-to guy emerges, but Richardson leads five in double figures
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Illinois coach Bruce Weber still hasn’t found a go-to guy. But in a 77-67 win over Penn State before 8,085 fans Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, he didn’t need one.
The Illini (13-8, 5-3 Big Ten) used a balanced scoring attack that saw five different players reach double figures to snap a three-game losing streak for their third road win of the season. The Nittany Lions (8-12, 0-8) remained winless in the Big Ten after their eighth straight loss.
‘‘We got a lot better balance and maybe we’re starting to make some strides,’’ said Weber, who lamented the lack of a ‘‘go-to guy’’ after a loss at Northwestern on Saturday. ‘‘But it’s just one game.’’
Illinois was reeling midway through the second half after Penn State rallied from a 40-33 deficit at the break to move ahead 51-48 on center Andrew Jones’ stick-back. But Illini guard D.J. Richardson countered with a 16-footer, followed by Bill Cole’s three-pointer and Mike Davis’ baseline jumper.
And just like that, Illinois was back in control, leading 55-51 with 7:58 left as three different players made clutch shots. Richardson finished with a team-high 20 points, while Cole had a career-high 12 and Davis 11. Mike Tisdale and Brandon Paul finished with 10 each.
The Nittany Lions had no answer to the key spurt. After hitting 5 of 7 shots to start the second half, they made only two shots in the next six minutes. Weber was as happy with the defensive effort as he was with the offensive balance.
‘‘We talked about the difference between the three losses in a row and three [consecutive] wins before that [being] totally defense,’’ he said. ‘‘We said, ‘Guys, if you are going to have a chance to win the game, you’ve got to get stops.’ ”
Illinois never led by more than 10 points in the final five minutes, but Penn State never made a serious run, either.
Illinois’ leading scorer, guard Demetri McCamey, was held in check. After torching Penn State for 25 in a win at Assembly Hall on Jan. 12, he made only 1 of 7 shots Wednesday.
But the one he made was a threepoint shot-clock beater with 2:00 left that boosted the Illini’s lead to 64-54. McCamey finished with six points and nine assists — one off his season high, with eight coming in the first half.
Talor Battle led Penn State with 20 points and was joined in doubles by Chris Babb (18) and David Jackson (13). The rest of the Nittany Lions combined for 16 points.
Forward Dominique Keller, who finished with six points, looks to the basket in the second half of Illinois’ victory at Penn State.