Penn State started 2014 the same way it ended 2013: with a loss. The Nittany Lions lost to Illinois in Champaign, 75-55, to fall to 9-6 overall and 0-2 in conference play.
In just his third game as a Nittany Lion, John Johnson led the way for Penn State with 18 points before eventually fouling out. Johnson was the only bright spot in this game for Penn State, as they couldn’t get on any consistent scoring runs and never led once throughout the entire game.
The Fighting Illini started the game on a 9-0 run and Penn State didn’t even get on the board until Donovon Jack made a layup at the 13:17 mark of the first half. Despite shooting under 30 percent for the first half and only recording one assist, Penn State only found itself down at the half by two points, 28-26.
But, just like in their previous game against Michigan State, the Nittany Lions would go on to lay an egg in the second half. Illinois started the second half just like they started the first half, on a 9-0 run. And the Fighting Illini wouldn’t look back.
Penn State cut the Illinois lead to seven after a Brandon Taylor tip-in made it 50-43. But right after that at the 8:38 mark, D.J. Newbill was ejected for pushing Kendrick Nunn of Illinois. From that point on Illinois pulled away and their lead was never in jeopardy.
Besides Johnson, Newbill finished with just seven points and Tim Frazier had just 10. Taylor and Ross Travis struggled mightily on offense, as Taylor had just four points and Travis was held scoreless. Four players scored in double figures for Illinois. Rayvonte Rice led with 15 points, Tracy Abrams had 12, and Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey each had 11.
Penn State will try for its first Big Ten win when they host Minnesota on Wednesday, Jan. 8.