CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Senior guard Shep Garner led the Nittany Lions with 16 points as Penn State defeated Illinois 74-52 at the State Farm Center. The Nittany Lions improved to 18-9 and 8-6 in the Big Ten, matching coach Patrick Chambers' highest overall win total at Penn State with the most conference wins since the 2010-11 season (9).
All five Penn State starters scored in double figures in the victory as the Nittany Lions' registered their third-straight win and fifth in the last six games. It was the second time this season five Penn State players had five or more field goals in a game.
Garner, who started the game with seven points in the first eight minutes, connected on four 3-point field goals. His 16 points on the night moved him into a tie with Tom Hovasse for 10th on Penn State's all-time scoring list with 1,459 points. He also had four assists for 303 in his career.
Sophomore guard Tony Carr had 15 points, sophomore forward Lamar Stevens had 11 and redshirt sophomore Mike Watkins and junior guard Josh Reaves had 10 points each. Carr and Stevens shared high rebounding honors for the Nittany Lions with six while Carr had a game-best six assists.
Both teams struggled to score in the early part of the second half, but Penn State extended its 37-36 halftime lead as five different Nittany Lions scored in a 21-6 run over eight minutes.
For the game, the Nittany Lions scored dominated in the paint with a 34-12 advantage and scored 20 points off Illini turnovers while giving up only 10 points on its 11 errors. The 16 second-half point total by Illinois is the lowest allowed by Penn State in a half this year.
Illinois recovered from an 0-9 shooting stretch over the first 7:30 of the second half and hit two field goals to trim the deficit to single-digits, 49-40.
For the game, the Illini shot 39.2 percent and became the 12th opponent to fall to the Nittany Lions when held under 40 percent in field goal percentage.
The Illini jumped out to an early lead and were up by as many as six points in the first 10 minutes of the game. Points from Lamar Stevens, Jamari Wheeler and a 3-pointer by Carr tied the score at 21 all at the 8:38 mark of the first half. A layup by Julian More tied the game again at 23 and he converted his free throw to give the Nittany Lions their first lead at 7:51.
With 11 first-half lead changes, Illinois went up by six again, 34-28, with 2:37 left in the first period before a 7-2 run closed the gap to 36-25. The Illini turned over the ball with 3.7 seconds left in the half on the Nittany Lions' end of the floor. Carr tossed in a bucket and the Nittany Lions took a 37-36 lead into the locker room.
Penn State is two games over .500 in the Big Ten this late in the season for the first time since 2008-09, when it finished 10-8. The win over the Illini gives the Nittany Lions their third Big Ten road win this season, tying its highest number of road wins since joining the Big Ten in the 1992-93 season.
Illinois' Leron Black led all scorers with 18 points and Kipper Nichols and Te'Jon Lucas also finished in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively, Three Illinois players had six rebounds as the Illini had a 32-28 edge on the boards.
Penn State returns home for a Thursday, February 15 game vs. Ohio State. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. and fans are encouraged to wear white.
Tickets for the Nittany Lions' last two home games are available at gopsusports.com/tickets/m-baskbl-tickets.html. Keep up to date with the latest information from Coach Patrick Chambers and the Nittany Lions on Twitter by following @Coach_Chambers and @PennStateMBB, liking the team's page on Facebook and following the team Instagram account at @PennStateMBB.