STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Andrew Jones converted an offensive rebound with 1 second left and Talor Battle scored 26 points to lead Penn State past No. 16 Illinois 57-55 on Tuesday night for its second straight upset of a ranked team.
After a layup by Bill Cole of Illinois tied the game with 20 seconds left, go-to guy Battle set up for the last shot. His off-balance attempt in the lane bounced off the rim and into the hands of Jones, the 6-foot-10 center who dunked in the go-ahead bucket.
Illinois' desperation heave downcourt was intercepted by Jones, and the blue-and-white faithful rushed the court despite repeated pleas from the public address announcer not to.
There was good reason to celebrate — it was the first time Penn State (10-6, 3-2 Big Ten) beat ranked foes in consecutive games since the 1954 NCAA tournament. The Nittany Lions beat then-No. 18 Michigan State 66-62 on Saturday.
Mike Tisdale had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Illinois (13-4, 3-1), which had erased a 12-point first-half deficit.
After a potentially damaging nonconference loss to Maine, Penn State has had a dramatic midseason turnaround. They are 2-1 in the midst of a five-game stretch against ranked opponents.
Battle, as usual, has been the spark plug. The 6-foot guard rebounded from a shooting slump with 3s from 35 and 28 feet, and got fouled repeatedly as he weaved through a chippy defense for mid-range jumpers. Battle finished 8 of 15 from the field, including 4 of 9 from 3-point territory.
But it was Jones who made the big play at the end, surrounded by a throng of fans on the court after his dramatic putback. He finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
The heroics didn't look necessary early on.
Flying around the court for one of its best defensive efforts of the season, Penn State took advantage of nine first-half turnovers by Illinois to jump out to a double-digit lead. Jeff Brooks' 3 in the corner off Tim Frazier's drive-and-dish made it 25-13 with 5:58 left.
It turned out to be the high point for Penn State's half.
After a cold-shooting start, the Illini hit 6 of 8 from the field over the final 8 minutes and closed the half with a 12-0 run. Illinois found success attacking the basket, with Mike Davis' inside basket just before the first-half buzzer tying the game at 25 before the seesaw second half.
Cole and Davis both finished with eight points for Illinois, which shot 41 percent for the game after opening Big Ten play hitting 64 percent from the field.