CHICAGO – D.J. Newbill and Penn State are used to playing tight Big Ten games, and all that experience is paying off right now.
Newbill scored 18 points, and the Nittany Lions shut down Iowa in the second half of a 67-58 victory on Thursday in the conference tournament.
“We’ve been in too many games coming down to one possession, one stop, one rebound,” Newbill said. “We’ve learned from that. I think we’re a different team than we are now. We’re looking for a dogfight.”
Ten of Penn State’s 14 Big Ten losses this season were by nine points or less, including an 84-77 overtime thriller against Purdue on Jan. 17. Next up for the Nittany Lions (18-15) is a rematch with the Boilermakers in the quarterfinals.
Ross Travis scored a season-high 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting for the 13th-seeded Nittany Lions, who advanced with a 68-65 victory over Nebraska on the first day of the tournament. Geno Thorpe scored seven of his 11 points in the second half.
It’s the best Big Ten run for Penn State since it lost to Ohio State in the 2011 final.
“I think we can take something from each of those close losses,” Travis said. “One thing I remember from Purdue is they play hard, just like us.”
Aaron White had 21 points and 13 rebounds for Iowa (21-11), which had won six in a row and eight of 10. Jarrod Uthoff finished with 17 points and seven boards.
The Hawkeyes had a 49-34 advantage on the glass, but shot just 22 percent (7-for-32) in the second half and 26.3 percent for the game. Coach Fran McCaffery also was whistled for a costly technical that Newbill turned into four points.
McCaffery declined to talk about the call after the game.
Michigan 73, Illinois 55: The Wolverines (16-15) looked as sharp as they have all season, overwhelming the Illini (19-13).
Aubrey Dawkins followed up his 31-point performance against Rutgers with 18, Zak Irvin had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 15 points and eight rebounds.
Michigan could have guard Derrick Walton Jr. back for Friday’s game against No. 1 seed Wisconsin. Walton has been sidelined since Jan. 24 because of a left toe/foot injury.
Indiana 71, Northwestern 56: The Hoosiers (20-12) rolled to an easy win over the Wildcats (15-17) after dropping three in a row and eight of 12.
James Blackmon Jr. scored 25 points for Indiana, and Yogi Ferrell added 17.
Blackmon, a freshman, finished one point short of his career high. He also had seven assists and six rebounds. Ferrell had five assists. Troy Williams grabbed 12 rebounds and had three blocks.