Payton Banks was a consistent force for Penn State on Saturday, building its lead late in the first half and rebuilding its advantage late in the second half.
Banks went on his own 10-0 run just before halftime against Illinois, turning a two-point lead into a 12-point advantage in a span of 2:09. He capped his hot streak with back-to-back 3-pointers as the Nittany Lions seized control en route to an 83-70 win over Illinois on Saturday at the State Farm Center.
When Illinois threatened in the second half — slicing the Nittany Lions’ 19-point lead to five points — Banks came through with a three-point play to end a nearly five-minute scoring drought with 4:40 remaining.
The Nittany Lions maintained control the rest of the way to earn their first win in Champaign since 2009.
“It means a lot,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “Every time you play Illinois it’s a battle. We know what it’s going to be.”
Banks tied his career high with 24 points, Lamar Stevens added 21, and Tony Carr had 19 for Penn State. The Nittany Lions (14-12, 6-7 Big Ten) shot 56.9 percent from the field and finished 7 for 16 from 3-point range.
Malcolm Hill led Illinois (14-12, 4-9) with 14 points.
Penn State never led by more than four points in the first 17 minutes.
Banks pushed his team ahead 31-27 with 3:20 left in the first half to start his run and break out of a slump. The 6-foot-6 forward came into Saturday averaging 11.1 points per game, but he had been limited to three points combined in the past two games, including a scoreless night against Maryland on Tuesday.
After going 1 for 9 from the field in those two games, Banks finished 8 for 12 against the Fighting Illini. He scored 15 points in the first half to help the Nittany Lions take a 41-29 lead into halftime.
Penn State started to pull away early in the second half and took a 62-43 lead on a bucket by Carr with 9:29 left. But the Nittany Lions missed their next five shot attempts and committed four turnovers, allowing Illinois to go on a 14-0 run.
Banks then ended the drought, spinning past Illinois’ Jalen Coleman-Lands and connecting off the glass through a foul. His free throw pushed the Nittany Lions ahead 65-57 with 4:40 left. Stevens followed with a three-point play on the ensuing possession to extend the lead to 11 points.
“Putting teams away has been our Achilles’ heel all year,” Banks said. “I feel like we executed it perfectly.”
Julian Moore was inactive Saturday due to illness, Penn State announced on Twitter before the game.
Penn State faces Nebraska on the road at 9 p.m. Tuesday.