DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 21, 8:15 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Assembly Hall (16,618) -- Champaign, Illinois.
Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Penn State 7-8, Illinois 10-4. Away
Record: Penn State 0-7, Illinois 5-3. Neutral Record: Penn State 1-2, Illinois
4-1. Conference Record: Penn State 0-13, Illinois 6-7. Series Record: Illinois
GAME NOTES: The Penn State Nittany Lions continue their search for a Big Ten
Conference win at Assembly Hall where they will square off with the Illinois
Fighting Illini on Thursday.
Penn State fell to 0-13 in conference play on Sunday as it dropped a 79-71
decision at Michigan. The Nittany Lions now sit at 8-17 overall with four
games remaining after their trip to Champaign. D.J. Newbill is the top option
for PSU as he contributes 16 points and four assists per game.
The Fighting Illini seem to have caught fire at the right time as they enter
after a 62-41 rout of Northwestern that marked their fourth win in a row. The
recent streak of victories has risen John Groce's squad to a 19-8 overall
standing that includes a 6-7 mark versus Big Ten foes. Although Brandon Paul
is pacing the unit with 16.4 ppg, it was D.J. Richardson's 18 points and eight
boards that propelled the Fighting Illini past the Wildcats in Evanston.
Although Illinois leads the all-time series 24-13, the Nittany Lions downed
the Fighting Illini, 54-52, in the Jordan Center last year in the lone
meeting. Eight of the last 10 meetings have been decided by five points or
less and six by two points or less. This will be the lone regular season
meeting this year and Penn State?s first game at Illinois since dropping a
68-51 decision in 2011. Penn State is 5-11 all-time at Illinois, last winning
there 38-33 in 2009, but has won three of the last five games there.
The Nittany Lions were not able to knock off the Wolverines despite placing
four players in double figures. Jermaine Marshall and Sasa Borovnjak tallied
17 points apiece, while Newbill and Ross Travis tallied 11 each. Travis also
pulled down 10 boards to register a double-double, but PSU allowed Michigan to
connect on 46.9 percent of its field-goal tries and outscore it, 27-15, at the
charity stripe. The Nittany Lions have been terrible on both ends of the
floor, ranking second to last in the Big Ten in scoring offense (61.2) and at
the bottom in scoring defense (67.8).
Tracy Abrams added 13 points for Illinois in its rout of Northwestern. The
Fighting Illini played great on both ends of the court, as they hit on 43.6
percent of their field goal tries and limited NU to 25 percent field goal
efficiency. Illinois also held a 35-22 edge in the rebounding battle and
committed five less turnovers. The strong defensive showing was a breath of
fresh air for the Fighting Illini, who are second to last in the Big Ten in
scoring defense (65.4). They have made up for it by netting 71.5 ppg to place
fifth in the league.
Although PSU is coming off a gutsy performance in Ann Arbor, it is running
into the Fighting Illini at the wrong time. Illinois is clearly focused on
returning to the Big Dance and it will make a point of that at the Nittany
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 73, Penn State 60