Penn State (8-17) at Illinois (19-8)
The Sports Network
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 leads, 24-13.
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 Lions' expense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois 73, Penn State 60
02/21 10:31:18 ET