Penn State has endured a challenging Big Ten season to this point, but one of the bright spots was a 15-point win over Illinois in mid-December.
The rematch between the Nittany Lions and Fighting Illini is set for Tuesday night in University Park, Pa.
The teams enter this meeting heading in opposite directions. Illinois (17-7, 8-5 Big Ten) has captured eight of its last 10 games, while Penn State (14-11, 5-9) has dropped four in a row.
The Illini are coming off a 69-60 win over then-No. 24 Rutgers in which they held the Scarlet Knights scoreless for more than 10 minutes in the second half. Coleman Hawkins scored 18 points, while Terrence Shannon Jr. and Dain Dainja chipped in 15 apiece for Illinois.
“Today I tried to get involved, tried to get a few shots in and get to the offensive glass, whatever that is, to kind of impact the game early,” Hawkins said. “I think that energy carried over.”
The Nittany Lions are hoping to replicate their effort from Dec. 10 against the Illini, in which they shot well from the field (50 percent), the 3-point line (12 of 24) and the foul line (8 of 10) in a 74-59 triumph. Andrew Funk and Jalen Pickett led the way with 20 points each in that contest, after which Illinois coach Brad Underwood expressed significant disappointment.
“Put it in bold damn print: leadership, lack of (it),” Underwood said. “And no effort. That’s what happens in this league when you have none of that.”
Penn State began a five-game winning streak that day, but it has since suffered through a stretch of eight defeats in 11 games.
Most recently, the team fell at Maryland 74-68 on Saturday. Pickett scored 15 points but was limited to one free-throw attempt, much to the dismay of coach Micah Shrewsberry.
“That kid’s one of the best players in our league, and he’s being treated unfairly,” Shrewsberry said. “He’s a first-team all-American, he’s a first-team all-league dude, and he’s not getting the same treatment.”
–Field Level Media