Penn State Basketball is tough, but failed to upset No. 20 Illinois on Thursday
Another big effort on the road fails as Penn State loses to No. 20 Illinois by a final score of 60-55.
Penn State Basketball (12-15, 7-12) lost the ability to control its own destiny for a first round in the Big Ten tournament with the loss.
The Nittany Lions will need a win and a Maryland loss at Michigan State this weekend to avoid the 11th seed and a game on Wednesday in the Big Ten tournament. The Fighting Illini’s victory (21-8, 14-5) keeps them alive for a share of the regular season conference crown.
Penn State Basketball fell to 5-7 in conference games decided in final possessions with that loss. Due to their slow style of basketball (only 5 schools play slower in all of Division 1), fewer possessions will almost always guarantee a closer game. 5-7 is a pretty fair and thoughtful record (for this under .500 Penn State) in those games, but that doesn’t make this loss any easier to swallow.
Losing away is a familiar refrain for the Nittany Lions on the road, going 1-9 on the road this year.
Jalen Pickett led Penn State Basketball in scoring with 18 points and added seven assists and five rebounds, his most complete game in weeks, though he had two costly possessions late in the game that came proved costly for the return of the Nittany Lions. efforts.
Penn State inserted a now healthy Greg Lee (9 points, 5 rebounds) into the starting lineup, replacing Myles Dread.
The remaining four starters were the same (Dallion Johnson, Seth Lundy, Pickett and John Harrar). The usually reliable Nittany Lions defense was going to have their hands full with the fast-paced Fighting Illini offense.
A Caleb Dorsey three cut Illini’s lead to 10-9, who is making the most of his very late playing time (perhaps how head coach Micah Shrewsberry started the inevitable recruiting process after not playing it most of the year). Lundy’s incredibly tough second step back, followed by a baby hook from Greg Lee, capped a 7-0 run, giving Penn State an 18-17 lead with just over nine minutes to go. the Lions shooting 58.3% from the field. Penn State continued to pack the paint to knock Cockburn out of the game, challenging the Illini to beat them from the perimeter.
A Jalen Pickett three (with the shot clock running out, no surprise) gave PSU its biggest lead of the game (three), but a Shrewsberry timeout turnover ‘use-it-or-lost’ -it’, two free throws from Illini and another turnover cut Penn State’s lead 30-29 at halftime. Although they were CRUSHED on the glass (20-12), their hot shots (52.2 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from three) combined with Fighting Illini’s putrid 5-15 three-point shot allowed to the Nittany Lions to head into the halftime tunnel with the lead.
The Fighting Illini missed four of their first five three-point attempts, but a Trent Frazier and -1 gave them a 3-point lead with 14 minutes remaining, but Lundy responded with his third three of the game. A ridiculous (even for his standards) conceded three by Jalen Pickett was called off, coming after the shot clock expired and back to back Illni buckets pushed the lead to 5, forcing a time out of Shrewsberry with 9:17 to go.
The Nittany Lions responded immediately with a 6-0 run, including Harrar’s first two buckets (on his first two shot attempts) of the game and a Dallion Johnson three gave PSU a stunning two-point lead! Illinois responded with two free throws and a three-pointer, but PSU battled for three offensive rebounds and after a lucky charge/block call passed, the Nittany Lions had possession coming out of the latest media timeout, down from just three.
Outside of the timeout, Penn State did what they always do and Pickett’s forced fade as the shot clock expired, a shot clock violation against Penn State. Illinois missed its next two shots, but Penn State did the same when Illinois head coach Brad Underwood called a 55-52 timeout with 1:33 left.
Illinois looked great but missed a top three from the sidelines, bringing the Nittany Lions to life. Lundy forced a disputed three-pointer that sounded off the rim, but after a superb replay review, officials determined possession remained with Penn State. TV replays showed VERY differently as the ball was clearly out of Harrar.
Penn State had a great look but Dread’s open three sounded off the edge. Illinois slowed time and forced a foul from Penn State with 14.0 seconds left. If Penn State wanted to foul, they should have done so right away, allowing Illinois to lose time. Frazier rolled to the front of the one-on-one and Fighting Illini beat Penn State for their 10th offensive rebound, virtually sealing the game. Penn State was forced to foul, and Illinois made both free throws.
Dallion Johnson drained a three with 6.9 seconds left, forcing Illinois into bounds and making another free throw. The Fighting Illini did just that with ease.
Penn State ends the regular season this Sunday heading to Rutgers at 12:00 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.