Illinois men’s basketball succumbs to 93-81 defeat against Penn State, drops rematch in University Park


Sidney Malone

Senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. runs down the court during the game against Rutgers on Saturday. On Tuesday, Illinois faced off against Penn State; despite a strong performance from Shannon, the Illini suffered a 93-81 defeat.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

After knocking off a top-25 opponent in Rutgers in its last outing, Illinois men’s basketball entered University Park on Tuesday night with some wind in its sails, hoping to avenge its loss to Penn State in Champaign earlier in the season. However, in their search for revenge, the Illini came up short against a three-point shooting Nittany Lions team that was led by a monster performance from Jalen Pickett.

Head coach Brad Underwood started the game with senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr., freshman guard Jayden Epps, fifth-year forward Matthew Mayer, junior forward Coleman Hawkins and redshirt sophomore forward Dain Dainja on the floor.

There was very little to separate the Illini and the Nittany Lions in the opening five minutes. Penn State struck first before Mayer opened Illinois’ scoring with a three-point make. After falling behind by three points, Shannon completed a three-point play to tie the game at 6-6. Both teams enjoyed strong shooting from beyond the arc, and consecutive buckets found the Illini trailing 14-11 five minutes into the half.

Penn State sparked a 7-0 run that boosted it to an eight-point lead. Hawkins temporarily ended the visitor’s scoring drought with a quick one-handed floater before the Illini fell into yet another extended drought. Freshman guard Ty Rodgers sparked some energy back into the team after scoring back-to-back layups, and two free throws from Shannon cut the deficit to a narrow 22-19 score.

The Nittany Lions continued to shoot consistently from beyond the arc, only counteracted by a three-point make from sophomore guard Luke Goode. The triple served as Goode’s first points of the year after his extended absence due to injury.

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Despite continued pushes from the Illini, the visitors struggled to get over the hump due to the Nittany Lions’ impressive three-point accuracy. By the end of the first half, they had shot 10-18 from beyond the arc, with Jalen Pickett leading the way on 24 points.

Rodgers was undoubtedly the highlight of the first half for Illinois, as the freshman finished the half with 10 points on 5-5 shooting. However, the Illini trailed 53-40 heading into the break.

Shannon opened the second half scoring after completing the and-one play. Not long after, Hawkins drove to the hoop for the two-handed slam, cutting the Illini’s deficit to single digits. Both teams went back and forth over the opening five minutes, with Penn State unable to get on any big runs as Illinois began knocking on the door. Dainja completed an and-one play of his own to cut the Nittany Lions’ lead to just eight.

Penn State recovered and sparked a 6-0 run to extend its lead, and by the 13:21 mark Illinois found itself down 68-57. As the Nittany Lions continued to rediscover their first half shooting form, the Illini’s accuracy from the field faltered. The visitors still had no answer to the immense amount of three-point shots being put up, and halfway through the second period Illinois trailed 71-57.

Mayer and Shannon managed to get to the free throw line and convert all of their shots before Shannon went on a tear. The Chicago native began to heat up after getting a jumper to fall followed up by a three-point make. However, Illinois wasn’t able to take advantage of the momentum and slowed down significantly.

The Nittany Lions were able to stay in front and closed out the contest with a 93-81 result over the Illini. Pickett had a career night, with his 41 points on 15-20 shooting from the floor serving as a key factor behind Penn State’s success. Shannon finished the game as the Illini’s top scorer with 20 points.

Illinois will be back in action on Saturday as it travels for a tough test against No. 14 Indiana in Bloomington.



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