Nittany Lions Drop Fifth Straight in 79-65 Loss to Illinois

Story posted January 20, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Logan Bourandas

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Penn State Nittany Lions have struggled since returning from their shutdown, as they are 0-2 since returning and now 0-5 in the Big Ten after Tuesday’s 79-65 loss to Illinois in Champaign. This was the second time that Penn State matched up against Illinois, and, unlike the first time when the Nittany Lions jumped to a fast start, this one was all Illini.

Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn dominated, recording his 11th double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the win. Cockburn was a matchup nightmare for a small Penn State lineup, as John Harrar picked up only two points, while freshman Abdou Tsimbila saw heavy playing time with Trent Buttrick in early foul trouble.

Buttrick was inserted into the starting lineup for this game, as he was meant to give the Nittany Lions more size to try and match Cockburn. This change meant that Seth Lundy was demoted to the bench. Despite this, he finished second on the team with 13 points, his highest total since his 23-point performance against Seton Hall.

Penn State head coach Jim Ferry mentioned he made the lineup change not because of Lundy’s recent performances but to add more size.

“I think we needed a little change, and, coming into this game, we needed to be a little bigger,” Ferry said. “It wasn’t because Seth wasn’t doing well.”

The lack of offensive production was the story for the Nittany Lions, as only Lundy and Myreon Jones recorded double-digit points. Jones, who Illinois head coach Brad Underwood referred to as “underappreciated,” scored exactly 20 points, marking his fourth straight game with 20 points or more.

While Jones continued his impressive run, Harrar, who was coming into this game on a hot streak, noticeably cooled down when matched up against Cockburn. Although the big man was one rebound away from his third straight game with 10 or more rebounds, his offensive production was completely halted with just two points.

Ferry mentioned that the normally physical Harrar may have been worn down himself.

“John was tremendous against Purdue, and now you got him against Cockburn, and it wore him down a little bit, and he missed layups that he normally wouldn’t miss,” Ferry said. “I think we’ve got to get him rest after those physical battles.”

In his opening statement after the game, Ferry apologized for his incident with the officials during Penn State’s last game against Purdue. Ferry was fined $10,000 by the Big Ten for his comments regarding the game’s officiating.

“I want to apologize to the officials, the Big Ten conference and to everybody,” Ferry said. “I've been doing this a long time. I respect the officials and those actions didn’t reflect that.”

The Nittany Lions won’t have much time to rest, as they head back to the Bryce Jordan Center for the first time in 2021 to host Rutgers on Thursday.

 

Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email lxb5412@psu.edu.