Early Momentum Runs Out, Nittany Lions Fall to No. 18 Illinois 98-81

Story posted December 23, 2020 in CommRadio, Sports by Logan Bourandas

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After dropping a close one in their first Big Ten matchup of the season against Michigan, the Penn State Nittany Lions were looking like they would run away with a win against Illinois. Penn State opened up the contest with a dominating 19-4 start and would hold the lead for most of the first half.

However, once the second half opened up, it was all Illinois. The duo of Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu was unstoppable all game long. Cockburn took advantage of the Nittany Lions’ small-ball lineup, as the big man had 23 points on 11 of 13 shooting. Cockburn was the leading scorer for the team until Dosunmu took over in the second half, putting up 30 points himself in the 98-81 victory.

For the Nittany Lions, it was a combination of Izaiah Brockington and Myreon Jones doing the scoring, as they each put up 21 points for a Penn State offense that, despite the loss, played very well. It was the defense for the Nittany Lions that caused trouble, as Illinois dominated in second-chance opportunities. Illinois recorded 12 offensive rebounds to Penn State’s eight.

Brockington noted that the offensive rebounding ability was the biggest challenge that playing Illinois faced.

“A lot of it was second chance points,” Brockington said “They’re a really tough team and they never stopped crashing the glass.”

This is the second time this season that Penn State started out the game with a big lead and lost the game. The first time came against Seton Hall, a game that the Nittany Lions led by as much as 19 before losing 98-92 in overtime.

Coach Jim Ferry noted that a lack of toughness was a big reason why the lead faded away.

“It’s consistency, it’s continuing to play the way we were playing, and tonight, it was on the defensive glass,” Ferry said. “Tonight, we played well offensively, but we don’t show the toughness on the defensive side.”

Seth Lundy had another off night, as he scored only six points after starting the season out as the team’s top scorer. Lundy went 3 of 7 from the field in the loss.

Bench players such as Sam Sessoms and Myles Dread put up double digits, while Trent Buttrick had seven rebounds, swapping in and out with John Harrar during the game.

At the end of the game, an altercation broke out between Dosunmu and Penn State’s Jamari Wheeler. Wheeler would be approached by Dosumu after a foul, and others joined in near the Penn State bench. While it didn’t affect the outcome, Dosunmu would be ejected, and Wheeler would foul out of the game.

Ferry kept it short and sweet when asked about the altercation.

“Two competitive kids,” Ferry said.

The Nittany Lions will get a week off before hitting the road to Bloomington to face off against Indiana. After that game, Penn State will have a loaded Big Ten schedule with each of the next four opponents being ranked.


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