Penn State Basketball Weekly Preview: Big Ten Play Continues as No. 13 Illinois Comes to BJC

Story posted December 16, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Logan Bourandas

Last week had its ups and downs for the Nittany Lions. In two tough games, Penn State managed to split.

The week started out great, as the argument could be made that the Nittany Lions played a perfect game in upsetting No. 15 Virginia Tech 75-55 on Tuesday.

The Nittany Lions dominated the Hokies from the tip and were led by Izaiah Brockington, who posted a career high 24 points as well as eight rebounds. Penn State led in almost every major category and had only four turnovers, which was a quick change from the 14-turnover game against Seton Hall.

Penn State could not maintain that momentum for the start of Big Ten play though, as the Nittany Lions lost a close game to Michigan 62-58 on Sunday. The Nittany Lions started out the game cold, as they went into the locker room down nine points after the first half. A second-half surge gave the Nittany Lions the lead late, but Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson made two late baskets, and Sam Sessoms missed two shots late in the game to ice it.

Michigan was unranked before the game but the Wolverines are now inside the top 25 at No. 25. Penn State is not ranked nor receiving votes in the AP Poll, but the Nittany Lions did receive two votes in the Coaches Poll.

This week, the Nittany Lions only have one game, but it will be their biggest test of the season, as they host No. 13 Illinois. The Fighting Illini were hyped up as the best and most well-rounded team in the Big Ten this season, though they have lost two games early, leaving some to change their opinion to Iowa.

The Fighting Illini are coming off a close three-point loss to Missouri. Illinois failed to make a shot in the last 40 seconds of the game. Ayo Dosunmu played his best game of the season though, as he put up 36 points and five rebounds. Dosunmu is averaging close to 25 points per game this season.

Kofi Cockburn has also been a problem all year long. At the center position, he’s averaging 14 points and almost nine rebounds per game. Cockburn will be a tough matchup for one of Penn State’s only centers on the roster, John Harrar.

Illinois started the season ranked No. 8 and a perfect 3-0 before losing to a Baylor team that is considered one of the best in the country. Dosunmu had an off shooting night, making only six of 18 shots, while guard Adam Miller only made two of 11 baskets. The Illini do have a signature win, as they dismantled Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, winning that game by 15 points.

The road only gets tougher these next couple weeks for Penn State when Big Ten play is in full swing. As of right now, five of Penn State’s next six matchups are against ranked opponents, and even the one non-ranked team, Indiana, is receiving votes.

 

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