Shooting Struggles Mount Late As Penn State Falls to No. 20 Illinois on the Road
Another scoreless stretch costs Penn State late as it drops its second straight.
Penn State went toe-to-toe with No. 20 Illinois, but did not have the clutch gene tonight and fell, 60-55. The loss puts the blue and white at 12-15 overall with a 7-12 record in Big Ten play and 1-9 mark on the road.
Jalen Pickett started the game with a turnaround jumper, but some hot shooting by the Fighting Illini sparked an 8-0 run. A Seth Lundy triple cut the lead down in half as Illinois took the lead into the first media timeout, 8-5.
Penn State continued to cut into the lead, dwindling it down to one with 11:39 left, 12-11. However, one stat that was beginning to become a problem was on the glass, as the Illini were creating second-chance points.
Illinois led by as much as six, but some strong shooting by Lee, Lundy and Pickett fueled a 12-5 run as the Nittany Lions took a one-point lead heading into the break, 30-29.
After a dreadful offensive output on Sunday, Penn State turned it around and was shooting 52% from the floor in comparison to Illinois 31%.
After the first 20 minutes, it was Pickett with 10 points and shooting 4-of-6, with Lundy and Lee just behind him. The Paulsboro, New Jersey native shot 2-for-3 from beyond the arc and had eight points, while the former Western Michigan Bronco had seven points.
The bigger story than the score at the half was Illinois’s All-American Kofi Cockburn who only had four points, despite the advantage on the boards. The Illini out-rebounded Penn State 20-12, including an 8-0 advantage on the offensive glass.
It didn’t take long into the second half for Cockburn to double his point total as the navy and orange jumped on top at the under-16 timeout, 36-34.
With under 10 minutes left to go, Illinois started to turn it on. An alley-oop to Cockburn got the State Farm Center jumping and then a steal on the other end led to a Jacob Grandison fast-break bucket and just like that the lead was up to five, 46-41.
Seeking a response, it was Pickett, to answer the call. Finding John Harrar open underneath on back-to-back possessions and then he took it himself to tie the game up at 49.
The Nittany Lions moments later took a two-point lead as red-hot Dallion Johnson hit a catch-and-shoot three off the inbounds.
Then Penn State entered into one of their scoreless stretches, which ultimately was the difference-maker. Head coach Micah Shrewsberry alluded to it as one of the things that have been hurting his team.
After Johnson’s three-pointer with 6:02 left, the Nittany Lions did not score until there were eight ticks left which was once again a Johnson triple.
During that span, an 8-0 run ensued by the Fighting Illini, fueled by a Grandison three to put them up for good, 55-52. Then thanks to the strong play of Tim Frazier, and some strong shooting at the charity stripe, Illinois was able to close it out.
Pickett finished with a game-high 18 points and shot 8-of-15 from the floor. While it was Da’Monte Williams leading the Illini with 14 points, with Cockburn and Frazier just behind him with 11 points and 10 points, respectively.
While it wasn’t a great night for Harrar, finishing with only four points, the senior suited up for the 142nd career game, setting a new program record.
In their next contest, the Nittany Lions hit the road for Piscattaway as they will take on Rutgers in the regular-season finale. Tip-off is set for noon on Sunday, March 6.
Matthew Scalzo is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Second Year / Broadcast Journalism