Penn State 8-17 (0-13) at Illinois 19-8 (6-7)
Where: Assembly Hall
When: Thursday, February 21, 8:15 PM
In what will be the first and only meeting of the season between the Nittany Lions and the Fighting Illini, Penn State will be looking for its first win of the Big Ten season, and Pat Chambers will continue to look for his first Big Ten road win in his two seasons in Happy Valley. Penn State is 1-9 away from the Bryce Jordan Center this season, the only win coming at a neutral site. The Nittany Lions are coming off a great effort in a 79-71 loss at Michigan, while Illinois is in the midst of a 4 game winning streak, including wins over Indiana and Minnesota.
I actually like Penn State’s chances in this game to at least keep it close, because Illinois doesn’t have a true post presence. Illinois’ guards control the game when they play, Brandon Paul in particular. The Illini live and die by the three ball, and I think Penn State will be able to slow down the threes, and keep the game close, if not pull off the upset. Brandon Paul is their leading scorer, but he shoots a mediocre 40%, while D.J. Richardson, their second leading scorer, shoots only 38%.
D.J. Newbill is leading Penn State in scoring this season with 16 PPG, while Jermaine Marshall is averaging 14.8 PPG, and as usual, these two will need to have good games in order for Penn State to go into Champagne and pull off the upset. Much like Sunday at Michigan, Penn State will also need solid contributions from Ross Travis, Nick Colella, and most importantly, Sasa Borovnjak.
Penn State has scored at least 70 in its previous two games, however, I don’t think anyone should depend on scoring 70 to be able to win a game, so if the Nittany Lions can slow the pace down and keep the winner under 70, Penn State has a good chance to be that winner. It all comes down to whether or not Illinois makes its threes. Will Penn State finally get some luck in Champagne on Thursday night? We’ll see.
My Prediction: Penn State 69, Illinois 66 (I feel like Skip Bayless making a prediction like this, but it really is my opinion)