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Quick takes: Lions put up little fight vs. Illini

Photo from Penn State Twitter: Jamari Wheeler

Penn State dropped to 0-5 in the Big Ten and 3-6 overall with a 79-65 loss Tuesday night at Illinois. The Nittany Lions usually are competitive against pretty much everyone in the league, home and away, but that really wasn’t the case against the No. 22 Illini, who led 42-28 at the half and had the margin around 20 for most of the second half.

Here are Cory Giger’s quick takes from the game.

**Penn State is 0-5 in the Big Ten. Any hopes for a successful season are pretty much gone. There’s a lot of fight with this team, and the Lions are gonna need that since the Big Ten schedule isn’t gonna get any easier. There’s a chance this could turn into a disastrous season, unless the team leaders really pull everyone together to keep spirits up and keep battling.

These players already have been through a lot with head coach Patrick Chambers resigning in late October, something that stung a lot of the players. The team has played very well at times, but at 0-5 in the league, it’s gut check time to see who still really wants to be playing hard.

**The Lions were lousy offensively once again, which is a big problem since that was supposed to be this team’s strength under offensive-minded coach Jim Ferry. Penn State shot just 33.9 percent, and that’s just not gonna cut it on the road against any good opponent.

**Penn State simply cannot play without fouling. It’s awful. The Lions were whistled for 26 fouls, after committing 27 at Purdue on Sunday. This isn’t about the refs screwing PSU over, either. The team commits so many fouls because it’s just not very good on defense and doesn’t have good enough and physical enough players to match up with the kind of quality offensive players they go up against in the Big Ten.

**Sam Sessoms had a very disappointing game, for the second straight outing. He was held scoreless and missed all six of his shots.

The smooth guard has a good offensive skill set and should be a consistent scorer. The Binghamton transfer, who scored 19 per game last season, reached double figures his first seven games with PSU. But he was held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting the last time out at Purdue, then had another rough night at Illinois.

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Here’s the problem: Jamari Wheeler is a good defender but not a good scorer as a point guard, so the Lions must get some points from Sessoms coming off the bench in that role. If he’s struggling, it means very little offensive production from the point guard spot. That was the case Tuesday as the two combined for only 4 points, all from Wheeler.

**PSU has three straight home games coming up: Thursday against Rutgers, Saturday against Northwestern and next Wednesday against Wisconsin. None of those games will be easy.

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Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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