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Penn State Men’s Basketball Game No. 27: Illinois Preview

Photo from Penn State Twitter: Seth Lundy

Penn State’s season has been full of steps forward and backward

In less than 48 hours, the Nittany Lions went from celebrating Senior Night with a win over Northwestern to getting blown out by Nebraska. Penn State’s season has gone up and down more than Altoona’s famous Skyliner, and their 12-14 record reflects that. 

Where the Nittany Lions have been consistent, however, is on the road. The problem is, they’ve consistently lost. Penn State is 1-8 on the road, and its loan win away from Happy Valley came almost two months ago. Tonight, the Nittany Lions face arguably their biggest road test in Illinois. The Illini are ranked 20th in AP Poll, 17th in the coaches poll and are 12.5 point favorites over Penn State.

Brad Underwood’s squad is 13-5 in the Big Ten and still has an outside shot at a conference championship, although that would require Wisconsin to lose to last-place Nebraska at home Sunday. Nonetheless, Illinois is a lock for its second straight NCAA tournament appearance. 

Leading the charge for the Illini is 7-foot center Kofi Cockburn, who averages 21.5 points (second in the Big Ten) and 10.7 rebounds (first). Alfonso Plummer is another key contributor, averaging 15.5 points per game. Trent Frazier (12.6) and Jacob Grandison (10.3) also average double figures. 

A silver lining in Penn State’s 93-70 loss to Nebraska Sunday night was the return of Greg Lee. The 6-foot-9 forward had been out for more than three weeks with a foot injury but suited up for Senior Night and scored five points in 12 minutes. Lee has averaged 7.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 11 games this season. 

Coach Micah Shrewsberry believes Lee is “getting stronger and stronger each day.”

“We want to continue to work on rhythm and timing with him, get him back into the same mode and hopefully we can get him back to where he was playing before he got injured,” Shrewsberry said.

The game is scheduled to tip-off at 7 on FS1. Penn State fans who can’t watch the game can listen to Steve Jones and Dick Jerardi at any of these affiliates. 

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