Penn State basketball is at Illinois Saturday. The team’s Big Ten opener didn’t go as plan. The favored Lions fell flat in the second half and lost to Michigan State, 67-58, at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Penn State basketball looks to bounce back at Illinois Saturday. Here are five things to know before the game.
PENN STATE NEEDS A WIN
Ok, so maybe Penn State basketball doesn’t “need” a win at Illinois. But losing at Illinois wouldn’t be good for it. Had Penn State beat Michigan State Wednesday, it could afford a loss to Illinois. The Illini are No. 17 in the country, and there’s no shame in a program like Penn State dropping a game on the road to a top 20 opponent. With that said, a loss at Illinois would drop Penn State to 0-2 in the Big Ten and would be damaging to a school that’s looking to make its first NCAA Tournament in more than a decade.
After Saturday, Penn State doesn’t have a Big Ten game until New Year’s Day, and its three games before that— against Canisius, Quinnipiac and Delaware State, all at home— won’t do anything to raise the school’s national profile. Waiting another three weeks for a conference win would be painful for Penn State.
JALEN PICKETT TRIPLE-DOUBLE WATCH
Penn State’s Pickett already has a triple-double this season. Against Butler at the Bryce Jordan Center last month, Pickett became the second Penn State player in history to post a triple-double, joining Calvin Booth, who accomplished that feat in 1998. Against Michigan State, Pickett came close, finishing with 13 points, 17 rebounds an eight assists.
Getting one triple-double is hard. Getting two within 30 days would be ridiculous. But Pickett is Penn State’s best player, and he’s capable of joining Duquesne women’s basketball player Megan McConnell as the only players in the country to have two triple doubles this season.
Illinois has had an up-and-down week. It lost its conference opener at Maryland, now ranked No. 13, Tuesday. Two days later, the Illini bounced back in a big way by beating No. 2 Texas in the Jimmy V Classic. Illinois is 7-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten.
It has four players averaging in double-figures, led by Terrence Shannon Jr., who averages 19.3 points per game. Dain Dainja (10.9), Coleman Hawkins (10) and Jayden Epps (10) are also factors.
Penn State is 19-32 against Illinois lifetime, and Illinois has won the last four meetings. Illinois’ coach, Brad Underwood, is 4-3 against Penn State and 1-0 against Micah Shrewsberry.
HOW TO WATCH
Penn State and Illinois are scheduled to tip-off at noon in the State Farm Center on the Big Ten Network. The Illini are 11.5 point favorites according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Here’s more information.
TV Announcers: Dan Revsine (pxp), Robbie Hummel (color)
Radio: Penn State Sports Network
Radio Announcers: Steve Jones (pxp), Dick Jerardi (color)
SiriusXM: Channel 380, Channel 970 (app)