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Illinois 62, Penn State 56: Time To Start A New Streak

It’s never fun to lose but it has been over a month since Penn State fans have had this feeling.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

In a tough game with both sides playing incredible defense, Penn State came up a couple of baskets short. The Lions shot just 4 for 19 from 3-point range with Myreon Jones out for the fourth straight game. Jones’ absence may have caught up with the team. Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu returned after missing a game with an injury and he dominated at times, finishing with 24 points in 37 minutes played.

Kofi Cockburn picked up his second foul just four minutes into the game and was forced to go to the bench with the teams tied 6-6. Myles Dread hit a 3-pointer to give the Lions a 14-13 lead with 8 minutes off the clock after missing his first two attempts.

Lamar Stevens got his second foul while guarding a 3-point shot, which was made. The four-point play sent Stevens to the bench and Penn State was down 21-16 with 9 minutes before halftime. John Harrar scored while being guarded by Kofi Cockburn, a timely basket to cut the lead to 3.

Jamari Wheeler did what he could to help on the low-post, guarding the much larger Giorgi Bezhanishvili and drawing a traveling call.

The Illini held a 22-20 lead after a dunk by Mike Watkins and Seth Lundy hit a runner in the lane to tie it at 22. John Harrar picked up 2 fouls in a 30-second span and he joined Lamar Stevens on the bench. Lundy had a steal and dunk to give the Lions the lead moments later.

With 1.8 seconds to play in the half Mike Watkins got into a scrum with Ayo Dosunmo trying to get a rebound. After the play, Watkins pushed Dosunmo away and was called for a flagrant technical foul. It gave Illinois 2 fouls shots and the ball. Penn State trailed at the half 30-26.

Seth Lundy hit a 3-pointer to end a scoring drought for the Lions to begin the second half. John Harrar picked up his 3rd foul guarding Kofi Cockburn just a minute later. Mike Watkins came in and had a dunk on the next possession, energizing the crowd. Cockburn had a dunk to match it on the next trip down the court and Illinois led 36-31 with 15:40 to play.

The lead got to 8 before Curtis Jones hit a 3-pointer to end the run. John Harrar had an offensive rebound and put-back to cut the lead to 3 and the crowd was on its feet inside the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State forced a shot-clock violation on the next possession. Jones hit a layup and it was 40-39 Illinois with 11:30 to play.

Izaiah Brockington hit a foul line jumper to give the Lions the lead, making it a 9-0 run. The home team then forced another shot-clock violation, with the help of the crowd. Illinois answered back with 5 quick points.

Ayo Dosunmu hit a jumper to give the Illini a 7-point lead with 8 minutes to play as the run continued. A pair of Lamar Stevens foul shots ended the spurt. Dosunmu had an assist to Kofi Cockburn and then made a layup to stretch the lead back to 9 with 6 to play. Stevens hit two more free throws to slow the run.

John Harrar hit a field goal to end a 5-minute stretch without one for the Lions with 5 minutes to play. Penn State forced a shot-clock violation on the next defensive trip. Izaiah Brockington hit a 3-point shot to cut the lead to 56-52 with 4 minutes on the clock.

Lamar Stevens hit a contested layup to answer an Illinois score and with 1:32 to go the Lions trailed 58-54. Stevens then blocked a shot by Kofi Cockburn that led to a pair of Seth Lundy foul shots to cut the lead to 2 with 1 minute to play.

Ayo Dosunmu hit a runner with 16 seconds and Myles Dread missed a 3-point shot to end the Lions’ hopes.

Random Thoughts

  • Penn State was able to stay close with Illinois during the first half with only 4 points from Lamar Stevens and with nothing at all from Myreon Jones. The whole team seemed to pick up the slack but Izaiah Brockington and Seth Lundy each had 4 shots in the first half, asserting themselves early.
  • The crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center was a major factor in the second half. When the Illinois lead got to 9 points, the Lions seemed to feed off the energy from the stands.
  • It was fun while it lasted. The longest conference winning streak in program history may not be broken for many years. Considering the strength of the Big Ten conference this year, it was quite a feat.

Up Next

The Lions will travel to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers on Saturday. The game will be televised at noon by Fox Sports 1. Indiana will travel to Minnesota on Wednesday night, hosting the other 6-8 team in the Big Ten. Both sides will need the win to stay in the NCAA Tournament picture, so it should be a battle.

Box Score