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No. 9 Penn State Hoops Comes Up Short 62-56 In Heartbreaker Against Illinois

No. 9 Penn State men’s basketball (20-6, 10-5 Big Ten) fell to Illinois (17-9, 9-6 Big Ten) 62-56 at the Bryce Jordan Center Tuesday night.

The Nittany Lions couldn’t keep up with the Illini throughout the night. Ayo Dosunmu was a problem for Pat Chambers’ squad, as he led all scorers with 24 points in the contest. Despite a stifling defensive effort in the game’s final minutes, Penn State couldn’t convert on enough open looks to earn its ninth consecutive victory.

How It Happened

Myreon Jones missed his fourth straight game due to illness, resulting in the same starting five that Pat Chambers has been using since he’s been out.

A runner from Jamari wheeler on the first possession of the game, followed by a steal from Lamar Stevens leading to a layup, ignited the BJC crowd early. The Fighting Illini responded quickly, though. A step back mid-range jumper from Ayo Dosunmu and some second-chance points from Kofi Cockburn knotted the game up at 6-6.

The Nittany Lions came out of the media timeout feeding Mike Watkins inside for a quick two. The Fighting Illini were getting the ball in the paint easily early, but missed a bunch of shots inside. Myles Dread hit a big three to make it 14-13, but Trent Frazier answered back with a two point jumper of his own to bring the score to 15-14 Illini.

A few solid defensive possessions for both teams kept the game scoreless for over two minutes, but a layup and an and-one three pointer for Illinois made it 21-16. Stevens picked up his second foul with 8:54 remaining in the half, sending him to the bench until the break.

The BJC crowd started to feel a bit uneasy until a beautiful alley-oop from Jamari Wheeler to Mike Watkins brought the house down.

Dosunmu headed to the line twice knocking down one of two each time, and Giorgi Bezhanishvili finished inside to give the Illini a 30-26 lead. Things got a little chippy at the end of the first half when Dosunmu and Watkins got into a shoving match with 1.8 seconds left. Watkins was assessed a technical foul, but Frazier missed both of the technical free throws to the crowd’s pleasure.

Penn State headed into halftime hitting only 12 field goals, and only one from deep. The Illini shot 10 free throws to the Nittany Lions’ two, but luckily for Pat Chambers’ group they found themselves only trailing 30-26.

Both offenses started slow in the second half, but Lundy hit a massive three to break the early drought bringing the score to 32-29. John Harrar picked up his third foul early which sent him to the bench, bringing Watkins in.

Watkins entrance into the game brought instant gratification as he and Wheeler connected for their second alley-oop of the game. The Fighting Illini responded with a bucket inside that extended the lead to 36-31.

Illinois had extended the lead to eight when a tough offensive rebound from Harrar and a kick out to Curtis Jones Jr. for three brought hope back into the BJC cutting the lead to five. The “King of Delco” added two more key offensive rebounds and a put back to cut the deficit to three.

The Nittany Lions hounding defense on the other end forced a heave towards the end of the shot clock that sailed over the backboard and got the BJC rocking. A nasty euro step on a fast break from Jones Jr. and a midrange jumper from Izaiah Brockington gave the Nittany Lions their first lead since 4:34 left in the first half. A quick 9-0 run made the score 41-40 with 10:58 left in the game.

The Illini did not roll over, however, answering with a 14-4 run of their own. Dosunmo hit a step-back jumper, Cockburn and Dosunmo both converted inside extending the Illini’s lead to nine and quieted the BJC crowd for the moment.

The Nittany Lions were not done yet. Wheeler found Harrar inside to cut the lead to seven, followed by a corner triple from Brockington cutting the lead to four with 4:18 left.

A big floater by Andres Feliz extended the Illini’s lead to six, but the Nittany Lions were able to force the Illini into their fourth shot clock violation of the game on their next possession. Lamar Stevens was able to finish inside, cutting the lead to four with just 1:39 remaining.

A big defensive stop and fast break for the Nittany Lions led to Seth Lundy getting fouled and heading to the line with 1:01 left. He hit both cutting the lead to 58-56.

An amazing defensive possession by Penn State was for not, after Illinois recovered the offensive rebound and kept possession on a jump ball. Illinois called a timeout leading 58-56 with the ball with 29.5 seconds left.

Dosunmo hit a dagger with 16 seconds left, followed by a missed three from Dread. Penn State was left to play the foul game trailing 60-56. Frazier went to the line and knocked down both, giving Illinois the 62-56 victory.


  • Penn State missed Myreon Jones’ offensive skillset. The Illini were able to key in on Lamar Stevens on defense and forced the Nittany Lions to shoot 36 % from the field and an abysmal 21 % from three-point range.
  • Ayo Dosunmu was a tough matchup for the Nittany Lions on defense, as he scored 24 points. The sophomore guard constantly hit big shots for Illinois down the stretch and was a clear difference-maker in his team coming away with a win on the road.
  • John Harrar played really well inside, grabbing five offensive rebounds which ignited the crowd and brought the Penn State flare that we have seen all season long. Even in the loss, we saw streaks of what has made this team so successful this year.

What’s Next

Penn State will travel to Bloomington, Indiana on Sunday, February 23 to take on the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall. The game will tip off at noon and you can watch it on FS1.

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About the Author

Trevor Grady

Trevor is a junior majoring in management information systems, minoring in journalism, and is a writer for Onward State. He is from Dublin, Ohio but is the furthest thing from an Ohio State guy. He is a college football fanatic, and loves everything about the show Prison Break. His parents are both from Boston, so he is a Boston sports fan which is understandably and unapologetically unpopular.

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