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Penn State Hoops Upsets No. 17 Illinois 74-59 In Statement Win

Penn State men’s basketball (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) overtook No. 17 Illinois (7-3, 0-2 Big Ten) 74-59 in a massive road win in Champaign on Saturday afternoon.

Andrew Funk and Jalen Pickett led the way for the Nittany Lions on the scoreboard each with 20 points. In a true team effort, Seth Lundy and Myles Dread each notched double-digit scoring statistics, and nine Penn Staters saw time on the hardwood.

How It Happened

Micah Shrewsberry rolled out a new lineup featuring Myles Dread and Camren Wynter. Seth Lundy, Jalen Pickett, and Andrew Funk rounded out the rest of the starting five.

Illinois grabbed the tip-off and Coleman Hawkins quickly attempted a three-point jump shot, but couldn’t convert. Dread secured the rebound and connected with Funk who dropped an easy three to put Penn State on the scoreboard first.

The Illini responded with a three-pointer of their own, but the Nittany Lions hung tough in the following possessions and went three-for-three in each of their shots from behind the arc.

Lundy tallied Penn State’s first points from the paint with a dramatic dunk to tie Illinois at 11-all. Hawkins reacted with a layup in response, but the ranked Illini team only led Shrewsberry’s squad by two at the first media timeout through four minutes.

Kebba Njie and Evan Mahaffey made their way onto the hardwood to give Dread and Funk a rest about six minutes into the game. Rookie Mahaffey dropped a three-pointer to overtake the lead by one and keep things fairly locked on the scoreboard.

Freshman Demetrius Lilley saw some time on the court as well but notched a foul and subsequent turnover just seconds into his substitution. He picked up one more foul and forced Shrewsberry to call a timeout. The ranked Illinois squad only led the Nittany Lions 19-16 midway through the first half.

Wynter sent the Illini to the foul line for the first time in the match and Matthew Mayer sunk both shots to extend his team’s lead to four points. Pickett was fouled on the following possession and earned the Nittany Lions an and-one opportunity. Pickett converted and helped Penn State reach just a one-point deficit.

Dread turned the tide of the game once again with a transitional three-pointer to gain the lead at 26-24.

Mayer knocked down a dunk of his own to tie the game at 26 with seven minutes remaining in the opening half. Lundy picked up another two points before the Nittany Lions and Illini traded missed shots and fouls for the next several possessions.

A two-handed Lundy dunk silenced a rowdy Illinois student section, followed by shot conversions from Pickett and Lundy, once again. Penn State gained its largest lead of the game at 34-30 and rolled through the final minutes of first-half play.

Thanks to a clutch Dread three-pointer, the Nittany Lions jumped to a five-point lead. Pickett then added a layup and two free throw conversions to the scoreboard to create a 42-36 cushion between the underdogs and ranked Illini.

Penn State came out on top at 47-38 through the first 20 minutes and headed into the locker room dominating the momentum and leading the No. 17 team in the country by nine.

Funk started the second half with a statement three-pointer, his third of the game. Illinois immediately called a timeout, emphasizing the shocking nature of Penn State’s lead.

Illini Skyy Clark knocked down a responsive three-pointer to cut the Nittany Lions’ lead to 11. Shortly after, Hawkins walked through the Penn State defense, put up a dunk, and completed a 5-0 run right into the media timeout.

Shrewsberry’s lineup looked stagnant after Funk’s three and didn’t score for the five following minutes. Illinois managed to chop Penn State’s lead in half to trail 52-47.

Funk finally broke the scoring drought and nailed a three on a fast break. Dread got in on the action with a three-pointer, too, and built another 14-point lead and 9-0 run over the Illini. With that trio of threes, head coach Brad Underwood called a timeout in an attempt to reset his flailing lineup.

Penn State and Illinois traded threes between Dread and RJ Melendez, but the Nittany Lions were making it look easy through a 14-3 run in over four minutes.

The Illini sunk back-to-back dunks within a minute and prompted Shrewsberry to call a 30-second timeout. Penn State maintained its double-digit lead but lost some of its energy.

The dingy lull didn’t last long before Lundy drew a foul from behind the arc and earned three shots from the charity stripe. The captain went three-for-three from the line and was backed by a Pickett layup and Funk three to put an exclamation point on the play.

The Nittany Lions led by 15 with under one minute of play and carried the momentum into the buzzer to upset Illinois 74-59.

Takeaways:

  • This was truly a team win. Freshmen Evan Mahaffey and Kanye Clary saw more minutes than ever before and largely contributed to the lineup despite their inexperience. Jalen Pickett and Andrew Funk tallied 20 points each and were closely followed by Seth Lundy and Myles Dread. The four captains dictated the play on the court, and their freshmen counterparts responded accordingly.
  • Penn State walked the walk against Illinois. Micah Shrewsberry can say anything about his program’s growth and ability to compete with big teams, but today it showed. That’s what matters.
  • Put some respect on Penn State’s name.

What’s Next?

Penn State will return to Happy Valley to match up against Canisius at noon on Sunday, December 18. Folks can tune into the game on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a sophomore journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She also talks about random, fun stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese, naps, and Kevin Jonas. If you would like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @lammkeeley or send your best Spotify playlist to her email [email protected]

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