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Penn State Hoops Tops Illinois 79-76 In Second Round Of Big Ten Tournament

Penn State men’s basketball (20-12, 11-10 Big Ten) bested Illinois (20-12, 11-10) Wednesday night in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center by a final score of 79-76.

It was an all-around team effort for Penn State. Andrew Funk led the way for the Nittany Lions with 20 points as he shot an impressive six-for-nine from downtown. Camren Wynter and Seth Lundy followed closely behind with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Jalen Pickett nearly dropped a triple-double with 12 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists.

Terrence Shannon led the Fighting Illini with 19 points and five boards. Coleman Hawkins and Dain Dainja also notched double figures with 17 and 13 points.

How It Happened

After empty first possessions for both squads, Dain Dainja cashed in on a fast break layup for Illinois that started the scoring off. As the shot clock winded down, Seth Lundy nailed a pull-up jumper in response.

On Illinois’ next possession, Matthew Mayer secured his first bucket after getting the offensive board. Then, Lundy marched down and hit another jumper. However, it was Mayer who knocked in another layup plus the foul. After knocking down the free throw, Camren Wynter scored on back-to-back possessions for Penn State before the first media timeout was called.

Following the timeout, Wynter found the bottom of the net with a cutting layup. The Fighting Illini marched down the court and responded with another second-chance layup, courtesy of Ty Rodgers. After a few empty possessions, Wynter kept his hot streak going and swished home a pull-up jumper.

With some extra effort, Lundy got a layup to fall. After initially turning the ball over, Illinois stole it right back which led to the first three-pointer of the game falling thanks to Luke Goode. However, Lundy knocked down one of his own before the second media timeout of the half was called. Penn State held onto a 17-12 lead with 11:19 left to play.

Mayer and Clary traded layups following the timeout. Jalen Pickett secured his first point of the game after he knocked one down from the charity stripe. Then, Terrence Shannon splashed one from downtown for his first field goal of the game. Clary zoomed down the court and banked another layup for the Nittany Lions. Shortly after, Andrew Funk drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key before Illinois called its first timeout at the 8:40 mark.

After a Clary steal, Wynter put the ball in the cup after Clary missed the breakaway layup. Following a Mayer miss, Sencire Harris nailed one from beyond the arc for Illinois. At the 6:23 mark, another media timeout was called as Penn State held onto a seven-point lead.

Pickett and Coleman Hawkins traded field goals following the timeout. After two empty possessions for both squads, the final media timeout of the half was called with just under four minutes of action.

The Fighting Illini scored six-unanswered points following the timeout from Hawkins who tallied back-to-back buckets. Lundy cashed in off his miss and banked a shot in. On the other side of the court, Shannon drilled a pull-up jumper in response.

Shannon had a chance at the buzzer but air-balled his three-pointer attempt that ended the half. Despite having a 10-point lead at one point, Penn State had a 31-30 lead at halftime.

Funk drilled a three-pointer that kicked the scoring off in the second half. Then, Illinois jumped out to a quick 9-4 run and reclaimed its lead before the first media timeout of the second half was called.

Hawkins sunk back-to-back buckets for Illinois and Clary nailed a jumper while falling after the timeout. Dainja then cashed in on the and-one layup but received a flagrant foul after bumping heads with Myles Dread celebrating the play. Dainja swished his free throw and Funk sunk both from the charity stripe for Penn State.

After a few empty trips, Penn State found an open Funk as he drained a triple in front of the Nittany Lion bench. On its next possession, Pickett worked the post and secured a bucket at the rim. However, Shannon responded quickly on the other side with a jumper beyond the arc. Then, Lundy and Shannon traded layups before a media timeout was called at the 11:22 mark.

Funk knocked down another three-pointer after the time-out. RJ Melendez flushed one at the rim, but Dread drilled another triple for Penn State as the time trickled past the halfway mark. The Nittany Lions held the lead 55-53.

After nearly two minutes without a bucket, Dainja took Dread in the paint and got the layup to fall, plus the foul that reclaimed the lead for Illinois. Wynter then sunk a free throw of his own that tied this game up at 56 apiece.

Penn State then scored six-unanswered points with four of them coming from Pickett. Then, the Fighting Illini tallied one from the charity stripe in nearly two minutes without a point. Shortly after, Pickett used his strength and got the and-one bucket, but missed his free throw.

Hawkins snapped an Illinois four-minute field goal drought with a scooping layup under the paint. Funk answered with a triple behind the right-wing arc, which forced Illinois to call a timeout. At the 3:23 mark, Penn State had a 67-59 lead.

Wynter lucked out on an acrobatic layup and got the foul, too. Despite the missed free throw, Penn State claimed its first double-digit lead since the first half. Hawkins sunk a free throw on the other side of the court in response as the game dwindled into the final two minutes.

Pickett dribbled out the clock and found a wide-open Funk who swished a triple from a foot outside the arc. Shannon responded with an and-one conversion as Illinois remained down by nine with 1:39 left of action.

After an empty possession for Penn State, Shannon drove to the hoop and finished at the rim. After a miss while time was winding down, Illinois turned the ball over back to the Nittany Lions with a minute left. After 15 seconds of dribbling the ball, the Fighting Illini fouled Wynter and he nailed both.

Goode marched down the court and sunk a triple. Illinois called its final timeout with 35 seconds left.

Dread was then fouled and made one free throw at the line for Penn State. Hawkins forced a steal on Wynter and floated the ball through the cup. Shannon then fouled Pickett who made another free throw as Penn State held onto a six-point lead with 20 seconds left.

Shannon got fouled but made just one free throw as he cut the Fighting Illini’s deficit to five with 15 seconds left. After a few dribbles, Wynter was fouled and made just one from the charity stripe with 12 seconds left. Melendez was fouled with three seconds, and he knocked down two from the line as Illinois remained down by four before Micah Shrewsberry called a timeout.

Clary was fouled and made both from the free-throw line. Jayden Epps sunk a triple at the buzzer, but it was too late to make a difference.

Penn State ultimately escaped with a 79-76 win over Illinois.

Takeaways:

  • Penn State played some phenomenal defense in the first half. The Nittany Lions held Illinois to 30 points on 34.3% from the field and only 3-for-14 from deep. If it weren’t for the late 8-0 run, Penn State would have sailed into the second half with a double-digit lead.
  • Thank you to Camren Wynter and Seth Lundy. Jalen Pickett was dominant against Illinois this season, but after a lackluster performance tonight, Wynter and Lundy stepped up. The duo combined for 25 points on 15-for-25 from the field.
  • Andrew Funk finally had an efficient night from beyond the arc of the road. He shot six-for-nine from deep, and several conversions came in huge moments down the stretch. This is a great sign with the Big Dance potentially around the corner.
  • We’re (hopefully) going dancing!!! After tonight’s victory, it almost guarantees a spot for the Nittany Lions in the NCAA Tournament. The streak has (hopefully) ended!

What’s Next?

Penn State advances to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament and will play Northwestern on Thursday, March 10. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Tobey Prime

Tobey is a senior studying broadcast journalism from Lancaster, PA. He is a major Pittsburgh sports fan and Miami Heat fanatic. When Tobey isn't writing for Onward State, you can catch him looking at photos of his pugs. Send your best insults to [email protected] or sports takes to @tobey_prime on Twitter.

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