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Jameel Brown & Nick Kern Jr. Lead Penn State Hoops’ Offensive Unit In Kanye Clary’s Absence

Following leading scorer Kanye Clary’s departure from Penn State men’s basketball ahead of the team’s “Return to Rec Hall” game against No. 12 Illinois, it was unclear who would step up in the place of the 16.7-point-per-game guard

Up stepped Nick Kern Jr., who dropped a career-high 22 points in the comeback 90-89 upset win over the Illini backed by the rocking Rec Hall crowd. The guard was the go-to scorer throughout the game and nearly unstoppable on the offensive end, crediting his coaching staff for the sudden shift into a more prominent role.

“It was really just the same thing of going, getting the ball off the screen, and then attacking the basket,” Kern said. “Last couple of games, coach has been telling me I have to be a better leader, on and off the court. So it’s about accountability at the end of the day.”

Jameel Brown, another player who shined in the win, scored 11 points and hit three huge three-pointers that helped cap off a massive come-from-behind victory.

Late in the game, Brown came through big for the Nittany Lions, hitting his final three of the evening with 35.2 seconds left to make it a four-point contest and grabbing the steal off of the following inbound to help Puff Johnson score a layup that made it a one-point game.

“I just feel like coaches do a great job of putting us in a position to be successful on the court on the offensive and defensive end,” Brown said. “Honestly, we shoot the ball every day. The basketball god just wanted it to go in.”

All year, Rhoades has talked about continuing to let his players shoot and learn from mistakes. Rhoades continues to take things one game at a time and focuses on making the program better as a whole.

“I’m really proud of our guys today,” Rhoades said. “We went through a lot of stuff this year, but it’s all about moving forward, moving your program forward, moving these young people forward.”

On Wednesday night in Rec Hall, Penn State took that step forward in making its program better, and the Nittany Lions proved they could still hang with the best of the conference.

The now-active leading scorer Ace Baldwin Jr. only scored 10 points in the win, but he succeeded in finding open men. Baldwin totaled 12 assists, one of his season-highs. Now, as he transitions his role in a sole, true point guard on the floor, he can better find scorers like Kern and Brown and take advantage of their ability to hit clutch shots.

Another big player was Zach Hicks, who hit multiple big-moment shots down the stretch, including three free throws to put the Nittany Lions ahead with four seconds left to play.

Without Clary, the Nittany Lions are 3-1 with two Big Ten road wins and an upset over Illinois.

“They’ve won games without him. I thought they were better without him,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said of Clary’s absence. “I’m not in their locker room, I’m not around them, but that’s a very connected basketball team.”

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About the Author

Matt Brown

Matt is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in sports studies from Bensalem, Pa. Matt is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and an overall sports fan in general. When not watching sports, you'll find him taking down any Dollar Dog challenge or rewatching the Big Ten Maps Commercial. To reach him, follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @matt_brown63, or email him at [email protected].

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