Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Looking To Rebound Against Illinois on Sunday
Penn State was going to lose again.
There is a reason why the Nittany Lions' three-game winning streak was the longest in the Big Ten when it was snapped. Teams are just too evenly matched for the ball to bounce in one team's favor every single night. So when the Nittany Lions ran into a Spartan buzz saw earlier this week it wasn't anything more than the latest casualty to the Big Ten's depth and competition. Certainly the Nittany Lions could have played better, but the loss was neither entirely unexpected nor was it entirely indicative of the remainder of Penn State's season.
But Sunday afternoon's 4:15 meeting with Illinois provides Penn State a real chance to prove that the three game winning streak wasn't just a fortunate series of events. A team's ability to bounce back from a loss is often more important than a team's ability to carry momentum from win to win.
Fortunately for Penn State, the Illini haven't fared much better in the past few weeks, having won only two games in conference play the last win coming against Penn State itself. The 20 point victory the best offensive performance Illinois has put together in almost a month.
Both teams are much different than their first meeting on January 4, Penn State has found scoring on the bench and from role players, winning three games and losing three more by a single possession. If Penn State is able to knock off a struggling Illini team inside the friendly confines of the Bryce Jordan Center, a 4-7 record in conference play will go a long way towards forgetting a loss on the road to a national contender in Michigan State.
The key? Penn State will have to find the scoring it had during its three game winning streak that included strong contributions from Brandon Taylor and additional help by Donovon Jack and Ross Travis. The Nittany Lions are 1-6 this year when only two players break into double figures. If a 4-7 record is in the cards, they'll need to have that scoring in order to do it.
For the Illini, Rayvonte Rice leads the team and is sixth in the Big Ten in scoring with 16.9 ppg. Tracy Abrams is second with 11.9 ppg and 3.1 apg. The junior guard had 12 second-half points in the Jan. 4 meeting.
Penn State beat Illinois in the final 10 seconds of regulation the last time these two teams met at the Bryce Jordan Center. If head coach Patrick Chambers and Penn State fans have their way though it'll be over much sooner than that.