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No. 22 Illinois avoids three-game skid with 79-65 victory over Penn State

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A much better 40 minutes for the Illini.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping back-to-back games for the first time this season against Maryland and Ohio State, the Illini are back in the win column.

Illinois picked up its first conference sweep of the year, besting Penn State, 79-65, on Tuesday night at State Farm Center in Champaign.

Cold starts have been an issue for the Illini (10-5, 6-3 Big Ten) this season, and head coach Brad Underwood hasn’t shied away from saying so this past week. With a new-look starting five that included Jacob Grandison in place of Da’Monte Williams, the Illini jumped out to a 13-5 lead against a Penn State (3-6, 0-5 Big Ten) team they fell behind 19-4 to just a few weeks back. Grandison made the most of his eight first-half minutes, immediately assisting on an and-1 to Kofi Cockburn along with two other buckets and picking up three boards as well.

The Nittany Lions came out in a 2-3 zone, which the Illini exploited by getting Cockburn going early (7 points before the under-16 media timeout) and a couple three balls from Adam Miller and Trent Frazier. Williams and Andre Curbelo had success distributing the ball inside the teeth of the zone, connecting with Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili multiple times along the baseline.

Penn State tied it at 17 thanks to smooth shooting from Myreon Jones, Myles Dread and Seth Lundy from behind the arc. Despite the Nittany Lions going six for their first eight from deep, the Illini pieced together runs of 10-0 and 8-0 to take a 42-28 edge into the break.

It wasn’t the cleanest game of basketball as the two squads combined for 31 turnovers, but Illinois’ offense distanced itself from Penn State with high-efficiency looks deep and around the rim, and of course, Ayo Dosunmu doing Ayo Dosunmu things. The junior led the way with 10 points as the second-half focus shifted from Cockburn to a more balanced attack with nine Illini finishing in the scoring column. 79-65, Illinois.

STAT STUFFERS

  • Ayo Dosunmu: 13 points, 5 assists
  • Kofi Cockburn: 21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks, 9-13 FT
  • Seth Lundy: 13 points, 5 rebounds
  • Myreon Jones: 20 points, 3 rebounds

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TWEET OF THE GAME

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WHO’S NEXT

Illinois’ contest scheduled for this Saturday against Michigan State (8-4, 2-4 Big Ten) in East Lansing has been postponed due to COVID-19 positives within the Spartans’ program.

As of now, the Illini’s next game is scheduled for next Friday, Jan. 29 vs. No. 4 Iowa (12-2, 6-1 Big Ten).