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Defensive woes haunt Illinois in 15-point loss to Penn State

The Illini are 0-2 in Big Ten play.

Evan McClintock // TCR

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Well, that's certainly not what we expected.

Illinois was riding high after a massive upset win over No. 2 Texas Tuesday night, but the feeling was short lived. Penn State came in with upset on their minds as they defeated Illinois 74-59 Saturday at State Farm Center.

“Our approach to this game was very deserving of the outcome,” said head coach Brad Underwood.

The first half was a fist fight to start out, going back-and-forth with lead change after lead change and the game being tied often. The big storyline was Penn State being 6-of-9 from behind the arc, giving them a 47-38 lead at the break.

Penn State’s (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) veteran leadership led the way as Seth Lundy (13), Jalen Pickett (16) and Myles Dread (9) combined for 38 of the 47 first-half points. Illinois did not have an answer for any of the three.

Matthew Mayer was the only Illini in double figures with 14 at the end of the half.

“We gave up 47 in the first half, we got 59 the whole game,” Underwood said. “Offense and defense was a disgrace, didn't matter who we had on the court.”

Near the halfway point of the second half, Illinois (7-3, 0-2 Big Ten) was able to cut the lead down to five. Behind a few buckets, including a couple threes from Skyy Clark, it looked like we might’ve had another comeback on our hands.

Enter Penn State guard Andrew Funk.

What seemed like the dagger that put the game away for Penn State was an NBA-range three as the shot clock expired — a shot that started an eventual 14-0 run, giving the Nittany Lions a lead as big as 19.

“Penn State deserves everything they got,” Underwood said. “They’re great.”

Giving all the credit to the Nittany Lions, Underwood felt this game was a total letdown for his team.

“Complete lack of leadership and complete lack of effort that was given today,” Underwood said. “Period.”


THREE POINTERS: Both teams started off very hot on Saturday. Early on it looked like it was going to be an offensive brigade, but it would only turn out to be Penn State who would have success. Shooting 50% from three for the game opposed to Illinois’ 30% was a huge difference maker.

ANDREW FUNK: We mention him above, but this guy single-handedly crushed the Illini’s hopes of winning in the second half. The Illini were only down five before he started shooting the lights out of the basketball. He was the only Nittany Lion in double figures in the second half (14).


Mayer still couldn’t miss early on.

We love good ball movement.


This was Penn State’s first win over Illinois since 2019.



The Illini have a full week off for finals.

They return to action next Saturday against Alabama A&M at State Farm Center next Saturday. Tip off will be at 3 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.