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Scouting Report: Penn State

The Illini need this one to keep title hopes alive.

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

On Thursday, Illinois (20-8, 13-5) will face Penn State (12-14, 7-11) in an important home game to maintain its spot near the top of the Big Ten.

This is their first and only matchup this season. Illinois is coming off a road victory against Michigan while the Nittany Lions are looking to bounce back following their loss to Nebraska. Penn State will need to put up an impressive effort to defeat red-hot Alfonso Plummer and the rest of the Illini. Let’s take a look at a few things before the game.

Season So Far

Penn State has been near the bottom of the Big Ten standings for the entire season. They have lost to UMass and Nebraska, but also have wins over Michigan State, Rutgers and Iowa. Recently, they have won one out of their last three games.

Although Penn State has not won many games, they have been able to keep it close with the top of the Big Ten, including a two-point loss to now-conference champ Wisconsin and had a five-point loss to Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are led by first-year coach Micah Shrewsberry who got the job after Pat Chamber’s sudden exit.

The Nittany Lions feature a balanced attack with four players scoring at least 10 points a game, including Jalen Pickett who leads the team averaging 12.8 points. He is an effective scorer and can create opportunities for the people around him. Expect Trent Frazier to be matched with him for most of the game. Trent should have no trouble limiting his impact as he has slowed down some of the best guards in the Big Ten.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

John Harrar (10.6 ppg) will also play an important role for the Nittany Lions. He averages 10.2 rebounds per game, which is second behind Kofi in the Big Ten. Harrar will be tasked with slowing Cockburn for the game. He will need to be effective on both ends for Penn State to keep the game close.

Seth Lundy (12.3 ppg) is solid at shooting the three and can make important plays on the defensive end. The Illini should have little trouble slowing down the impact of Harrar and Lundy.

Outlook

Penn State is an experienced team that has upset superior squads this year, but this game is a must-win for the Illini but expect them to have a slow start as teams often do with early tip-offs against inferior opponents. Illinois needs to get Kofi rolling and shoot well from three to win this game. If Penn State can slow down Kofi and force Illinois to take bad shots, they can keep this game close.

Overall, Illinois is the better team, and they size up well with the Nittany Lions. Andre Curbelo will build upon his productive performance against Michigan and Kofi will have his way with Penn State. As I said before, expect this game to be close in the beginning but Illinois will extend the lead towards the end to put it away.