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Illinois has no answers for red-hot Pickett, Penn State

Pickett scored 41 points. The Illini were frustrated.

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

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Some teams — and some players — are just going to have your number.

And on Tuesday night, that team was Penn State. And the player? Jalen. MF. Pickett.

Pickett had a career night, starting with his 2,000th career point, and ending with 41 points in a 93-81 win over Illinois at Bryce Jordan Center.

The Nittany Lions, who beat the Illini by 15 at State Farm Center in early December, are the first team to sweep Illinois since Purdue in the 2021-22 season.

Pickett, a senior who transferred to State College in 2021 after three seasons at Siena, was unstoppable in the first half, finishing with 24 points. His 41 points (also 8 assists) on the night came in just 20 shots.

His quick start and 10 PSU threes in total, pushed the Nittany Lions to a 13-point lead at the break, overwhelming an Illini squad that was able to score, but had no answers defensively.

Among those productive performances, freshman Ty Rodgers, who finished with a career-high 11 points. Terrence Shannon Jr. had 20 points and fouled out in the game’s final minute.

Penn State only made one three in the second half, but it didn’t matter, because each time Illinois (17-8, 8-6 Big Ten) got a bit closer, PSU (15-11, 6-9) kept them at bay, finishing any chances of a comeback.


WE ARE. ON FIRE.: Not even sure what Illinois could have done in the first half to slow down the Nittany Lions. First it was Pickett. Then it was everyone else. Ten made three-pointers by PSU before the break.

GOALTENDING(S): Coleman Hawkins is freaky athletic. We know that. But he was called for two goaltending calls Tuesday night, including one on Pickett at the end of the first half.



Luke Goode’s first bucket in nearly a year!

The Illini can certainly use more of this the rest of the way.


A big — and busy — stretch.

Starting Saturday in Bloomington, the Illini have four games in three cities, all in nine days.

Tipoff against the Hoosiers is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.