Ayo Dosunmu led the way with an impressive performance coming off injury, scoring 24 points as Illinois knocked off ninth-ranked Penn State 62-56 Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Illini (17-9, 9-6 Big Ten), as well as Penn State's (20-6, 10-5 Big Ten) eight-game winning streak.
Aided by the return of star sophomore Dosunmu, who missed a game due to a knee injury, Illinois battled tough and played to their strengths. They forced Penn State to take tough shots and beat them to several boards, living up to their reputation as one of the nation's best offensive rebounding teams. The crucial offensive rebound by Andres Feliz with 29 seconds left in a 58-56 game robbed Penn State of the opportunity to tie or take the lead.
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It was about as bad a first half of basketball as Penn State has played in the 2020 calendar year, with the ice cold Nittany Lions shooting 37% from the field, just 11% from deep, and 50% from the line in the first 20 minutes. Lamar Stevens picked up two fouls and spent the last eight-plus minutes of the half on the bench. Without Stevens and the still-ill Myreon Jones, Penn State struggled offensively.
The first seven minutes of the second half looked like more of the same, until Penn State locked in on defense and got points off of great effort. An athletic block by Lamar Stevens led to a John Harrar putback on the other end, followed by a forced shot clock violation. With the Bryce Jordan Center as loud as it has been all season, the Nittany Lions put together a 7-0 run heading into the under-12 timeout and made it a one point game, down 40-39.
Unfortunately, Penn State was unable to string together another run on offense. Limited already by the absence of Jones, Patrick Chambers' team couldn't find anyone to shoulder the scoring burden.
Myles Dread, who has played very well in Jones' place, was just 1-for-8 from the field, all three point attempts, and never seemed to get comfortable looks. Stevens got most of his 13 points at the free throw line, never establishing himself offensively in a game where they badly needed him to do so. And a lethargic Mike Watkins could not take advantage of Kofi Cockburn first half foul trouble, going just 4-10 from inside and playing a poor game defensively.
If there was a bright spot on the night, it was the admirable effort from John Harrar, who had five of Penn State's nine offensive rebounds and kept the Nittany Lions hanging around down the stretch as a result. Freshman Seth Lundy also chipped in nine points and five boards, including two key free throws to get the lead down to two points with a minute to play.
Next up is a tough road matchup with Indiana (16-9, 6-8 Big Ten), Sunday at noon in Bloomington. Penn State won the last meeting in Happy Valley in late January 64-49.