- Illinois (9-5, 5-3 Big Ten) will try to snap a two-game losing streak when they host Penn State (3-5, 0-4 Big Ten)
- The Fighting Illini is trying to avoid its first three-game home losing streak since the 2016-17 season
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The suddenly-reeling Illinois Fighting Illini (9-5, 5-3 Big Ten) will try to get back on track against the Penn State Nittany Lions (3-5, 0-4 Big Ten) Tuesday, Jan. 19. Illinois has dropped its last two home games (to Maryland and Ohio State) and hasn’t lost three straight at the State Farm Center since the 2016-17 season. Tip is set for 8:30pm ET in Champaign.
Penn State is coming off an 80-72 loss to Purdue Sunday, which was the program’s first game since a Dec. 30 defeat to Indiana due to coronavirus concerns within the conference. Now, the Nits face the Illini Tuesday — the second of four games in seven days.
Penn State vs Illinois Odds
|Penn State||+7.5 (-104)||+300||Ov 151.5 (-112)|
|Illinois||-7.5 (-118)||-375||Un 151.5 (-108)|
Odds taken Jan. 18 at FanDuel
Once ranked as high as No. 5 in the AP poll, Brad Underwood’s Fighting Illini have plummeted all the way to No.22 in Monday’s most recent poll due to a pair of defeats on their home court last week. Such is life in the Big Ten this season, the No. 1 rated conference by KenPom.
Gotta keep grinding. #Illini | #EveryDayGuys pic.twitter.com/9WEblJ2ZIl
— Illinois Basketball (@IlliniMBB) January 16, 2021
Meantime, Jim Ferry’s squad knows all too well just how challenging the Big Ten is this season. The Nittany Lions are still seeking their first conference victory. Now, they go into Champaign as underdogs — but not as big of underdogs as you might think — on Tuesday.
For a team that was a sleeper pick to reach the Final Four this season, Illinois’ back-to-back home losses are somewhat confounding. I say somewhat because the Big Ten is simply that good. The conference possesses seven teams rated in the top-30 by KenPom. And at No. 11, Illinois is the only five-loss team in the top-25. Only two squads with four losses — No. 14 Texas Tech and No. 18 West Virginia — are in the top-20. In other words, don’t let the Illini’s record fool you.
The dynamic duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn are still doing their things. Dosunmu scored double digits (22) in his 29th straight game against the Buckeyes, while the 7-foot-1 Cockburn recorded his 10th double-double of the season. If not for a missed call late, Illinois may have pulled out a comeback win Saturday.
Nevertheless, Underwood knows the lackluster effort can’t continue if his team wants to achieve its lofty expectations.
“There will be some rough meetings this week,” Underwood said. “We can’t have anymore of these flat, lifeless, noncompetitive games. We’re one of the best teams in the country and we need to start showing it.”
Penn State battled Purdue the entire game Sunday, but simply came up short. Junior guard Myreon Jones scored a game and career-best 23 points and senior forward John Harrar had a career-high 14. But it simply wasn’t enough in West Lafayette.
Due to COVID issues around the Big Ten, Penn State is now in the middle of an utterly brutal stretch. After Tuesday’s game against Illinois, the group has Rutgers on Thursday and Northwestern on Saturday. At least the games against the Scarlet Knights and Wildcats are in State College.
The Nittany Lions blew out then-No. 15 Virginia Tech on the Hokies’ home court Dec. 8. The Nits have also dropped a pair of overtime games (to Seton Hall and Indiana) and gave then-undefeated Michigan a good run in Ann Arbor. This is a good team with four players averaging in double-figures. But can it knock off Illinois in what feels like a must-win-type game for the Fighting Illini Tuesday?
As talented as Dosunmu and Cockburn are, they can’t do it all. Enter Adam Miller.
Brad Underwood said he was proud of the way Adam Miller played today. He had 14 points and 7 rebounds. The freshman was still confident in the team’s ability to bounce back.
“A loss is a lesson.” pic.twitter.com/5gDswPUAyB
— Andy Olson (@WCIA3Andy) January 16, 2021
The 6-foot-3 freshman guard is averaging 11.8 points, knocking down three 3-pointers and shooting 40% from behind the arc over his last four games. He’s the third-leading scorer on a team dominated by a pair of future NBA players — and may play in the league himself one day.
This is simply a bad draw for Penn State. The Nittany Lions are good. But Illinois — coming off a physical home loss against Ohio State Saturday — wants to get the taste of defeat out of its mouth and will gut out a victory over PSU Tuesday.
The pick: Illinois -7.5 (-118)