The current losing skid that the Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team has been on has almost been too tough to watch at times, and then they show flashes of being on the verge of breaking out of this nightmarish slump and you just can’t look away.
Eyes across Illini nation will be tuned in to the Big Ten Network this afternoon when the Illini take their show on the road to visit the Penn State Nittany Lions as they desperately try to stop the bleeding.
Penn State comes in to this game winners of 3 of their last 4 after starting the Big Ten season off losing 6 straight conference games, including a 20 point drubbing at the hands of our Fighting Illini back on January 4th in a game that was never close.
Aside from the victories, not much has changed for the Nittany Lions since the last meeting. They are still led in scoring by D.J. Newbill (17.6 ppg) and Tim Frazier (16.4 ppg) just as they were in the previous match-up. Illinois frustrated Newbill in the last meeting, holding him to 7 points before he was ejected for throwing a punch/shove in the direction of Kendrick Nunn’s head. Newbill has reeled off 7 straight double digit efforts coming in to this one.
While Newbill has been very good the past 7 games, one could make an argument that Frazier has been even better the past 2 games. Frazier is coming off a 22 point performance in his last game out against the Michigan State Spartans in the Nittany Lions 82-67 loss.
Rayvonte Rice, Tracy Abrams, and Kendrick Nunn will have their work cut out for them as they look to slow down the dynamic duo from PSU. Just as it was in the first meeting, controlling these two will be one of the major keys to this game. Frazier was held to 10 points in the last meeting, and as previously mentioned, Newbill was held to 7.
The Illini bigs also did a great job in the first meeting as they held the 3 PSU frontcourt starters to a combined 12 points on 4-21 shooting. It was a total team defensive effort, and Illinois will need to display the same defensive intensity today.
Three Things I’d like to see today:
1. Win the rebounding battle - Illinois beat PSU on the boards 44-33 in their last match-up. Commit to the glass, and most importantly, stop second chance point opportunities for the Nittany Lions.
2. Attack – Do not settle for long jumpers. Go at them early and often. If we can get Newbill, or Frazier, in early foul trouble it would only help to limit the Nittany Lions offensive output for the game.
3. 100% Defensive Effort - Nothing easy. No putbacks. No layups. Get in their face early and stay there all day. Wear them down, force them in to making bad decisions, and end this losing streak.
When: Sunday, February 9, 2014, 3:15 PM CST
Where: Bryce Jordan Center – University Park, PA
TV: BTN (Directv 610 / DISH Network 439)
Announcers: Eric Collins (Play by Play) and Shon Morris (Analyst)
Feel free to drop back in during the game and chat with me in the comments section below with any observations you may have!
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.