Men’s basketball looks for third straight conference win

posted January 30, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Mandy Bell

Coming off of back-to-back conference wins, the Penn State Nittany Lions (14-7, 2-6 B1G) will take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (13-8, 3-5 B1G) Saturday at 1 p.m. at the State Farm Center.

The Fighting Illini dominated through its non-conference schedule with a record of 11-3 going into conference play. Illinois picked up its three losses in close games against Miami, Villanova and Oregon.

Both these teams have struggled since entering conference play. The Fighting Illini have only won three conference games, while the Nittany Lions are looking to secure their third conference win Saturday. 

The Nittany will need to contain Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn of the Fighting Illini. While Penn State relies almost exclusively on D.J. Newbill, Rice, Hill and Nunn all average in double digit scoring per game for Illinois. 

Newbill, who continues to lead the Big Ten in scoring, is coming off one of his worst scoring games of the season in Wednesday night’s win over Minnesota. He tallied just 12 points, still leading the Nittany Lions, but still helped to lead his team to their second conference win. This was only the fourth time Newbill failed to score 17 points in a contest this season. With that in the back of his mind, expect Newbill to come to the State Farm Center hungry to get back on track. 

On the defensive end, both Penn State and Illinois give up about 64 points per game. Because of this and Penn State’s trend of close games all of year, it is likely that the game on Saturday will be a tight one. 

For Penn State to come out on top, the offense needs to control possession of the ball. The Nittany Lions have turned the ball over 60 more times this year than the Fighting Illini. Penn State also needs to hope Brandon Taylor will be able to go after missing Wednesday’s game with a knee injury. 

The tandem of Taylor and Shep Garner are the Nittany Lion’s top scoring options after Newbill. Newbill has had some of the pressure taken off of him by having two other options on the team to help him do his job.

For the Fighting Illini to win Saturday, the defense will have to shut down Newbill. Although it sounds like an easy task for five defenders to stop one man, it is not. Newbill has the ability to create shots for himself even while defenders are draped all over him.

Tip on Saturday is set for 1 p.m. and can be heard live on ComRadio. Coverage begins at 12:30 with the Penn State Basketball Pregame Show.

Mandy Bell is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism.  To contact her, email amb6857@psu.edu.