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Penn State Basketball: Illinois Game Notes and Live Blog

The Nittany Lions look to stop a four-game losing streak against the Illini at home tonight.



Dec 7, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Micah Shrewsberry reacts from the bench during the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Bryce Jordan Center. Michigan State defeated Penn State 67-58. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State basketball (14-11, 5-9 Big Ten) hits the hardwood again tonight to take on Illinois (17-7, 8-5 Big Ten) inside the BJC. Tip-off is a 7 PM EST, and the game will air on ESPNU.

Amidst a four-game losing streak, the Nittany Lions’ Tournament hopes are growing slimmer by the day. If Micah Shrewsberry wants his team to make any postseason tournament this year, then the Lions will have to course-correct immediately.

“…the road doesn’t get easier,” Shrewsberry told reporters yesterday. “We know that, playing in this league, how tough it is and how tough it’s gonna be.”

Will Penn State basketball get back in the win column tonight? Your guess is as good as mine at this point. But follow along with Basic Blues Nation here for in-game stats and commentary. Because, at worst, misery loves company.

Game Notes – Stopping the Skid

As noted, Penn State comes into this matchup having lost its previous four games. A win against Illinois would be significant on many fronts. Currently No. 22 in the NCAA NET Rankings, a win would give Penn State its third Quad 1 victory of the season. Having already defeated the Illini in Champaign, the Nittany Lions are looking for their first regular-season sweep of Illinois since 2019.

However, the task will not be easy. Illinois has won eight of its last ten games, including a victory against No. 21 Rutgers (NET rankings) on Saturday. The Illini are near the top of the conference in nearly every major statistical category. On defense, Illinois leads the Big Ten in blocks and is top-three in rebounds, field goal percentage defense, and turnovers forced per game.

The Nittany Lions have struggled on the defensive end of the court in this recent losing skid. In the last four games, the Lions’ opponents have shot at least 50% from the field. The defense will be tested again tonight, as the Illini rank third in the Big Ten in scoring offense.

Traditionally this season, Penn State has pulled out games at home by scoring from deep. The Lions rank first in the conference (fourth nationally) with 10.8 three-pointers made per game. However, this may not be as much of an advantage tonight, as Illinois is third in the Big Ten in threes made per game.

If Penn State wants a chance tonight, turnovers must play a critical role. The Nittany Lions are second in the nation, with 8.9 turnovers per game. However, in Saturday’s loss at Maryland, they were terrible in this department, turning the ball over 13 times. The Illini, meanwhile, turn the ball over more than any team in the conference. If the defense can steal a few extra possessions tonight, then maybe – just maybe – Penn State has a chance to get the upset.

First Half Updates

15:00 Remaining: Penn State 14, Illinois 11. Both teams have started hot from the field. The Lions are currently shooting 6-9, including makes on four of their last five shots. Seth Lundy and Andrew Funk have already hit two big threes early to give Penn State the lead. Lundy leads all scorers with five points.

11:48: Penn State 22, Illinois 13. Illinois has cooled off, but Penn State continues to heat up. Penn State has made three of their last four three-pointers during a 10-2 run in the previous 3:55. Leading the way is Jalen Pickett, who already has nine points on 4-5 shooting.

8:41: Penn State 33, Illinois 24. The Illini made their surge, but the Nittany Lions responded. As Pickett headed to the bench for a quick breather, Illinois took advantage inside as part of a 6-0 run to pull it within three points. Pickett has the last eight points for Penn State, including two big threes. He currently has 17 points on the evening. Lundy is also shooting the ball well, but the Lions aren’t getting help from anyone else. Ty Rogers leads Illini scorers with six points.

3:15: Penn State 44, Illinois 33. Penn State has been distributing the ball well and paying it off with good shot selections. The Lions’ last five baskets from the floor have been from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Illini have only made one shot in their previous four attempts. Penn State currently holds its largest lead of the night.

Halftime: Penn State 53, Illinois 40. Jalen Pickett has passed the 2,000-point mark for his career. Technically speaking, Pickett is playing out of his mind. He has 24 points on 10-12 shooting – against one of the best defenses in the conference, no less.

So far, I can pick out two differentiating factors in this game. First, Penn State has been lights out from beyond the arc. The Nittany Lions are currently shooting 56% from deep (63% overall). On the other hand, the Illini are shooting 36% from three (50% overall).

Second, the Nittany Lions are capitalizing on Illinois’s turnovers. Although the turnover margin is slim (5-2 in favor of Penn State), the Lions have scored 13 points off Illini turnovers, compared to a single point for Illinois.

Penn State is certainly playing like they have something to prove. We’ll see if this continues in the second half.

Second Half Updates

15:15: Penn State 64, Illinois 52. Penn State’s typical woes out of the halftime break continued tonight. Illinois started the second half on a 7-1 run to make it a single-digit game. But, the Nittany Lions reclaimed the momentum by making five of their last six shots to extend the margin to 12. Potentially of note for later – Kebba Njie has been forced to the bench with three personal fouls.

13:21: Penn State 68, Illinois 57. Pickett now has a new scoring high for the season with 30 points. The BJC scoring record is 37. The program record is 46. You know, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

11:56: Penn State 71, Illinois 57. The Jalen Pickett record watch is officially on. He currently has 33, four off of the BJC record. He has made 13 of his last 14 shots, including eight in a row.

8:00: Penn State 76, Illinois 66. Illinois used a 9-2 run to pull the score within eight with less than nine minutes to play. While watching Pickett go off has been fun, the lack of production from everyone else is a little concerning. Funk and Lundy have combined for 21 points. Pickett currently has 35, two shy of the BJC record.

3:51: Penn State 84, Illinois 71. Jalen Pickett has now tied the BJC scoring record with 37 points. The Lions have slowed down the pace of the game and should have enough of a margin to ride this one out.

Final: Penn State 93, Illinois 81

What else is there to say – it was the Jalen Pickett show. Pickett had 41 points, setting the BJC scoring record. It is also the best scoring performance for any Big Ten player this season.

Pickett showed why he is one of the best players in the country tonight. The most impressive part of Pickett’s performance (aside from all the points) was his efficiency. Pickett went 15-20 from the field, including 5-9 from deep, and 6-6 from the foul line.

Lundy (15 points), Funk (10 points), and Kanye Clary (12 points) had respectable scoring nights. But, Pickett willed the Nittany Lions to victory tonight. Penn State led for all but two minutes in this game.

Another impressive win has been added to the Nittany Lions’ resume. Penn State’s Tournament hopes live on.


BREAKING: Penn State basketball lands Dominick Stewart

The Penn State basketball team has landed a new commit in the 2024 class today.



Mike Rhoades, Penn State basketball, Dominic Stewart
Dec 5, 2018; Austin, TX, USA; Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Mike Rhoades walks the baseline watching the team play during the second half against the Texas Longhorns at Frank Erwin Center. Mandatory Credit: John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Rhoades and the rest of the Penn State men’s basketball recruiting staff got some good news today from the recruiting trail as the 2023-2024 season inches closer. The 2023 schedule was released this week and tip-off is nearing closer. But before that takes place, Rhoades and his staff have been hard at work trying to secure the future. A step in that direction was taken today, as the Nittany Lions landed top prospect Dominick Stewart. 

Penn State basketball lands Dominick Stewart

Class of 2024 guard Dominick Stewart announced his commitment to the Nittany Lions on Friday afternoon. Dominick is a 6’5 guard from Maryland and is currently playing at the Southern California Academy in California. He is the 184th-ranked player nationally and a three-star by the ON3 industry rankings. He carries an impressive offer list that includes Butler, Creighton, Mississippi State, and Cal. Penn State offered back in July after Dominick’s very strong showing on the AAU circuit which included All-Breakout team selections at Peach Jam in the Nike EYBL session #3. This commitment comes from a recent visit he took to Happy Valley at the beginning of the month. 

Stewart looks like a good get, especially after that impressive AAU run that got many schools noticing him. He is a smart and skilled player who can fit into many lineups and spots on the court. He is a good shooter with a great jumper. His jump shot is smooth and quick which allows him to avoid contests and score in bunches when he gets hot.

He processes the game at an impressive speed and is constantly making the right play. Not your typical lead ball playmaker, but is a fantastic connector, keeping the ball moving and hitting the open man. Those smarts apply to the other side of the ball too. Stewart uses his good size at hoard effectively to guard up and down the lineup. He is a good and willing team defender which fits the Rhoades style well. 

Where does Stewart fit in at Penn State?

Stewart, originally a member of the 2025 class, becomes the second member of Penn State’s 2024 class after reclassifying. He joins fellow guard Jahvin Carter as the first high school recruit to commit to Penn State since Mike Rhoades took over. Jahvin, who committed back in June, and Stewart make an interesting pair in the backcourt and share a lot of skills that the staff clearly values. The biggest one is their basketball IQ. They should both be important pieces in building a smart and skilled program for the future of Penn State Basketball. 

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at [email protected] or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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Penn State Basketball has released its 2023-2024 official schedule

The Penn State basketball 2023-2024 schedule is here!



Penn State basketball, Mike Rhoades, Schedule
Mar 18, 2023; Des Moines, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Myles Dread (2) and forward Michael Henn (24) salute fans after a loss to the Texas Longhorns at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

After a long wait, we now know what awaits the Penn State Men’s Basketball team this winter. Year 1 of the Mike Rhoades era is around the corner with the release of the 2023-2024 basketball schedule. The schedule totals 30 games including an in-season tournament, a potential revenge game, and another Palestra special

Penn State Basketball has released its 2023-2024 official schedule

Before all that, however, the season opens up on November 6th against Delaware State. This game, at the Bryce Jordan Center, starts a run of home games to begin the year against Lehigh (November 10th), St. Francis (November 14th), and Morehead State (November 17th). This all leads to the ESPN Events Invitational.

Penn State gets its first big test down in Orlando in a rematch against Texas A&M. The game takes place on Thanksgiving, November 23rd, and will be a great chance to test out the radically different roster against a more familiar opponent. Penn State will play a total of 3 games in the tournament win or lose with the potential for a very intriguing matchup

If the Nittany Lions are able to go all the way to the championship they could match up against Mike Rhoades’ former school, VCU. This would obviously be huge for the coach against his old school, but it also features a “revenge” opportunity for a couple of players as well. Point guard Ace Baldwin Jr. and forward Nick Kern Jr. both followed coach Rhoades from VCU to Penn State this past spring. While this game would be amazing, it is unlikely. Penn State and VCU would both have to mirror each other in each round whether that means winning out, losing out, or somewhere in between. A matchup we are guaranteed is another Big Ten Showdown in Philly.

On January 7th the Nittany Lions will take on Michigan in the Palestra. This will be the second year in a row Penn State will host a game in the historic arena and the 4th time since their 2017 matchup against Michigan State. Penn State has a long history in the arena playing 61 games there since 1927, and win or lose, the environment is always electric. 

The schedule in full goes as follows:

November 6th: vs. Delaware State

November 10th: vs Lehigh

November 14th: vs St. Francis(PA) 

November 17th: vs. Morehead State

November 23rd: vs Texas A&M*

November 24th: vs Butler/FAU*

November 26th: vs TBD*

December 2nd: vs Bucknell

December 6th: at Maryland

December 9th: vs. Ohio State

December 21st: vs Le Moyne

December 29th: vs Rider

January 4th: at Michigan State

January 7th: vs Michigan 

January 10th: vs Northwestern

January 13th: at Purdue 

January 16th: vs Wisconsin

January 20th: at Ohio State

January 27th: vs Minnesota

January 31st: at Rutgers

February 3rd: at Indiana

February 8th: vs Iowa

February 11th: at Northwestern

February 14th: vs. Michigan State

February 17th: at Nebraska 

February 21st: vs Illinois 

February 24th: vs Indiana 

February 27th: at Iowa 

March 2nd: at Minnesota 

March 10th: vs Maryland 

March 13th-17th: Big Ten Tournament

*= ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando, Florida

**= home game in Philly at Palestra

Penn State has already played a couple of warm-up games with two big wins in the Bahamas that gave us our first look at this new squad. The team has also announced a third against Robert Morris on October 27th as they gear up to take on this 23-24 schedule. As Mike Rhoades looks to begin a new era in Penn State basketball. 

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at [email protected] or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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Scouting report on Penn State Basketball center Qudus Wahab

Learning more about Qudus Wahab.



Penn State basketball, Qudus Wahab
Feb 8, 2023; Providence, Rhode Island, USA; Georgetown Hoyas center Qudus Wahab (34) works against Providence Friars forward Ed Croswell (5) during the first half at Amica Mutual Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The second player I’m covering in the scouting series is the 5th-year senior from Georgetown Qudus Wahab. The projected starting center may be the deciding factor for which way the Penn State basketball season goes. With a lot of inexperience behind him and some good centers in the conference, Wahab’s play is going to be crucial for the Nittany Lions.

Scouting report on Penn State Basketball center Qudus Wahab

Wahab comes to Penn State to close out what has been an up-and-down college ride so far. Qudus was a top 150 recruit back in the 2019 high school recruiting class and chose to play for Georgetown. After a big sophomore year where he averaged about 13 points and 8 rebounds, Wahab decided to enter the transfer portal looking for a better program. He transferred to Maryland, but after a disappointing season that saw him play just 19 minutes a game, he entered the portal again, this time heading back to Georgetown. In his 4th season, he bounced back from his bad year at Maryland, but still did not reach his sophomore-year level, averaging 9.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.

He got more post touches this year than he had in the past and his efficiency reflected that, dropping from a career 58% shooting mark to just 51.3%. The Georgetown team was bad with a record of 7-25. Their offense ran terribly and everyone suffered because of it. Wahab comes to Penn State with less of a burden offensively and some very talented guards to play with in Ace Baldwin and Kanye Clary which should help increase his efficiency. 

When you watch the highlights Wahab looks like your average traditional center. Often the biggest player on the floor he appears to be a physical presence down low on both ends. It looks like he loves to work in the post and he isn’t the most athletic player. Highlights rarely show the full picture, however, so let’s dig a little deeper and check out some full games. Again, shoutout to the amazing College Basketball Scouting channel for a good breakdown of the numbers of Wahab’s senior season.

The first game I watched was a January 24th matchup against DePaul. Wahab played 22 minutes in this matchup finishing with 9 points on 2-6 shooting from the field and 5-6 shooting from the line. He also added 10 rebounds and a block to the box score. The main thing that jumps out of this game is the style that Georgetown was running last year. They ran a ton of iso-heavy plays and rarely used ball screen actions. Wahab seemed to spend the majority of the game in the dunker’s spot or fighting for position inside. In the season Wahab operated in a post up 48% of the time resulting in 0.93 points per possession, or PPP, which is 67th percentile. He looks comfortable there but it is not the most efficient style of offense, which was evident in this game with his poor shooting from the field. He is in roll/pop action only 15% of the time resulting in 0.98 PPP which is 45th percentile.

That percentage should skyrocket playing in Rhoades’ offense and, with the improved guard play around him in Ace and Kanye, that PPP will improve as well. The other thing that is really apparent here is his rebounding skills. He has a nose for the ball off the boards and he gets work done there on both ends. In this game, his 10 rebounds were evenly split, 5 defensive and 5 offensive. Wahab’s offensive rebounding is gonna be a huge factor for a Penn State team that has had problems there in the past. He had a 13% offensive rebounding rate last year. Comparatively, Penn State as a team had a 17.7% rebounding rate last season. Wahab’s defense was not the sharpest in this game. He looked lethargic and was out of position a number of times, but playing for a team as bad as Butler can take away your motivation to really try. This next game we are gonna look at provides some evidence that it is a motivation issue and not an ability issue. 

Game 2 was a matchup against the future champion UConn Huskies on February 4th. The game ended in a loss for Georgetown, but the Hoyas played a tough game, falling 68-62. The game is this close was in no small part thanks to Qudus Wahab. Matching up against arguably the best center rotation in the country of Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan, Wahab played 27 minutes scoring 10 points on 5-9 shooting from the field with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Wahab looked much more motivated and active in this game. He seemed to take pride in the matchup and really held his own on both ends. He could not get super far inside easily against Sanogo but he was able to get to his spot near the right elbow for a few smooth post hooks. The post hook is a solid weapon for Wahab. He goes to it near the right elbow for 14% of his shot attempts and he hits them at a respectable 50% from the field. That shot has the makings of a great low-shot clock bailout play to try and salvage some bad possessions. On defense, he was much more engaged. He defended his individual matchups well but also was an excellent team defender. He always seemed to be in the right position this game and was hustling around nonstop. His defense was the biggest reason why Georgetown was able to hold UConn to just 68 points. With the right motivation, Wahab showed he can rise to the occasion. 

What will Wahab’s role be at Penn State?

With Penn State, it will be a wildly different role for Wahab on both ends. Playing with a guard like Ace Baldwin who operated in the pick-and-roll 48% of the time last season should give Wahab a lot of new looks on offense. Wahab seems to have a good feel for space and is crafty inside to finish at the rim despite his lack of athleticism. He already shot 69% of his shots at the rim on 54% efficiency, and, with a more PnR-heavy offense and better guards, we could see both those numbers improve at PSU. On defense, the transition is a bit more complicated. The Rhoades’ defense uses a lot of pressure concepts that will be a new experience for Wahab. It is a very high-energy defense that requires a lot of hustle. Wahab has struggled with hustle at times, but with very little experience behind him, he is going to have to really buy into the system for the Penn State basketball team to be successful. 

Wahab is going to be one of the most important players for the Penn State basketball team this season, for better or worse. Last year for him was not great, but we have seen some fantastic play from Wahab at times throughout his 4-year career. With improved guard play and a more coherent system, Qudus could be in for a nice comeback in his final college season. 

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at [email protected] or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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