CHICAGO (WCIA) — For the second straight season, Illinois basketball is one and done at the Big Ten tournament. Andrew Funk hit six 3s scoring a game high 20 points, Camren Wynter added 18 and Penn State beat Illinois 79-76 Thursday night in the second round of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center in Chicago.
“Just backing you down, back you down, you can’t really do anything about it,” Illinois junior forward Coleman Hawkins said about guarding the Nittany Lions. “You can’t touch them. It’s just difficult trying to find that in-between where you can still guard the booty ball and still guard the shooters.”
The Illini (20-12) got a team high 19 points from Terrence Shannon Jr., with Coleman Hawkins adding 17 but they shot just 28 percent from 3, making 6-for-21 from beyond the arc. Dain Dainja put up 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds but was whistled for a technical foul in the second half for headbutting Myles Dread while celebrating an and one.
“I just celebrated, I didn’t see him,” Dainja said. “I had my eyes closed, I didn’t know he was right in front of me so I ran into him. Tried to talk to the ref about it but he said things about concussions and stuff like that.”
“It was a really big momentum change, we were on a run,” Shannon Jr. said. “But we didn’t play good enough, we didn’t shoot good enough.”
Down as many as 10 in the first half, Illinois had a one-point lead at 56-55 with 8:05 to play following a Dain Dainja and one but the Nittany Lions (20-12) used a 14-3 run to take a 12-point lead with 1:51 remaining. Despite a late run, Illinois couldn’t complete the comeback, pulling within three on a Jayden Epps 3 just before the final buzzer. The freshman returned to the court after missing the past two games with a concussion that hospitalized him for a night.
“I’m excited,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said about his team. “This team can go as long and as far as they want to be, we’ve proven that. We started getting a little balance with Dain, I thought he was terrific tonight. Then we started getting with Coleman and Terrence. I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
Illinois now awaits its NCAA tournament draw, with the selection show set to air Sunday night on WCIA 3 at 5:30 p.m., following the Big Ten tournament title game.