CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The letdown came quick for Illinois basketball. Following its biggest win of the season against No. 2 Texas at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, the 17-ranked Illini sleepwalked their way into a 74-59 blowout loss against Penn State in front of a sold out State Farm Center crowd Saturday morning.
The Nittany Lions (7-3, 1-1 B1G) hit 12 of their 24 3s, including six from Andrew Funk, to pull off the rout over the Illini (7-3, 0-2 B1G), who despite having Top 10 wins over UCLA and Texas, still don’t have a Big Ten win. Penn State also got five 3s from Myles Dread (15 total points) and 20 points a piece from Jalen Pickett and Funk, in their first conference win of the season.
“The complete lack of leadership and the complete lack of effort that was given today,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said about his team’s performance. “From the very first play that they scored to the two practices before this game. Completely unacceptable. The lack of leadership on this team is zero, it is none. Inexcusable. We’ll find out who wants to be part of playing hard and doing it the right way.”
Matthew Mayer led Illinois with 14 points but Skyy Clark was the only other in Illini in double-figures with 11. Terrence Shannon Jr. was held to a season low four points, shooting just 2-of-7 from the field. As a team, Illinois shot just 44 percent from the field for the game, while allowing Penn State to shoot 50 percent from both the field and beyond the arc.
“All the credit to Penn State, they deserved to win the game,” Underwood continued in a postgame rant to media. “They punched us in the mouth, they’re old, the oldest team in the country and they played like grown men and we played very, very uninspired basketball from the second we landed from Madison Square Garden until now. We have been atrocious in practice, maybe the two worst days of practice leading up to a game that I’ve been a part of and that’s leadership. That’s leadership. Plain and simple leadership. Put it in bold damn print, leadership and the lack of.”
Illinois has a week off for finals before returning to the court next Saturday hosting Alabama A&M for a 3 p.m. tip at State Farm Center.