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Penn State Basketball Preview: Nittany Lions Look to Rebound Against Illinois

Game: Illinois (13-10, 2-8 Big Ten) at Penn State  (12-11, 3-7 Big Ten)

Date: February 8, 2014

Time: 4:15 p.m. EST

TV: Big Ten Network

The Penn State Nittany Lions saw their three-game winning streak come to an end on Thursday night in a big way, getting dominated 82-67 on the road by the Michigan State Spartans. After starting conference play losing the first six games, Penn State found its groove and reeled off three wins before Thursday’s loss. Up next is a chance at redemption at home against the Illinois Fighting Illini.

These two teams met in early January in a game that was never close.

The Illini controlled the Nittany Lions and came out with the 75-55 victory. In that victory, Illinois had four starters score in double-digits and  outrebounded the Nittany Lions 44-33. Guard Rayvonte Rice led the way with 15 points and seven rebounds. Penn State was led by John Johnson, who came off the bench and scored 18 points.

In today’s matchup, Penn State will look to get more production from the frontcourt, as the forwards scored just 12 points in the matchup in Illinois.

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Everything starts with the talented backcourt of Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill who are one of the highest-scoring duos on the conference. In the loss Thursday at Michigan State, the pair combined for 39 points. Again, the frontcourt accounted for just 12 points. Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor and Donovon Jack are going to have to step up in this game and provide offense. As talented as Frazier and Newbill both are, they need help from the rest of the team.

Since beating the Nittany Lions, Illinois has been heading in the wrong direction, losing its last eight games, after starting the season 13-2.

The Illini have really been struggling and rank near the bottom nationally in several categories. They rank 273rd, scoring just under 68 points a game. Their 41 percent field goal percentage ranks 312th in the nation.

Rice has been the lone bright spot on the team, leading in both points (16.9 ppg) and rebounds (5.9 rpg). Fellow guard Tracy Abrams is second on the team with 11.9 points.

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If the Nittany Lions are able to control Rice they have a chance to be successful in this one. Despite losing the last time out, Penn State has been much improved. Throw in the home crowd and the recent struggles of the Illini, and this one looks like a victory for the home team.

Follow VBR Lead Editor Barry Leonard Jr. on Twitter

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Tags: Basketball Penn State Nittany Lions

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