Fans react to Penn State’s Illinois upset in the "Return to Rec"

Penn State fans and media alike call for Penn State to return to Rec Hall at least once a year if not full-time after the Nittany Lions road a hostile home court advantage to an upset of No. 12 Illinois.
Penn State fans at Rec Hall
Penn State fans at Rec Hall / Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

When Mike Rhoades arrived in Happy Valley, his task was to keep the momentum rolling from Micah Shrewsberry’s tenure at Penn State. Instead, Rhoades has paved his own path, including dismissing Kanye Clary, his leading scorer, from the team last week, and making a return to Rec Hall for the first time since 2015. Rhoades is thinking outside the box at Penn State and it’s working. 

Brad Underwood, head coach of the No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini said, “Wish we were back in the other place” after his team fell to 19-7 (10-5) with a 90-89 loss that prompted a court-storming from the Nittany Lion fans. 

While Penn State leaned on its history, cultivating an electric atmosphere in the 6,500-seat venue, Rhoades went back into his past to deliver a win to the raucous crowd. Ace Baldwin Jr. and Nick Kern Jr. who both followed Rhoades from VCU to Penn State were the primary catalysts for the victory, Baldwin with 12 assists and Kern with 22 points. 

With two minutes left, Penn State trailed 87-79, and after a Zach Hicks’ three, Illinois’s Marcus Domask hit two free throws for an 89-82 lead with 1:17 remaining. From that point, Illinois turned the ball over, missed on field goal and two free throws, and allowed eight points including three-straight free throws from Hicks with three seconds remaining to seal the win and a defensive stop incited the court storming. 

Fans and media alike have been suggesting everything from turning “Return to Rec” into a yearly tradition to making a full-time switch from the Bryce Jordan Center, an oversized arena, more aptly sutited for concerts and Thon than a hostile basketball environment. 

The BJC has a capacity around 15,000, but it is rarely filled for Penn State home games on the men’s or women’s side. 

Penn State moved to the BJC full-time in 1996, but the 95-year-old Rec Hall stills plays host to Penn State men’s and women’s volleyball, women’s gymnastics, and wrestling. 

This was Penn State’s second home game of the season played somewhere other than the BJC. Since 2017, the Nittany Lions have been playing one home game a year at The Palestra in Philadelphia. This year, the Nittany Lions beat Michigan 79-73 at their home game in Philadelphia.