Jan. 3, 2014
|Penn State (9-5, 0-1 B1G) at Illinois (12-2, 1-0 B1G)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's basketball team begins 2014 with a road trip to Illinois for a 2:15 p.m. ET matchup Saturday at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill. The Nittany Lions are 9-5 on the season and 0-1 in the Big Ten after dropping a New Years Eve game with fifth-ranked Michigan State, 79-63. Illinois has won its last three games and is 12-2 overall, 1-0 in the conference following an overtime victory against Indiana.
PENN STATE SCOOP (TEAM)
- Penn State is 39-38 all-time in the first game of the New Year, dating back to 1934-35 when the season started spanning two calendar years.
- The Nittany Lions have five players scoring in double figures after 14 games with the team averaging 79.9 points per game, the fourth-highest average among Big Ten teams and on pace to be among the highest scoring averages in program history.
- Penn State has the fourth-highest field-goal percentage among Big Ten teams (.471), up 8 percent from a year ago. As a unit, the starting five are all shooting at a higher clip than last season, by an average of nearly 9 percentage points.
- The starting five accounts for 83 percent (927 of 1119) of Penn State's total point on the season.
- With John Johnson's team-leading 20 points vs. Mount St. Mary's, seven different PSU players have led the team or tied for the lead in scoring through the first 14 games of the year: Tim Frazier (6 games), D.J. Newbill (3 games), Brandon Taylor (2 games), Johnson, Donovon Jack, Ross Travis and Allen Roberts (1 game).
- As a team, the Lions are shooting 74.8 percent from the free-throw line, the second-best showing among Big Ten teams ... Four PSU players are shooting 70 percent or better from the charity stripe, led by Brandon Taylor's 89 percent showing (25-28), among players with at least 20 attempts.
- Three Penn State players have combined for seven double-doubles so far this season, tied for the second-most players from one team in the Big Ten with Minnesota and Ohio State.
NITTANY LION NUGGETS (Players)
- D.J. Newbill (18.8 ppg) and Tim Frazier (17.4 ppg) are ranked second and seventh, respectively, in the Big Ten and make up the highest-scoring backcourt duo in the nation.
- Tim Frazier has the most assists of any NCAA Division I player (102) at the start of the week and is third in the country in assists per game (7.3) ... Frazier currently is the only player in the country averaging at least 17 points and 7.2 assists per game ... Only B1G player in the Top 10 of scoring (17.4, 7th), assists (7.3, 1st) and steals (1.9, 5th).
- Newbill passed 1,000 career points at Duquesne (1,060), including 293 scored at Southern Mississippi ... He needs 233 more points to enter the PSU records books ... Newbill has emerged as one of the Lions' top 3-point scoring threat, tallying 23 on 53attempts (.434)
- Donovon Jack has tallied 22 of his 34 blocks in the last five games and has seven-consecutive games with multiple blocks to lead the team and stand in fourth in the B1G with 2.0 bpg
- The NCAA granted the waiver request for Jordan Dickerson to be eligible to play beginning with the Mount St. Mary's contest Dec. 22. The game vs. the Mountaineers also marked the first of John Johnson's eligibility after transferring from Pitt in Dec. 2012.
Penn State returns to the Jordan Center for its next two games, taking on Minnesota (Jan. 8) and Indiana (Jan. 11). Tickets for all home games are available on GoPSUsports.com, by calling 1-800-NITTANY or visiting the BJC ticket office.
SCOUTING THE ILLINI
Illinois is off to a 12-2 start to the season and a 1-0 mark in the Big Ten after defeating Indiana 83-80 in overtime New Years Eve. Free throws were the difference maker as the Illini outscored the Hoosiers 12-9 in the extra period with an 8-6 advantage from the charity stripe.
Rayvonte Rice finished the game with 29 points and eight rebounds with support coming from Tracy Abrams' 17 points and Joseph Bertrand's 13 points and seven boards. For the season, Rice leads Illinois with 19 ppg and 5.7 rpg, while Abrams nets 13 ppg and 3.2 apg.
Illinois is receiving votes in both major polls this week after winning five of their last six games. The Illini started the season with seven-consecutive wins before falling to Georgia Tech, 67-64, in the B1G/ACC Challenge Dec. 3. The only other loss came to Oregon in Portland Dec. 14 with Illinois rattling off three wins since against Missouri (65-64, Dec. 21) and UIC (74-60, Dec. 28) and the Hoosiers.
The Illini played five of their last six non-conference games away from the State Farm Center, but hold an 11-game winning streak at their home venue dating back to last season and a 74-68 loss to Wisconsin Feb. 3, 2013.
Illinois holds a 25-13 advantage in the all-time series and a 12-5 advantage in Champaign, though the teams have split their last four overall meetings. Penn State's last win came Jan. 19, 2012 with a 54-52 victory in the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Illini captured the lone matchup last season, a 64-59 decision in Assembly Hall, now known as the State Farm Center. Penn State out-shot the Illini by hitting 43 percent to Illinois' 39 percent, but was out-scored by 14 points at the foul line with Illinois hitting 23-of-36 foul shots in a game that saw 52 fouls called. Neither team led by more than nine.
LAST TIME OUT: PENN STATE FALLS TO NO. 5 MICHIGAN STATE IN B1G OPENER
Sophomore Brandon Taylor and junior D.J. Newbill led the Penn State men's basketball team with 35 combined points but their efforts proved not enough as the Nittany Lions fell to fifth-rankged Michigan State, 79-63, on New Year's Eve at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State led by as many as 12 in the first half, converting on nine Spartan turnovers for 13 points and shooting 58 percent (7-12) from 3-point range. Improved ball control in the second half by Michigan State and cooled off shooting by the Lions led to the MSU comeback.