Here Comes No. 1

Nittany Lions look to take it to another level against Illinois. It will mark Penn State's first home game vs. the nation's No. 1 team since 1993. Check out our game preview and an audio file of Ed DeChellis' weekly press conference.

Penn State vs. No. 1 Illinois

Bryce Jordan Center

8 p.m., Wednesday.

Ed DeChellis Audio (WMV)

Records: Penn State 7-16, 1-9; Illinois 25-0, 11-0.

Coaches: Ed DeChellis is 16-35 in his second season at Penn State and 121-127 overall. Bruce Weber is 51-7 in two seasons at Illinois and 154-61 overall.

Series: Illinois leads 17-6.

Last meeting: The Illini hammered the Lions 90-64 in Champaign Jan. 12.

Last time out: Penn State was dumped by Ohio State (66-56) at the Jordan Center Saturday. Illinois beat Wisconsin (70-59) earlier in the day.

TV: ESPN-Plus via WPSX locally (Mike Adamle, Brian Allen).

Radio: Penn State Sports Network (Steve Jones, Dick Jerardi).

Next up: The Lions are at Northwestern Saturday afternoon. Illinois goes to Iowa the same day.

Probable Starters:

Penn State — G Ben Luber, 6-0 So. (5.8 ppg), G Mike Walker, 6-2 Fr. (7.0 ppg), F Geary Claxton, 6-5 Fr. (12.2 ppg), F Travis Parker, 6-5 Jr. (12.0 ppg), F Aaron Johnson, 6-8 Jr. (13.0 ppg).

Illinois — G Dee Brown, 6-0 Jr. (13.2 ppg), G Deron Williams, 6-3 Jr. (12.5 ppg), G Luther Head, 6-3 Sr. (16.9 ppg), F James Augustine, 6-10 Jr. (10.2 ppg), F Roger Powell, 6-6 Sr. (12.0 ppg).

Quick Quiz: When was Penn State’s last win against a ranked opponent?

Penn State Notes:

• Penn State is 0-9 all-time against No. 1 teams. This is the first time a No. 1 team will visit the Jordan Center.

• The Illini are averaging 79.2 points per game. Penn State has not scored more than 65 since beating Long Island 80-56 in Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 29.

• Johnson, the team’s leading scorer, has actually led the team in scoring in a game only once in the past 10 contests. His non-conference scoring average was 15.6 ppg. His conference scoring average is 9.6 ppg.

• Claxton, Parker, Walker and Morrissey are all hitting a higher percentage of their shots in Big Ten play than Johnson (33.7).

• Luber is really struggling, making only 28 percent of his attempts in the league. That completely off-sets a decent 34-20 assists-to-turnover ratio.

• Morrissey and Walker have been to the line a combined 16 times in 10 Big Ten games, cementing their reputations as driveway shooters. By comparison, the slashing Claxton has been to the stripe 70 times since league play began.

• Stat watch: Due to injuries, illness and ineffective play, DeChellis has tried six different starting lineups this year.

Illinois Notes:

• The Illini have won five in a row and nine of the last 10 in this series. Included were victories by 32, 27, 43 and 36 points.

• Illinois winning streaks of 25 straight overall and 12 straight on the road are both longest in the nation. The 25-0 start is the best in the 100-year history of the program.

• The Illini have held the No. 1 spot in both polls since Dec. 6.

• Penn State has been awful at stopping the 3-point shot this season. That’s one of many areas the Illini will exploit. They make 8.7 per game. Illinois leads the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage (40).

• Four of Illinois’ five starters are making more than 50 percent of their shots. The only Lion hitting more than half his tries is seldom-used senior forward Jason McDougald (55.6).

• As mighty as the Illini have been, with an average scoring margin of 79.2-61.7, they have been somewhat human on the road in the Big Ten. Illinois has won five league road games by an average margin of 10, with none of those outings being decided by more than 13.

• Stat Watch: Weber has used the same starting five in every game this season.

Quiz Answer: Penn State last topped a ranked opponent in the 2001 NCAA tournament, dispatching No. 5 North Carolina 82-74. Since then, the Lions are 0-9 vs. the Top 25, only two games being decided by less than 22 points.

FOS Prediction: Illinois 79, Penn State 60.

Comment: Even if the Lions play a perfect game, the best they can hope for is to keep it close. Nothing we’ve seen of late suggests they are up to that challenge.

FOS Prediction Record: 16-7.


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