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(23) Illinois (23-7) at Penn State (20-9)

Thursday, March 5th, 9:00 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Site: Bryce Jordan Center (15,261) -- University Park, Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Illinois 14-3, Penn St. 14-3. Away Record: Illinois 5-4, Penn St. 5-5. Neutral Record: Illinois 4-0, Penn St. 1-1. Conference Record: Illinois 11-6, Penn St. 9-7. Series Record: Illinois leads, 21-10.

GAME NOTES: The Penn State Nittany Lions hope to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee with a Big Ten Conference victory over the 23rd-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini.

Illinois carried a modest two-game win streak into Sunday's clash with Michigan State and fell to the Spartans in a 74-66 final. The Illini are 23-7 overall, including 11-6 in conference, but they are just 5-4 in true road games.

As for Penn State, it has won three of its last four games to move to 20-9 overall and 9-7 in conference. The Nittany Lions defeated Indiana in a 61-58 final on Saturday, and the club is now a stellar 14-3 at home.

Just two weeks ago, Penn State beat Illinois in a low-scoring affair, 38-33. Still, the Illini own a 21-10 advantage in the all-time series.

Illinois is not an explosive offensive team, as it is only scoring 65.1 ppg through 30 games. The Illini are a tremendous defensive team, however, as they are limiting opponents to 56.3 ppg on 39.4 percent shooting from the field. Demetri McCamey leads a balanced attack with 11.8 ppg, and he is dishing out 4.7 apg as well. Mike Davis is scoring 11.1 ppg, and he is ripping down 7.9 rpg. Mike Tisdale adds 10.8 ppg to the mix, and Trent Meachem provides 10.2 ppg. Tisdale scored 15 points to lead Illinois in the loss to Michigan State the last time out. The Illini turned the ball over 17 times and suffered an 11-5 offensive rebounding deficit. Davis contributed 13 points and eight rebounds, while Chester Frazier and Demetri McCamey added 10 points apiece.

Sophomore Talor Battle has been a force for Penn State this season, as he is scoring 17.0 ppg to go along with 5.4 rpg and 144 assists. Jamelle Cornley adds 14.3 ppg and 6.3 rpg to the mix, and Stanley Pringle provides 12.5 ppg. There is no other player on the roster who is scoring more than 5.7 ppg, so the "big three" are counted on heavily to be productive offensively every time out. Penn State is generating 66.1 ppg, and the club is holding its opponents to 61.4 ppg. In the narrow victory over Indiana on Saturday, the Nittany Lions only turned the ball over eight times and shot 50 percent from the floor. Those positives helped the club overcome a woeful 7-of-17 effort from the foul line. Battle scored 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the triumph, while Cornley and Pringle netted 10 points apiece.

Let's go with Penn State in this game, as it will find a way to squeak past the Illini. Expect plenty of support from the home crowd, which knows the importance of this contest.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 66, Illinois 63

03/05 10:18:12 ET