Lineups: Penn State at Illinois, 6 p.m. today

Lineups: Penn State at Illinois, 6 p.m. today

Illinois (12-13, 2-10)

Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG

G Trent Frazier Fr. 6-1 12.5

G Mark Alstork Gr. 6-5 6.8

F Kipper Nichols R-So. 6-6 9.7

F Leron Black R-Jr. 6-7 14.3

F Michael Finke R-Jr. 6-10 9.6

FYI: The Illini rank first in the Big Ten in defensive turnover percentage, forcing their opponents into turnovers on 23.6 percent of their possessions. The Illini also rank last in the Big Ten in offensive turnover percentage, turning the ball over on 20 percent of their possessions.

Off the bench

G Te'Jon Lucas So. 6-1 5.1

G Mark Smith Fr. 6-4 6.4

G Aaron Jordan Jr. 6-5 8.6

Penn State (17-9, 7-6)

Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG

G Tony Carr So. 6-5 19.3

G Shep Garner Sr. 6-2 10.0

G Josh Reaves Jr. 6-4 10.9

F Lamar Stevens So. 6-8 15.7

F Mike Watkins R-So. 6-9 13.0

FYI: Penn State coach Pat Chambers has made recruiting Philadelphia a priority and has four players on his roster from the city. That's in addition to three from the suburbs. Four Nittany Lions attended Roman Catholic High School in downtown Philly.

Off the bench

G Nazeer Bostick So. 6-4 5.0

G Jamari Wheeler Fr. 6-1 2.6

F Julian Moore Gr. 6-10 1.4

Details

Site: State Farm Center (15,544), Champaign.

Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Deon Thomas (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WHMS 97.5-FM, WDAN 1490-AM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.

TV: Cory Provus (play-by-play) and Shon Morris (analysis) have the call on BTN.

Series history: Illinois leads 28-16.

Last meeting: Penn State won 83-70 on Feb. 11, 2017, in Champaign to complete the season sweep.

FYI: The Nittany Lions return mostly the same team from the group that swept Illinois last season save for Payton Banks, who transferred to South Florida and is the No. 2 scorer for the 8-18 Bulls. The only other Penn State player to score in double figures in both games against the Illini last season was Tony Carr — the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer.

Scott Richey's storylines

Block machine

Illinois found out how difficult getting shots at the basket is facing a rim protector like Minnesota’s Reggie Lynch (seven blocks against the Illini in early January before he was suspended) and Michigan State at the end last month (nine blocks for the Spartans). The Illini will face a similar challenge today against Penn State forward Mike Watkins, who has blocked 2.6 shots per game and trails only Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. (3.5 bpg) for the Big Ten lead. “We’ve spent all morning (Saturday) and most of (Friday) trying to work on that,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “There’s some different things we’ve got to do. ... I think we’ve grown a little bit seeing Michigan State’s length and size and other teams around the league. I think we’re a little better prepared for that now than maybe we were when we faced Minnesota at that point.”

Heavy workload

Penn State’s starters get the lion’s share of minutes, with all five averaging at least 28 minutes per game. Sophomore point guard Tony Carr is at the high end at 34.2 mpg, ranking third in the Big Ten. That could play in Illinois’ favor. While the Illini have shown a propensity to foul, averaging just more than 21 per game, they’re drawing just as many. “We put a lot of fouls on opponents, too, when we’re aggressive,” Underwood said. “That can impact the game when you don’t have a tremendous amount of depth. That doesn’t have anything to do with if they’re good or bad players. Their starting five is really, really good — as good as anybody in this league.”

Scoring swoon

Illinois’ scoring has dropped just more than 7 points per game from nonconference play to the Big Ten. While the Illini have topped 90 twice — an overtime loss to Iowa and by thrashing Rutgers — they’ve also been held to as few as 50 points in their first loss to Wisconsin. Their second loss to the Badgers on Thursday was also their second game in a row scoring fewer than 70 points. Freshman guard Trent Frazier, who had 32 points Thursday, said better ball movement is key to getting the offense back on track. “We’ve got to get back to everyone touching the ball in a possession,” Frazier said. “That’s what we’re best at. We create easy shots, and we get great shots, not good shots.”

Prediction: Penn State 81, Illinois 72

The challenge today's isn't an unfamiliar one for Illinois. It's something the Illini have faced throughout the Big Ten season — a team with more momentum (the Nittany Lions have won four of five, including a win at Ohio State) with the best player on the court (Carr ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring). Better defense and some help on the offensive end for Frazier and Leron Black might be the only answers. (N-G prediction record: 18-6)

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