Penn State Basketball entered Tuesday night’s game on a 4-game losing streak and had not won since entering the month of February.
The 4-game skid finally came to an end when the Nittany Lions took down Illinois 93-81 for the season sweep.
The game was a must win for Micah Shrewsberry‘s squad, who are still clinging to a sliver of hope to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid. The game was highlighted by Jalen Pickett’s record setting performance as he continues to set records as a Nittany Lion.
Penn State Basketball Upsets Illinois: Key Takeaways
Jalen Pickett’s Historical Night
Pickett was simply lights out shooting from start to finish.
The senior point guard broke the Bryce Jordan Center scoring record with 41 points, which was also the most scored by a Penn State player in a Big Ten game.
It is the first time that a Nittany Lion has broken the 40 point mark since 1961. The BJC scoring record was previously held by DJ Newbill who set it with 37 against Purdue in 2015.
Beyond just the sheer number of points, Tuesday night was highlighted by the efficiency that Pickett accomplished it with. Pickett shot 15-20 from the field and 5-9 from three in the game.
At one point he was shooting 14-16 and had made 8 consecutive shots in a row. On top of the scoring Pickett also tallied 8 assists and constantly was getting his teammates involved off dribble penetration.
Penn State Basketball needed a performance like this to get the energy back into the program. Illinois is a tournament team and a projected 5 or 6 seed in many experts bracketology so when your best player can perform like this it helps get momentum back toward chasing a postseason berth.
Jalen Pickett may be one of the more underappreciated Penn State Basketball players in recent program history.
Pickett may only play for the Nittany Lions for two seasons but certainly is establishing himself as one of the greatest to wear the blue and white. The bigger crime would be to not see him show his talents on the national stage in the NCAA tournament. Time will tell whether that will become a reality.
NET Rankings Update
Penn State entered the game ranked #69 and far outside of the estimated top 48 cutoff point for at-large bids. Illinois entered the game ranked NO. 22 so that makes this the third Quad 1 win of the season for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State Basketball jumped back up 8 spots to No. 61, and currently sit as about a 3 or 4 seed in the NIT tournament at this juncture.
Penn State Basketball will travel to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota this Saturday at 9:00 pm ET on BTN.
The Gophers are the bottom feeder of the Big 10 and despite this being a road game are still classified as a Quad 4 opponent. This is a must win for Penn State to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
A loss would almost assuredly mean that the only path to go dancing is by winning the Big Ten Tournament. This will be a great opportunity for Penn State to exercise its away game demons.