This is why we can't have nice things Penn State. The Nittany Lions fell to Bucknell tonight and ended up being the first loss for any team in the conference. Of course it wasn't that bad of a loss when you realize how good Bucknell is a for a mid-major. This same Bison team pulled off an opening upset against Purdue last year and made it to the NCAA Tournament last season.
Penn State 80 Bucknell 90
I mentioned in the preview that Penn State would need production down low if they want to win games this season. Well luckily for the Nittany Lions, they saw some progress from Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor, adding 34 points and 9 rebounds. They did a solid job scoring down low and the team saw Frazier and Newbill add 31 points while shooting at 50% from the field. Of course the Nittany Lions struggled on the glass, losing the rebounding battle with the Bison.
The reason Bucknell pulled off the win was easily their perimeter attack, as the Bison hit on 10 of their 15 three pointers. Chances are if your team shoots 66.7% from beyond the arc you're going to win the game and that's exactly what happened here. Bucknell shot absolutely lights out and Penn State simply couldn't keep pace with them. Bucknell started four guards and were led by Steven Kaspar's 25 points, while the four guards combined to shoot 10 of 13 from the three and 14 of 16 from the free throw line.
At the end of the day it was too much for Penn State, succumbing to their first loss of the season. Penn State will travel to Penn this Saturday for their first road game of the season.
Illinois 64 Valparaiso 52
Rayvonte Rice and Joseph Bertrand continued their hot streak, leading the Illini with 18 and 14 points respectively. Transfer Jon Ekey had his best game of the year, adding 15 rebounds on the night, while center Nnanna Egwu was largely ineffective before eventually fouling out.
Overall Illinois struggled from the field and saw their bench only add 4 points tonight. Luckily the starting five did just enough and faced off against a Valpo team that struggled even worse from the field. It was a particularly rough night for point guard Tracy Abrams, making only 4 of his 16 shots from the field and adding 3 turnovers compared to his 4 assists.
The Illini seemed to have control of the game until Valpo roared back to make it 47-49 with less than five minutes remaining. Illinois answered with a 13-1 run to put the game out of reach and close out the win. Next up for the Illini will be the Bradley Braves on Sunday.
Purdue 109 Central Connecticut State 73
While Purdue played poorly in the opener, they were hands down the most impressive team tonight. After trading blows with Central Connecticut State throughout the first ten minutes or so, the Boilermakers pulled away with a 18-0 run to get the lead to double digits. Purdue cruised the rest of the way, emptying the bench and eventually scoring 109 points (a high for Matt Painter) and winning by 36.
The second game of the season saw the return of A.J. Hammons, who added 12 points, 7 blocks and 5 rebounds. If Hammons needed to play the entire game he very likely could have had a triple double with points, blocks and rebounds. Terone Johnson led the way with 17 points and Rapheal Davis put up 14 points in 15 minutes. Purdue struggled from the free throw line (58.3%) and were decent from deep (37.5%), but their 54.4% field goal percentage was impressive for a team that has had major issues with offense. The Boilermakers also won out on the glass, limited turnovers and saw every scholarship player score tonight.
Purdue eventually fielded a lineup consisting of senior Travis Carroll and four different walk-ons. You know it's your night when Carroll drains an outside three pointer and walk-on Jon McKeeman explodes for 5 late points. The team looked good across the board minus a few early defensive gaffes (and the ticky tacky foul calls) and tonight's blow out was much needed for the Boilermakers. Purdue will look to keep momentum this Sunday when they host Rider.