Last season, both the Illinois Fighting Illini (13-4) and the Michigan State Spartans (11-5) swept the season series against Penn State. This year, the tables have turned, somewhat. The Nittany Lions have defeated Illinois and Michigan State for the first time since '08-09.
This also marked the first time Penn State defeated two ranked opponents consecutively since 1954, when the Nitty Lions reached their only Final Four.
Mind you, this is the same Penn State team that dropped to the Maine Black Bears (8-7) on their home court by 10.
But that loss only fueled the team if you ask sophomore guard Talor Battle.
"Whenever we win, someone always mentions how we lost to Maine," said Battle. "Maybe that's what sparked the fire. I think the last couple of games we've really been playing well together."
Penn State held both Michigan State, and Illinois well under their scoring average, as well as, limiting Michigan State to the second-lowest point total on the season, while limiting Illinois to 50-points for the second time.
"We kept them from getting comfortable," said Battle following their 57-55 win against Illinois. "We kept it a low scoring game; right where we had a chance to win and we came out with a win."
Penn State will not believe in the hype, and looks forward to its next few games on the road. "What we've been doing in practice is practicing like we lost the night before," said Battle. "We're going to do that when we come back Thursday to practice and get ready for a really good Ohio State team.
Whoever wins this game isn't going to be granted the Big Ten championship, but it will sure send a message to other teams.
Penn State coach Ed DeChellis says the hard work at practice leading up to both games and the dividends it paid is just "a confidence builder for us" and insists that his Nittany Lions have a long way to go.
"This is a very unforgiving league, so you can't get too excited about winning two games," coach DeChellis said. "It gives the guys some confidence going into the Ohio State game."
Penn State has been a good rebounding, and defensive team in their last two games but some credence should be given to senior Andrew Jones.
Jones dunked-in the game winner, and helped Penn State hang on to defeat Michigan State after a huge put back, and free-throw that put the Nittany Lions up 63-61 with 1:03 left to play.
Before the past two games, Jones hadn't scored in double figures since scoring 10-points in the season-finale last year.
"[Andrew] Jones is playing well," said coach DeChellis. "I haven't done anything different, just trying to get him to play harder and shoot a little better. He's playing with confidence now, and it's amazing how well that can work."
Jones isn't alone, leading scorer Battle has played a very crucial role for Penn State. His jumper with 20 seconds left on the clock against the Spartans ultimately put the game out of reach, as well as, nailing crucial three against Illinois to keep Penn State in the game.
Sitting at (3-2) in the Big 10 conference, with wins against then-No.19 Michigan State, and No. 16 Illinois on their resume, Penn State has another chance to add to their success against Ohio State.
"It's a good feeling," Jones said following his buzzer beater against Illinois. "It's a good win and we just got to keep on going and like T [Talor Battle] said, beat a really good Ohio State team.
For more CoHoops news follow us on Twitter (@Collegiate_Hoop) or subscribe via email