CHAMPAIGN - Once definitely was enough for James Augustine.
The Illinois senior forward still has bad memories from Jan. 10, 2004. That's when Purdue beat the Illini 58-54 at the Assembly Hall when Augustine and Dee Brown were sophomores. Since then Illinois has won a school-record 33 straight at home, tied for the nation's longest streak with Gonzaga.
"We know the feeling of having lost at home. That's the type of pride Dee and I try to take into every game," said Augustine, who is 53-1 at the Assembly Hall in his career. "The other guys have done a great job feeding off of us and kind of understanding it. It's a bad feeling to lose at home, and we hope they never have to."
It will happen one day, but likely not tonight.
The sixth-ranked Illini (20-2) entertain Penn State (10-9) in an 8 o'clock Big Ten Conference game that figures to be a mismatch. Illinois is tied with Iowa and Michigan for the league lead with 6-2 marks, while Penn State is ninth at 2-6.
However, Illinois coach Bruce Weber just had to say two words at practice the last two days to get his team's attention for the Nittany Lions
The Sycamores shocked Missouri Valley Conference-leading Southern Illinois 63-54 Wednesday, ending the Salukis' 33-game home winning streak.
"Indiana State was the last-place team in the Valley. It's college basketball," said Weber. "You have to come ready every game."
If Indiana State's victory doesn't do the trick, Illinois can just look at Penn State's scores. These aren't the same Nittany Lions who have been pounded by the Big Ten's upper echelon the past couple years. Penn State took Michigan (71-65) and Michigan State (69-60) down to the final minutes before losing their last two games.
Penn State also broke a five-year Big Ten road losing streak earlier with a 65-61 victory at Northwestern.
"It was hard the first two years trying to get guys to believe we could win," said third-year Penn State coach Ed DeChellis. "Guys left who didn't believe we could win or didn't want to win. We're a very young team. We're loaded with freshmen and sophomores in terms of numbers, but I think we're finally starting to coach and put some things together."
A familiar basketball name in Central Illinois is giving Penn State considerable hope for the future.
Freshman forward Jamelle Cornley is the son of former Illinois State standout Hank Cornley, who played with the Redbirds from 1980-84 and was instrumental in ISU going to two NCAA tournaments. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Jamelle, who was born in Normal, was a two-time Ohio Player of the Year at Brookhaven High School in Columbus.
Jamelle Cornley is the Nittany Lions' second-leading scorer (12.7 points) and rebounder (5.4). Jamelle's physical style of play is similar to his father, who works as a unit manager within the Ohio Department of Corrections.
"Jamelle is a kid who plays with some emotion and energy. He enjoys playing the game and always wants to win," said DeChellis. "When I was trying to build this program, we were just trying to recruit guys who could affect the game. I don't care if someone is 6-2, 6-5 or 6-8. Maybe Geary Claxton and Jamelle are undersized for the league, but they're tough kids and competitive guys."
Claxton, a 6-5 sophomore, is Penn State's other starting forward. He paces the Nittany Lions with 15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds.
w Weber will head to Bristol, Conn., Thursday to spend the day on what ESPN calls its "car wash."
That means Weber will be shuttled between ESPN Radio, espn, ESPN News and College Game Night, being interviewed by various ESPN announcers and writers.
w The Big Ten announced this week the Illini's game at Minnesota will be played at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. It will be televised nationally on ESPN.