Notes From Media Day
August 17, 2011 – | No Comment

Before I begin, I should probably explain why we haven’t posted in a while. Frankly, it’s just been bad timing. I just got back from a study abroad program in Europe, and Charlie is still …

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Why Can’t Us? PSU Stuns Illini!

Submitted by on February 18, 20092 Comments

Penn State 17 21 38
Illinois 15 18 33

This team is legit.

That was the thought running through my head throughout this game.  Even if we couldn’t pull it out, this game showed that Penn State can hang with anyone in the Big Ten, just about anyone in the NCAA.  But they did pull it out, and earned another quality win to show to the selection committee a few Sundays from now.  19-8, (8-6), they’re now ranked 5th in the Big Ten, and as deserving as any team in the conference of an at-large bid.

This game started auspiciously for Penn State.  Neither team scored for the first 4 minutes, but it was clear that the Illini were getting the better of the opportunities, with offensive rebounds and loose balls bouncing their way.  In fact, I’m pretty shocked that Penn State actually outrebounded Illinois, 30-28, the way the ball was bouncing early on.  The opportunities were there for Illinois, but they couldn’t convert.  When both teams started to put the ball in the hole, it still was at a depressingly slow rate, but Penn State was getting the majority of the buckets.  The scoring, suprisingly enough, wasn’t coming from the “Big Three” at all.  It was Chris Babb, who looked good in his 20 minutes, with an early three, Cammeron Woodyard with a foul line jumper, and both Andrews coming up big, Andrew Ott with a beautiful lay-in, and Andrew Jones with some nice moves around the basket.

I’m going to go off on a little tangent here, but how great has it been to watch the development of Andrew Jones before our very eyes?  He’s turned into a very solid low-post scoring option and rebounder, with solid defense to boot.  He chipped in 7 points and 8 rebounds, and hit all 3 of his free throws.  What I’ve noticed about Jones is that he’s a great transition defender, getting his long arms up in plenty of time to deflect and steal passes.  Then you have Andrew Ott, who has looked great in spurts at points this year, most notably the Michigan game, where he scored a career-high 8 points.  Tonight he scored 4 points with 4 rebounds, but had a thunderous block that helped turn the tide towards Penn State in the middle of the second half.  If he can continue to play with confidence, those two can be a very solid low-post tandem for the next two-plus seasons.

As the first half drew towards a close, Illinois grabbed control, going on a 9-4 run to end the half, though Penn State maintained a slim lead after 20 minutes. However, as the second half began, Illinois continued their run, going on a 14 to 3 spurt to start the second half.  As they opened up a 9 point lead, it seemed insurmountable.  But Penn State displayed some of the grit and toughness that we had seen Saturday against Minnesota (but not against Michigan, Wisconsin, or Purdue).  They responded with a 16 to 4 run to end the game, and once again, it was the unsung heroes coming up big.

A lay-up from Ott, a three from Babb, an and-1 from Jones, and finally a Stanley Pringle lay-in that served as his only two points of the game.  Talor Battle hit four clutch free throws down the stretch to preserve the win, the final two coming after he jumped on a loose ball and took a hard hit that was ruled an intentional foul.  He finished with 11 points, which is that much more impressive given the final score.  No, he didn’t shoot well, just 3 for 11, but this was a game where nobody was hitting anything, as neither team hit more than 30% of their shots.  The defense from both teams was different, but equally effective.  Illinois pressured the ball and doubled every time a Nittany Lion player got the ball down low.  Penn State played looser, but cut off passing lanes and forced Illinois into bad shots.  They didn’t overpursue; and Illinois shot a grant total of zero free throws on the night.  Ed DeChellis did a good job of sticking with the players who performed: Babb got 20 minutes of playing time, and Pringle saw plenty of bench time.

The bad: Danny Morrissey couldn’t have looked much worse in his return, with an 0-2 shooting day and 2 turnovers in 12 minutes.  I hate to say it, but the way Babb and Woodyard have played, this team might be better off without Morrissey, who has, seemingly, lost his shooting touch this year.  He’s a good soldier, and has given his heart for this team (not to mention his knees), but this team is better off without Danny on the court.  Cornley. too, was quieted, with just 5 points, and saw constant double teams every time he got the ball in the low post.  He tried to do a little bit too much, taking ill-advised shots and trying to drive to the hoop instead of kicking it out, which led to 4 turnovers.

But that’s not important right now.  What is important is the win.  Good teams win in more than one way.  It wasn’t with shooting or scoring at all for that matter.  Penn State won this game with 40 minutes of aggressive defense, punctuated by a final 6 minutes in which Illinois scored a grand total of 2 points.  This win marks off PSU’s third straight at Illinois’s Assembly Hall,and that’s not an easy place to play.  Sure, Illinois hasn’t always been an elite team throughout that stretch, but it’s still an impressive spree in hostile territory.

That win against Minnesota was more than just a win against a good team.  It gave this team a boatload of confidence, which they so desparately needed during that impressive run to close out the game.  This team now has beaten Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan, and Minnesota.  They have plenty of momentum heading into their game this Saturday in Columbus, and if they can pull that out, there’s no way this team isn’t making the tournament.  Even if they don’t, this team has done plenty to convince me of their worth and their value.  Man, it’s just such a bummer that they let a few games get away, against Wisconsin, and even against Temple and URI earlier in the season.  Then, perhaps the prognosticators would see PSU the way we fans do; as a team that truly deserves their chance in the Big Dance.  I hate the Phillies, but that slogan is so appropriate.  There isn’t a team that this team hasn’t hung with, that we haven’t had, at the very least, a chance to beat.  Why not Penn State?  Why not the Nittany Lions?  If this team is found on Selection Sunday without a dance partner, then they’ve been cheated out of a great opportunity.

Oh, and random Fun Fact: PSU’s football team scored 38 or more points eight times this past season.  But a huge win is a huge win, no matter what the score.

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  • Mike

    Hey, can one of you guys shoot me an email? I gotta ask you something…

  • Mike

    Hey, can one of you guys shoot me an email? I gotta ask you something…