After reading the news today from all sorts of media outlets, it appears that I was the only one who enjoyed watching that game last night. It was a beautiful display in my eyes. I absolutely love competition and nothing is more fun to me than to watch teams or players fight through failure. I guess I’m just far more into the psychological aspects of competition than pure physical ability. That is why I will almost always watch a golf tournament with Tiger Woods in it. If you can’t admire that dude’s mental toughness, you’re not human. If I only cared about marvelling pure athletic ability, I’d flip on the boring NBA. But I want to see gutsy, meaningful competition and last night was it.
And that’s why I love this PSU basketball team. They are so mentally tough, resilient, and unselfish. So many guys could make so many excuses, but they don’t. They just keep plugging away. Who cares if Battle has to play 40 intense minutes in one of the most physically and mentally demanding conferences? If that’s what it’s going to take to pull out the W for the team, that’s what Battle will do. Who cares that Jamelle Cornley is 6’3″? If he’s gotta handle double teams, that’s what he’ll do.
I’m not going to bother doing the research for all the cute stats in history on this game. There was no scoring, that’s all you need to know. None whatsoever. It was like a HS girls’ game. There were unforced turnovers, travels, 5-second calls, dropped passes, and a whole hell of a lot of missed shots. In fact, combined there were 70 missed shots (if you include foul shots). There were 28 combined turnovers in a 56 possession game (I guess you could claim that there was a 25% TO Rate for the game). It was glorious. Some of it was phenomenal defense. Some of it was an inability to make open shots.
Coming into the game, I was really worried about how PSU would attack Illinois’ defense. They pretty much looked how I expected them to look, unfortunately. While Pringle’s complete inability to knock down an open jumper really crippled the offense, I can’t say I was expecting PSU to score more than 50-some points. Frazier was all over Battle for most of the game. Cornley was doubled every time he touched the ball. We didn’t try to isolate Jones on the low block. Once again, if Babb and Woodyard were buried on the bench, we would’ve lost. These guys’ confidence is starting to rise, especially Babb’s. Woodyard’s always seemed confident from the start of the season this year, but Babb was like deer in headlights. Not anymore.
I think last night was the birth of a new era. Thank Danny Morrissey for sticking with the program, but the bottomline is this. Your knees are preventing you from playing as much as you used to at the level you used to. Morrissey went out of the game with 7 minutes left and DeChellis inserted Babb. PSU was down 29-24 at this point with 7 minutes left, so Babb’s coming in during the stretch run or crunch time, whatever you want to call it. And he delivered in a big way. Battle penetrated and set up D Mo with an open three on the possession before with about 8 minutes left. It clanked off the rim. Battle penetrated off a solid Andrew Jones screen the next possession, found an open Babb on the wing, and the freshman buried it to keep PSU’s run going. Babb then later jumped into the passing lane, stole a swing pass, stopped from going out of bounds, then calmly got his eyes up the court and hit Pringle, who raced up the court and finished the layup to give PSU the lead back at 32-31. Babb made plays down the stretch that Morrissey could dream of. DeChellis rolled the dice with Babb in at crunchtime and he delivered. Chris should be expecting some serious run these next four games.
Andrew “Ottzilla” Ott made some Ott-standing plays to jumpstart the PSU run. PSU had 20 points with 10 minutes to play, but scored 18 over the last 9 minutes. Ott was ottacular on both sides of the court, as he started PSU’s 18-4 run to finish the game. He did an Ott-tastic job of denying Tisdale the ball and emphaticly swOtted a shot by Mike Davis. He also grabbed a key offensive rebound off a Pringle miss and nailed the putback. Ott the SwOtt recorded 4 points and 4 boards in 12 minutes of play, showing once again that he has the potential to be a solid 9-12 minute contributor off the bench despite his limited athleticism.
Battle finished off the run like he usually does. While he finished 3-11 from the field, I don’t feel like he had a bad game like other games with similar statlines. Some of those misses were forced at the end of the shot clock. Some of them he drew the foul. So while his percentage was terrible, I don’t think he was selfish at all or took bad shots. With PSU up 32-31, Battle wanted the ball and drove the hoop for 2 points as the clock was winding down. He did it again after Illinois responded with a rare basket, but this time he was fouled and couldn’t convert. But he nailed 4-4 from the foul line down the stretch. In fact, the entire PSU team once again killed it from the foul line. 9-11 from the charity stripe as a team. That won PSU the game. Illinois inexplicably didn’t attempt a foul shot, but they have only themselves to blame. Maybe they should have someone other than Trent Meacham drive to the hoop?
This win obviously boosts PSU’s at-large chances again. But still, the target is to win 3 of these last 4. They get a few days extra rest, as they don’t play again until Tuesday in Columbus. But fate seems to be on PSU’s side. If they’re going to win games 38-33, how are they going to be denied an at-large bid?
*Almost forgot. Congratulations to Jamelle Cornley for finishing his collegiate career 3-0 in Illinois’ Assembly Hall.