ESPN gave us the worst possible timeslot on Thursday at 9PM (and not broadcast it in HD), instead of giving us a Tuesday or Wednesday timeslot. Now I’m just trying to catch up. I’m going to have to hurriedly get through the epic Illinois game and somehow give you a what to watch for in an hour or so.
I want to make sure everything that happened is covered. Talor Battle was the hero, but he played the worst game by far of any PSU players. I’m just going to go through player-by-player if I can, because this victory was a total team effort.
- Andrew Jones – Props to Andrew for getting physical with Tisdale. Tizzy’s a solid player with an array of moves that are almost unstoppable (like that sky jump-hook). But Andrew made it as hard for Tizzy as possible. He tried to deny the ball at least once and got burned, but for the most part, he did about as good a job as expected. Also, he scored 6 points. 2 from the foul line (he drew some fouls on Tizzy in the 2nd half), 2 on a nice jump hook of his own (why doesn’t he shoot that more often), and 2 on a big putback in the second half. Unfortunately he fouled out with 5 minutes to go, setting up the stage for other players to step up.
- Andrew Ott – Ott, once again, played a solid game against Illinois. I can’t emphasize how important his contributions in the first half were. We got down 10 early, and DeChellis brought out a lineup of Ott, Brooks, Morrissey, Babb, and Battle – that’s arguably one of our weakest offensive lineups. But they produced in a big way. Ott’s contribution was a 14-foot baseline jumper. In the second half, Ott did as well as expected for filling in for Andrew. First, he had a very impressive tip-jam that was incorrectly called off. He also had a very nice block on McCamey after Demetri blew by our defense on his way to an open layup. It was a nice recovery by Ott.
- Chris Babb – Babb struggled. It wasn’t his best game. He missed an open jumper and had a huge turnover in the second half. After we were seemingly mounting another comeback, Babb corraled a steal off our full-court pressure (that was effective for most the game, actually). We were down 41-40 I believe at that point. Babb didn’t dish it off, lost the ball, and created an Illinois fastbreak that they converted, responding to our comeback again. Babb did have a nice hustle rebound on the offensive end, and then immediately set up Battle in the corner for his only 3 of the game.
- Jeff Brooks – played ok for his 8 minutes. He got outrebounded too much, but as mentioned, he contributed during the stretch with our weak lineup that kept us in the game. He had a nice layup set up by Morrissey. He was also credited with a steal and an assist.
- Danny Morrissey – He made up for a lot of his mistakes, which I guess is all you can ask for. Danny’s game is always going to have mistakes, if for nothing else, his inability to stay in front of guards in Big Ten always creates help defense and allows the Illinois wide open option on the floor. But Danny was the primary option for that weak lineup in the first half. He nailed a three and an up and under mid range jumper during that stretch. He also set up Brooks for his layup. In the 2nd half, he started our comeback from down 60-50. I was annoyed he missed the wide open look to begin with, but he stayed with the play, got the long rebound, shot again and got fouled. He then nailed all 3 foul shots, which has recently been a struggle for him. I’m glad he had such a big part in this huge win in his last game at the BJC.
- Jamelle Cornley – Illinois is probably the best team in the Big Ten to guard Jamelle. They always smother him by doubling down on him with two guys to the point where ‘Melle can’t even see the court. So Jamelle struggled offensively for a bit, but you can’t put a value on his return from injury. Jamelle re-aggravated a partial dislocation of his shoulder. He was in obvious pain on the floor. After getting it massaged back in place, he returned. Of course the injury occurred at the worst possible moment, late in the 2nd half. He came back with 3:00 minutes left when we were down 6. All he did was boxout and pull down a couple of boards with one arm, but man was it inspiring. Jamelle his whole career has played through numerous injuries. Black eyes with popped vessels, teeth knocked out through his lip, all sorts of shoulder and knee injuries. So it might not have been a surprise that he came back, but it’s been a bummer hearing absolutely nothing about Jamelle’s heroic return on the game recaps across the country. Jamelle, thank you for turning in another awe-inspiring performance.
Now onto the two biggest stars of the game in my opinion
- David Jackson – We all know how tough a season this has been for DJ. He had a solid November as he averaged close to 10 PPG for the month, but his game and confidence completely dropped off in December and January. No idea why, I guess you could call it a sophomore slump. He eventually started making some plays in February, but with no sort of consistency. Last night epitomized what I expect from DJ. You can call him a ‘glue’ guy or a clutch role player, I don’t care. He came in in the second half, when Jones was out, and D’ed up Tisdale. He was physical enough to keep Tisdale from his sky hook and forced a mid range fadeaway from Tizzy, that he bricked. For being 6’6″ and matching up with 7’1″ Tizzy, it was impressive. He then grabbed a tough offensive rebound in traffic off a Battle miss when we were only down 63-60. He was fouled on the floor by Meacham and went to the line to shoot 0ne-and-one with 58 seconds left. I turned around and told my buddies that the reason why David Jackson has played at the end of games this whole season were for moments and plays like this. He drained the two foul shots, without a doubt, cutting the lead down to 63-62. Plays like these are what I expect from DJ, and he made them all the time last year. While it’s been a struggle this year, I’m hoping his performance last night boosts his confidence and he gets back on track to being a consistent contributor.
- Stanley Pringle Jr. – The birthday boy was easily our player of the game. He was absolutely on fire and hit big shot after big shot. None bigger than the three from the wing to cut UI’s lead to 63-60. That whole possession we had nothing going for about 20 seconds. Pringle just took the pass and shot the contested J. Drain-o. Pringle’s statline: 20 points (8-11, 4-4 from 3), 5 rebounds, an assist, a block, 2 steals in 33 minutes. Everyone of his shots were big. I could go into detail of the situation where Pringle made all his shots, but trust me, the main reason we kept coming back was because Pringle couldn’t miss.
Then we got our hero, Mr. Battle. He sucked it up all game. Made a few nice drives, made a few awful drives. Turned the ball over 4 times, but had 4 assists. He shot some terrible shots and missed them badly. But forget his whole game. Despite turning the ball over with 20 seconds, he responded with the biggest shot in this program’s history so far. I’ve seen PSU fan’s criticism of him before his last shot. They were all cursing him out and throwing him under the bus. You would think this kid has shown enough confidence and resiliency for them to learn. I guess not, but they should know now. No matter the situation, Battle is always a threat to do something remarkable. While he’s probably not going to come through in every situation, you would be wise to not doubt him. He took on the entire Illinois team and scored. What an incredible shot. That dude’s got more guts than anyone I know.
Probably the most encouraging part of this team’s comeback was how well Illinois played the whole game. They hit some remarkable shots and they always D it up hard. I know I was critical of their chokejobs, but other than their foul line miscues (which they’ve always been known for), you can’t really criticize them for missing some of the shots they took in the last 5 minutes. They were heavily contested shots and as far as I’m concerned, those bricks made up for shot’s like Chester Frazier’s bank from behind the glass with 1 second on the shotclock. We beat a talented team that was on their A game.
So we put ourselves in position for an NCAA berth. I agree with the ESPN pundits that we deserve to be included with our quality wins, but the bottomline is, the committee is still going to look at our terrible OOC resume. I don’t think we need to win 3 in a row anymore, but if we lose these last 2 games, I think we are definitely out.