If you missed last night’s game, you can watch the highlights below:
Talor Battle, with his fresh high-top fade, looked a lot like the Fresh Prince in last night’s second half. The Bubby smile returned for the first time this season, and it was just a joy to watch as always. Talor dropped a career-high 32 points, 28 of which came in the 2nd period when he put PSU (and the Big Ten) on his shoulders and took over the game. His performance brought on the first reference to the new blog title, so I was pretty happy about that. PSU survived a pretty wild last 3 minutes complete with banked threes, absurd officiating, and missed free throws, to hang on for a much needed 69-66 road victory. Penn St came up big in the Challenge for the third year in a row, which is a first in the 11 year history of the challenge. Go us.
I’m just going to break this game down into halves. Penn St actually went into halftime down 27-21. They were having serious problems with UVA’s defense. They shot just 9-26 in the half (34.6%) while only hitting 1-6 from deep. Brooks had 5 points in 8 minutes before he picked up 2 fouls and had to sit for the rest of the half. That hurt PSU’s offense as did Battle really struggling. The few good shots he took, he missed, and he couldn’t get the ball back to the slipping screener (usually Jones) on pick-and-rolls. PSU was settling for too many jumpers and they weren’t making them. My fears before the game were becoming reality. They also weren’t getting many second chances. After coming out with 2 offensive putbacks on the first two possessions, the Lions weren’t able to convert any more second chance points.
While the offense needed some adjustments, I was thrilled with PSU’s defense (which left me encouraged that we could steal this game). Despite our inability to cover talented 6-8 F Mike Scott (who went 6-6 for 12 points in the first half alone), the Lions were playing great team defense. They really did a phenomenal job on Sylven Landesburg and his penetration. I think Landesburg was only able to score on 1 drive the whole game. David Jackson did a good job containing him, but when he couldn’t, the team was there to help. Brooks particularly had a nice helpside swat on a Landesburg drive early in the game. Even Sasa Borovnjak (who only played 1 minute the whole game at the end of the first half) cut off the baseline that forced a bad pass and steal, which led to a Battle bucket in transition set up nicely by Frazier. PSU blocked a few shots, grabbed a few steals, and really contested a lot of UVA’s shots. Like I said, Scott made some nice buckets and took advantage of some mismatches but you knew he wasn’t going to keep making everything.
After the sluggish first half on offense, PSU came out roaring to start the second half. They played the most complete basketball we’ve seen this year for the first 10 minutes, when they went on a 23-7 run to take control of the game. Tim Frazier and Talor Battle were unstoppable. UVA couldn’t handle their quickness, as I suspected. The Cavaliers did a great job collapsing on Battle and Frazier in the first half when they got in the lane, but they were starting to breakdown in the 2nd. Battle and Frazier took advantage and you could just see the team’s confidence grow right there. Frazier was so confident, he pulled up and drained an 18 footer in transition like he was Joe Crispin or Stanley Pringle. Battle then started feeding Andrew Jones on slips to the basket for 2 monster dunks. PSU kept playing tough on defense, giving them opportunities to push the tempo. I noted before the game how I thought it was key PSU didn’t get locked into the halfcourt game. They did in the first half and it was ugly (only 2 fastbreak points on the last basket of the half). But blocked shots and good defensive rebounding allowed PSU to get out more as PSU scored 6 fast break points in the first 10 minutes of the half.
The great run culminated with a Jeff Brooks layup (and a foul) that was set up beautifuly by Battle on a 3-on-1 break. PSU up 44-34 at the under 12 media timeout. That is when Talor Battle really took over the game. The 23-7 run was more of a total team effort, but Battle went on to score 18 of the team’s final 25 points. I personally would have like to see PSU work it inside more and win the more traditionally way on the road – by getting good shots inside and making them. But when Talor Battle is on fire, you just let him do whatever he wants. He was draining threes and some of them were when he came off screens and moved without the ball. You can really see how great of a complement Tim Frazier is in the backcourt. Both Battle and Pringle last year were scorers. Frazier can score, too, but he has the true PG mentality of distributing the rock. This was the first time all season where I felt Battle really took advantage of having Frazier set up the offense.
Battle’s 5th trey (over 3 guys) put PSU up 55-43 at the under 4 media timeout. Then the game just got ridiculous. PSU has shown their fair share of choke-jobs recently, but this one was coupled with some very, very strange calls. It all started when Battle got called for hooking on a drive to the hoop. Never have I ever seen a call like that, but it cost PSU a possession. A little later on, there was a terrible foul call on David Jackson on a Landesburg drive that consisted of at least 3 steps. Then the officials decided to call all of these weak handchecks after letting some serious physical play go on all game. PSU was fortunate on one possession because I swear UVA earned a 5 second call on Battle, but he got bailed out on a hand check foul. DJ and Frazier got called for ticky tack checks, as well. But then when PSU tried to foul on the last possession, the handcheck wasn’t called. Now yes, Battle should have made a better attempt to make sure the foul gets called (before UVA could put up a tying 3), but his handcheck was much like ones that were called just moments earlier. It was just odd and it really drug out the last 2 minutes. But PSU made enough foul shots to finish off the game they deserved to win. It’s crazy though because not only did UVA actually cut the lead down to 1, they really could have won. Landesburg tanked at the foul line down the stretch. If he shot his percentages, he would have gone 7-8 not 4-8 and the game could have ended tied. Another crazy, nerve-racking Penn State finish.
Big Ten 1 ACC 0. Let’s go Big Ten!