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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

PSU vs. Illinois Live Blog

Hey boys and girls, I'm Tom Ferguson and I'll be running tonight's live blog of the basketball game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Fighting Illini of Illinois in Champaign, ILL. PSU enters the match-up with a 8-7 overall record, 0-3 in the conference, and is coming off a humiliating loss to Michigan in which they held a 16 point lead, only to give it up and lose by nine to the Wolverines. Illinois survived an upset bid by the Indiana Hoosiers in their last contest to improve to 11-5 overall, 3-0 in the Big Ten so far this year.

This is an important game for the Nittany Lions to try to avoid a devastating skid to start the year. The Lions have won 3 straight at Illinois, including the last 4 out of 5 overall, but are in a serious funk this season.

Players to look out for on the Illini: Mike Tisdale, averaging 12.6 points per game. Also, big Mike Davis is averaging 11.8 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game.

First Half 20:00

PSU starters: Ott, Jackson, Frazier, Battle, Babb

Illinois Starters: McCamey, Richardson, Cole, Davis, Tisdale

Interesting to note that Ott is starting over Jones. Clearly, DeChellis has grown tired of Jones' lackluster effort this season. Should be intriguing to see how Ott performs with the start...

First Half 15:23 Illinois 10, Penn State 9

Ott's out of the gate with 4 points and has performed well, but the rest of the Lions look asleep, aside from a Babb three and a Battle lay-up. Frazier had a few costly turnovers and the defense has been lackluster, as the Illini have gotten into the lane and kicked out for open jumpers. Penn State needs to step up the energy and focus a bit; they don't look energized or excited to be there. McCamey is a stud and needs to be hounded on the defensive end.


First Half 10:44 Illinois 19, PSU 19

Penn State stepped it up and jumped out in front for the first time, 16-14 by using their speed advantage, but the Illini were quick to answer. Give credit to the Lions though, they're fighting back on the offensive end and getting a little more aggressive on defense. That being said, Illinois is finding any shot they want on the offensive end. PSU is in this game because of their 53.8% shooting from the field.

First Half 7:25 Illinois 23, PSU 21

Ugly stretch of basketball by both teams. Bad shots from the Nits, as they are now down to 44.4% from the field and have 5 turnovers so far in the half. It was capped by an ugly three from Talor Battle from, essentially, State College. Babb and Battle lead the way with 6 apiece, but the others have yet to get going for the Lions...

First Half 3:38 PSU 26, Illinois 23

Ball gets tipped out by Edwards to Babb on a break with Tisdale trailing to try to block any shot attempt. Babb, instead of going up strong, leaves it for Battle, who has a 13-inch disadvantage against Mike Tisdale. Needless to say, Battle missed the shot and Jim Jackson (along with myself) questioned why Babb didn't just go up with the shot. Babb would later score on a nice backdoor cut and pass with Battle to get the traditional three-point play and give the Lions a 26-23 lead.

Both teams are beginning to struggle against each other. Shots have cooled off and it has became a physical Big Ten contest. Penn State has doen a great job weathering the storm and stepping up on the defensive end, forcing Illinois into a bit of a quicker pace than they want to go at. If PSU can keep that up and avoid hurting themselves, they might be able to stay ahead.

I have to say, I am impressed with how well Ott has played tonight. He has stepped into this starting role and been much more active than I've ever seen him on the court. He hasn't necessarily played that great tonight, but he's been active and has done enough to give Penn State a solid center for the game.

Half Time PSU 28, Illinois 23

Penn State has begun to pull away, thanks in part to the Illini not having a field goal since there was 8:34 to go in the half. Penn State's defense has been much more solid, getting very active on the defensive end and forcing the Illini into plenty of jump shots and not giving them the opportunity to be aggressive.

The game is starting to resemble last year's contest in Champaign, as neither team is putting up much fight offensively. Both teams are shooting at 35% or below and have had trouble deciphering what to do to get to the basket.

It's going to be up to the Lions to keep up the defensive pressure, but also begin to open it up on offense. Get out and run with this team, there are few in the Big Ten that can keep up with the Lions if they get out in transition. Penn State needs to push tempo on the Illini.

Second Half 20:00 PSU 28, Illinois 23

Wait a minute, Illinois is still on break? What the heck?!?! Why are we not still on break? Jeepers...

Second Half 16:18 Illinois 35, PSU 32

Poor, poor effort by the Lions out of the gate of the second half. Illinois looks like they finally woke up (though, if the first half taught us anything, McCamey plays well in the first 5 minutes, then just disappears). A quick 5 point swing for the Illini gave them the 3-point lead as Penn State got careless toward the end of a defensive possession, giving the McCamey a three, then turning it over and letting McCamey hit a jumper in transition.

Gotta keep your composure if you're Penn State right now. You're 30-3 when leading at the half in the last two years, but you just had one of your worst collapses in a long time against Michigan. Stay focused if you're the Nittany Lions.

Second Half 11:18 PSU 40, Illinois 38

Andrew Jones, through about 12 minutes, has 0 points, 0 rebounds, 2 turnovers and 2 personal fouls...where is Andrew Ott and why is he not in the game at this point? I understand Jones' value towards the end of last year, but he has been atrocious in his past few games. A pass just whistled off his hands when he was open in the lane, giving Illinois a fast break down the other end. The difference in the game right now is Illinois struggling to take advantage of Penn State mistakes and Babb and Battle making timely jump shots and plays for the Lions.

Second Half 7:58 PSU 48, Illinois 43

The threes are beginning to fall for the Lions as Woodyard and Brooks hit 2 in that stretch. Huge dunk by Tisdale and lucky three for McCamey have kept Illinois within striking distance.

Mike Davis has yet to register a point. Davis has registered 2 rebounds and 1 assist in 23 minutes of work. That's a huge credit to the way Penn State has been able to play defense against the Illini.

It's important for Penn State now to put away Illinois. The longer this game stays at a 5 point lead, the better chance Illinois has to get on a mini-run and beat the Lions. They have to give themselves a cushion, because there is at least one more run left for Illinois. It's up to Penn State to have enough of a cushion to hold that off.

Second Half 3:02 PSU 53, Illinois 49

Bill Edwards has been short on a LOT of his shots tonight, especially those from beyond the arc or just inside. He is best when moving towards the basket. Penn State has done a great job entering the ball in the paint and using some time to find a good shot. That is something they have hardly ever done in the past two years, so it's encouraging to see them taking their time. It's up to the Lions to shadow McCamey and force Tisdale to dish it off. Make someone else beat you, not those two.

Second Half 2:07 PSU 53, Illinois 52

I thought it was funny the first time Mike Hall said "Champ-bana," but the 75 other times have started to wear thin with me...

Second Half 1:02 Illinois 54, PSU 53

How can you let McCamey, a player who has killed you ALL NIGHT, beat you like that on that pick and roll? Terrible job by Ott getting out and hedging. If PSU loses tonight, the reason is the poor defense against McCamey.

Second Half 0:19 Illinois 54, PSU 53

First of all: Two awful possessions by the Lions. Fade away three for Battle WAY too early in the shot clock, then four players stood around and watched Battle launch another three pointer that was off the mark.

Second of all: Where was McCamey going with that jump pass? No one was anywhere near where he threw the pass.

Second Half 0:3.5 Illinois 54, PSU 53

Illinois misses the front end of the one-and-one and PSU runs the ball down the floor, where Battle is swatted by Tisdale...why take it inside that quickly? Get it to someone that's open, everyone in that gym knew Battle was driving.

Final Score Illinois 54, PSU 53

You mean to tell me that the best shot that Penn State could find was a fall-away three point shot when all they needed was a two? That was a terrible play for the Nittany Lions to run. Battle had a wide-open Babb (the inbounder) making a cut to the basket on the baseline, but he either couldn't see him or didn't have a clear path to make the pass.

What you can take away from this game...well, you might not want to hear it. Battle went 1-for-10 in the second half, the Lions struggled again to keep a lead that had ballooned to as much as 8 with about 8 minutes to go. The Lions fall to 0-4 in the conference and are still left searching for answers down low. Ott played alright in place of Jones, but Penn State is in DESPERATE need for some kind of inside presence. The Lions fall to .500 at 8-8 on the year and now travel to Iowa City, which, if last year is any indication, won't be an easy match-up for the Lions. This has potential to turn into a devastating slide for Penn State.

Thanks for tuning in everyone, hopefully next time, we get a better result! Good game from both teams, just a disappointing effort in the waning moments from the Nittany Lions, which ultimately cost them the game.

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