The Ocho

46.7

That's what the clock read when most of the fans in the Bryce Jordan Center started grabbing their coats and hitting the exits during Penn State's latest conference loss, the eighth in a row for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State had been losing by between 6-10 points for the last 20 minutes of real time, and maybe the last 3:30 of game time, and yet people hung around, and hung around until a miracle was completely out of range.

These are the same fans I've seen walk out on the football team at halftime if PSU is losing.  These are the same fans who, until last year, didn't even bother with the basketball team, and yet there they were, showing loyalty that any fan base should envy.

The prevailing wisdom at the moment seems to say that last season's NIT Championship has proven to be meaningless and a mirage.  It says that nothing has changed in Happy Valley.  It says that none of the problems the program has traditionally suffered from were cured.

I disagree

Last season transformed this fan base and made it something special.  When nothing else seems to be going right, the folks that continue to show up and support this team remind all of us that every loss this season is a lesson learned for the next and that there's still hope, even if it only exists in our memories. 

If nothing else, We (still) Are Penn State, and that, I'm proud of.

 Penn State came out hot, but Illinois was hotter and after a few exchanges of buckets, led comfortably for the rest of the first half.

The Lions erased a seven point halftime deficit, however, to take a 46-42 lead with about 15 minutes to play.  The game stayed close until about the last five minutes when:

Psu_box_medium

 

And that was pretty much your ballgame folks.

The Good

Offensively, everyone played pretty well for the minutes they played.  Talor Battle, Chris Babb, and David Jackson led the scoring, but Andrew Jones (sort of) came alive with seven points and five rebounds in only 16 minutes.  Starters Bill Edwards and Andrew Ott were quiet, but played within themselves and didn't take away from the effort on offense.  Edwards, who has looked like a freshman lately, dished out three assists and committed no turnovers.

As mentioned above, the crowd.  The fact that fans continue to hang in with this team and believe bodes well heading into 2011.  0-8 should break a fan base, but clearly it hasn't (yet) and that's more than you could have said this time a year ago.  

The Nittany Lions held Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale to a combined 16 points after allowing the pair to tear them apart in Champaign but...

The Bad

...they allowed four other Illini hit double figures, including Brandon Paul and Mike Davis off the bench.

It doesn't seem like anyone can fight through a pick on defense, nor does it seem like anyone knows how to rotate, which is a deadly combination.  The product is open jumpers for the opposition which Illinois took advantage of, especially in the opening barrage.

The stats don't look all that bad offensively, but that doesn't tell the story.  It seems like every time Penn State has a chance to really seize the momentum, they turn the ball over or take a bad shot that keeps them from landing the hay maker. It's kind of like getting your gambreaker stuffed on "NBA Street" every time. 

The Ugly

Here's one of the plays Ed drew up in the first half tonight.

I defend the coaches for a lot of things, but they need to go to a clinic for set plays out of timeouts.  Even (other) bad teams use those possessions to put some easy points in the bank, but all to often, Penn State almost looks worse in these sets than most of the others.

The free throw shooting continues to get overlooked because of other flaws, but it's getting worse and worse.  Battle was 3-6 and Babb 2-4.  It's bearable to watch Jones miss two in a row, but when Battle does it, it's incredibly frustrating.  He's a guard and the best player on the team.  He needs to be able to hit unguarded shots 15 feet away period.

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