On a rural Pennsylvania farm she applies Covergirl reliable red lipstick, which is harder than you would think when you don't have any hands and you are working with cloven hooves. Quietly she makes her way toward the two men who were talking in the distance about Penn State basketball, and how the season has come to a close with a tough loss on the road against Sienna. As she approaches, finally ready to make her presence known and donning her glamorous attire, he says the words that cut through her like a laser beam. "You can put lipstick on a pig if you want, Larry, but it's still one hell of an ugly PSU hoops team this year." She turns, dropping the bouquet of flowers from her snout, and trots away, sobbing.
The PSU Men's basketball season ended yesterday, mercifully, with a 54-52 loss on the road against Sienna. It's hard to put lipstick on the two CBI games that PSU took part in, from a basketball fundamentals standpoint, or in terms of aesthetically pleasing sporting competition. The young guys, most notably Johnson, Thorpe, and Woodward, got some experience on the court in meaningful ways. The team got some more practice. It was clear that Frazier was focused on grooming the young players, and getting them chances to win games in the clutch. Still the writing was on the wall for the team earlier in the day when Doctor Kevorkian's former assistant checked into the team hotel in Albany. This season was meant to end yesterday one way or the other, and things thankfully took their natural course with the help of some frigid shooting by the Nittany Lions. We shot under 30% as a team. That's arctic blast cold shooting. We were only, at one point as a team, two more three point shots from John Johnson short of recording an absolute zero reading for the game.
This basketball season had plenty of moments. There was the first basketball game that I have attended since 1996, the Bucknell game. That really sucked hardcore. Bucknell shot the lights out from three, PSU lost the second game of the season and the doubts began. Tim wasn't the same with the ball while driving through the lane. PSU would go on to win their next five out of conference games, including wins over Lasalle, Penn and St.John's. The attitude surrounding this team became more upbeat. Close and painful losses to Princeton, Ole Miss, and Pittsburgh would highlight the final stretch of PSU's out of conference schedule, which ended with a record of 9-4. In retrospect, this pre-Big Ten performance had all but doomed PSU's hopes at getting a big dance at-large bid. A Big Ten conference record of 10-8 coupled with 9-4 may have not been enough to get PSU to the big dance. But still some like me and others foolishly hoped.
The Big Ten conference season started with six consecutive losses. That seems like it was so long ago at this point. While it is part of this season in some ways the season didn't begin for PSU until the six game losing streak ended. Woodward, a third guard, was inserted into the lineup and the team began to win. The team would end the Big Ten schedule with a record of 6-6 from that point. Wins against Indiana on the road and a season sweep against THE Ohio State University highlighted the good moments in that run.
There was a chance along the way for the team to entertain thoughts of making the NIT tournament. It didn't pan out but the fact that the team fought to get into a position to have those conversations spoke a lot of their success, with ugly, this year.
No it wasn't pretty to watch this team at times this year. Remember that this team was good enough to beat OSU twice and Indiana on the road. There were long stretches with scoring droughts and then times where PSU looked like they could play with anyone. It wasn't always pretty but this season was a success. Young players got playing time, all but Tim Frazier will return to this team and there is a chance that we may be getting a 'plug and play' point guard next year, Shep Garner, who may be the next Tim Frazier/Talor Battle/Joe Crispin for this team. So imagine adding one of those guys to the returning players. There is reason to be optimistic looking forward to PSU hoops next season. Dickerson may even have a growth spurt over the summer, who knows?
So looking back what was your favorite ugly moment for the team this year? Was it the Princeton collapse? My favorite ugly moment for the team was the first Purdue game, our sixth consecutive loss to start the Big Ten season. It was brutal, we led by 3 with just over a minute left, and lose on a late free throw. While the game wasn't ugly, losing six games to start the conference schedule is.
And looking back, what was your favorite sexy pig moment of the season? Mine has to be beating OSU twice. That will never get old. That makes this season a tangible win for me. Aaron the red-cheeked buckeye couldn't guide his team through the blizzard. No presents made their way to the little kids in Ohio on that next morning.