Today wasn't the first time I've ever walked out of the Bryce Jordan Center in disgust. No, there have been other days when I walked out thoroughly disgusted with the entire program. Usually it's after a demoralizing 20 point loss to a fellow Big Ten bottom dweller. But today was different. Today was more of a short term disgust rather than a long term disgust if that makes any sense.
I saw a good team today. I saw a good team trade blow for blow in the first half. I saw a good team run out to a 16 point lead in the second half. Then I saw a good team completely collapse. They committed the two cardinal sins of basketball. They didn't take care of the ball and they didn't make foul shots. The Lions shot an abysmal 8-for-21 from the free throw line in the second half. They shot an even more abysmal 2-for-12 to close out the game. If they just make half of those they win the game. But time and again they stepped to the line, and time and again they threw up a brick.
The officials certainly didn't help the situation. That was some of the worst officiating I've ever seen. It wasn't one sided or anything. It was just annoying for lack of a better word. I've never seen so many fouls called away from the ball. The guy with the ball could get mugged and knocked down and they wouldn't call it. But if someone gave so much as a dirty look on the other end of the court they were blowing the whistle. The refs put Penn State on the line 36 times in the game, and for us that is the kiss of death.
The last possession not withstanding, Talor Battle played a fantastic game scoring 19 points. McKenzie and Nolan were harassing him all day as he brought the ball up the court. He only turned it over one time. Stanley Pringle on the other hand was a complete wreck. It seemed every time he got the ball he ran up the court through traffic completely out of control. He had four turnovers and didn't score any points in nine minutes.
Danny Morrissey was lights out hitting 5-of-9 from three point range and scoring 16 points himself. But he committed several costly turnovers down the stretch.
Claxton had his usual 19 points and 10 rebounds before the refs called three fouls on him away from the ball in about a two minute span in the second half to force him to the bench.
Jeff Brooks saw a lot more playing time in this game. He looked a lot more confident to start. There were a few times he grabbed a rebound and drove the length of the court. He looks like he has a lot of promise, but he made some dumb passes that gave the Gophers some fast break opportunities. He's got the physical tools to be a good one someday. But he needs some work. For the record, he missed both free throws today. On the season he's 3-for-12.
Now for the extracurriculars.
There is nothing intimidating about playing in the BJC for our opponents. The crowd was completely silent through the first half. I saw how Illinois treated us last week with constant noise from the opening tip and I wonder why we can't have that? Why can't we make any noise when we're on defense? Looking around the arena it isn't hard to see why. The people with all the good seats were old enough to be collecting social security. The people with the not-so-great seats, like where I was sitting, had two or three kids in tow who were more interested in eating another hot dog than watching the game.
The other reason for the lack of noise was obviously the number of empty seats. The upper deck was filled out pretty good between the baskets, but they had the ends behind the baskets curtained off. I was amazed by the sheer number of empty seats in the prime location between the baskets on the lower bowl. Why do people buy season tickets if they don't intend to use them? Just this week I was talking to my insurance agent and in the course of making small talk I mentioned I was going to the Penn State basketball game. He told me his parents had season tickets but they weren't going to the game because they were vacationing in Florida. He was certain the tickets were going to waist. I looked around the area today wondering which set of empty seats were theirs.
There has to be something the university can do about this. It's shameful to have prime seats going empty game after game while fans that did come out have to sit in the upper deck or behind the basket. I propose the BJC should require season ticket holders to log into a website or call a 1-800 number to confirm they intend to attend the game at least 24 hours and not more than one week before the game. Failure to do so would result in your tickets going back up for sale at the ticket window the day of the game. There is no reason for having that many prime seats going unused. Maybe more people would come out if they thought they had a chance of getting some decent seats.
The student section wasn't very lively, but I'm willing to give them a pass this year since classes don't start up until Monday and most of them were probably more focused on moving back in.
Last year for the half time show we were treated to some eastern European couple doing various feats of tumbling and juggling. It was lame, and this year it wasn't much better. Some 75 pound Chinese lady got up on a 10 foot high unicycle. Then she placed bowls on her feet, threw them up in the air where they landed on her head. She kept adding bowls until she was tossing five bowls at the same time and catching them on her head. Impressive, but as the guy behind me commented, "What a waste of a lifetime." Next year we'll probably see the bearded lady and double-jointed rubber band man. Is this the best halftime entertainment we can get? I would rather just hear the Blue Band play something. Or maybe get one of the numerous local bands to come out and play a few tunes. Anything but these lame circus side shows.
Last year I got in a lot of trouble when I said the dance team was fat. Not p-h-a-t fat either. So this year I'll just note Mrs. BSD said the dance team looked "a little chunky". Her words, not mine. But there was one tall redhead that looked very nice in her hotpants. You're feelin' me, honey. Call me sometime.
So to wrap this up, I can't remember feeling this angry about Penn State basketball in a long time, but I can see that we're making progress and that's a good thing. We're a young team still learning how to win. The tools are there, and I believe good things are soon to come for this program.