Following the conclusion of Wednesday night's 38-33 victory over Illinois, there can be no doubt who were the luckiest people in Pennsylvania. If you're an Illinois fan, there's no possible way to shine the turd left behind by the home team. Not after they blew a nine-point lead to a team that had only scored 20 points in 30 minutes.
Put it this way. Bruce Weber offered this guy a scholarship five minutes after the game.
But the people who produce the Penn State Basketball Story? Lucky dogs -- they get to work with a crucial road victory over a top 20 opponent, and have just enough offensive* highlights to prove that it actually happened.
Let's get right to the good, bad, and ugly.
- Well, there's Andrew Ott. Often, his stiff play is maddening and unproductive, but he occasionally comes up with a few great plays. Against Illinois, he had several. His second half block initiated Penn State's second half comeback, and the team was more productive with him on the floor in the first half, as well.
- Coffee is for closers. Penn State finished on a 14-2 run.
- Chris Babb is settling in rather well in Danny Morrissey's former role, hitting some long-range shots and coming up with a huge steal that led to a go-ahead lay-up by Stanley Pringle.
Not fouling! Penn State had four fouls to give in the final moments, which allowed them to disrupt Illinois' plans for the tying three-pointer.
- Finally, Talor Battle had a tough night from the field (3-11), but he put the team on his shoulders late by hitting all four of his free throw attempts in the last 20 seconds of the game. In fact, the entire team went 9-11 on free throws. Babb and Cornley had the only misfires.
The Bad and The Ugly will not be seen this week, so we can bring you this very special episode of The Fugly.
This would be everything else. Stanley Pringle went 1-9 from the field, but it was a big one. Jamelle Cornley was 2-8. Danny Morrissey still can't buy a basket, but he was digging in on defense. Both Penn State (13) and Illinois (15) had as many field goals as turnovers. The Associated Press account of the game notes that the teams’ combined 71 points was the lowest total in Division I men’s basketball since Monmouth beat Princeton 41-21 in 2005, and during one 20-minute stretch, Penn State was just 3-for-26.
But they survived. You survived, diehard PSU basketball fan. The Nittany Lions are a little closer to a top 5 finish in the Big Ten, and for once, might even get to watch the first round of the Big Ten tournament from the bleachers.
* - And Good Lord, how many "offensive basketball, indeed!" columns and headlines do you think were written overnight?