March 5, 2009 - Down one with 8.4 seconds to play and desperately needing a win to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, all Penn State's player could do was watch as Illinois forward Mike Tisdale shot a one-in-one free throw attempt. A moment earlier, Talor Battle had lost the ball while attempting to drive to the basket and Tisdale had recovered it and was subsequently fouled. It seemed as if Battle had squandered PSU's golden opportunity to win the game.
Then, this happened...
If you pay close attention, to around the 1:03 mark of the video, you'll see Battle seemingly get tackled by a bald, skinny, pale-looking figure. That figure would just happen to be our own fellow basketbro, Eric Gibson. You see, the biggest story on the Internet after Battle's amazing Happy Gilmore-esque shot, was Gibson's takedown of Battle in the ensuing court-storming. In fact, it was such a big deal that Deadspin bothered to comment on it (in their snarky Deadspin sort of way, of course). Eric even took to his own independent PSU hoops blog, Crispin and Cream, to explain how he was framed for Talor's fall, and that it wasn't his fault.
I asked Eric to reminisce on that legendary night, five years after the fact. Below is the full excerpt on what he had to say (yes, he still maintains his innocence):
I had a night class on Thursdays that semester, probably one of my favorites ever as an undergrad. It was KINES 493: Ethics and Principles of Coaching. It was taught by John Fritz, but half the classes were guest-lectured by other PSU head and assistant coaches at the time (including Russ Rose, who now teaches the course himself). It also included Sean Lee, who was taking the course as an elective during his medical redshirt year.
It was one of the few classes that I genuinely wanted to go to every week, even with the late Thursday time slot. But the one time I was truly conflicted was the night of the PSU/Illinois game. I remember talking myself into going to class because I figured everyone would be so excited about the game that Fritz would end class early (that didn't quite happen). Even so, I made alternative plans with friends who were going to go earlier and save me a seat. I also tried to guide them on showing up extra early for this one to get the primo seats. I was surprised when I found out how early my friends actually went for me, and that they still ended up behind the basket because so many people showed up earlier.
Heading into that game, there was definitely a strong sense of belief that Penn State was going to win. It was such a huge game for their tourney hopes against a beatable, ranked opponent. Throw in the ESPN broadcast and it had the makings of a special evening from the start. But the whole night was a roller coaster for me, starting from the stress of being in class and having to rely on other people for my seat. It didn't help matters that the game was incredibly frustrating, as the Lions trailed for 38 of the 40 game minutes. It was following the tale of every other big game letdown in the BJC.
I don't quite remember what was going through my head in those 6 seconds after Mike Tisdale bricked that horrible free throw. I was in a state of utter distress while witnessing the last five seconds. Everyone probably remembers their heart skipping a beat when his runner bounced on the rim a few times. But I vividly remember the pandemonium immediately following the hoop and how I quickly stormed past 10 rows of the pep band to be first in line to rush the court. My early positioning set up the infamous 'tackle' by aligning me perfectly within Tisdale's target on his desperation inbounds heave. Talor's instincts to deflect that pass at the last second made him an easy target for my outburst when the final horn sounded.
I still remain in denial by the accusation that I was the responsible party that caused him to trip. If anything, I was the one there that helped him up before he could be trampled. I'm not sure what possessed the awkward bear hug, but what else do you do in that moment? Don't you want to celebrate with the team's hero?