Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Ask the Illini after its January 12th home game against Penn State.
The Nittany Lions have been a thorn in Bruce Weber’s side in recent years, winning 3 straight in Champaign, and Illinois couldn’t afford to drop another home game to Penn State after some rough results in non-conference play.
Anyways, you knew this game was going to be ugly and close, as 4 of the last 7 games between these teams had been decided by 1 point.
Make that 5 of the last 8 as Illinois survived a missed Talor Battle three and near Chris Babb tip in at the horn, as revisited in today’s Illini Tale of the Tape.
Where I Was for This Game: Coaching my eighth grade basketball team (man, we got pasted on this night); thus, I missed most of this game, though I did see the last 10 minutes or so.
What I Remember from This Game:
● Praying that this game would not resemble the last time Penn State and Illinois met in Champaign. That game was a nationally-embarrassing 38-33 loss at the Assembly Hall, with Illini scoring and free throws nonexistent. Illinois shot no free throws in that game, and would have no free throws in the first half of this game. The Illini would finish with 6 free throw attempts on the night.
● From what I saw, this game was like watching paint dry, slow and certainly not fun. Yet a win’s a win, and Illinois would take them any way it could get them at this point of the season, especially against a Penn State program that has given us fits since 2006.
● Shrieking in fear as Penn State junior guard and Illini killer Talor Battle had the ball in his hands in the final seconds, which jostled memories of the Nittany Lion guard going the full-length of the court to beat Illinois in the 2009 Big Ten regular season finale.
● Thinking that Illinois got very lucky to pull this game out, especially with Mike Tisdale doubling Battle on the final play and leaving Penn State’s Chris Babb wide open for a potential game-winning put back attempt.
What Surprised Me/Stood Out Upon A Second Viewing:
● Illinois was 3-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2004-2005 season. This start hasn’t been easy, as Revsine notes, with Illinois needing to rally from 10 or more points in two of those conference victories (Northwestern and Indiana).
● Entering this game, Illinois was 8-0 on the season when McCamey took no more than 10 shots per game and 3-5 when he shot more than 10 times. He would shoot more than 10 times in this game (17 shots, to be exact), and finish with a then season-high 25 points.
● Forgot how good Battle had been for Penn State. Entering this game, he lead Penn State in points (18.1), rebounds (5.6), assists (3.7), steals (1.1) and minutes (36.0). He was just 1 of 9 players in the nation to lead his team in all of these categories at this point last season. Battle would log 38 minutes in this contest, finishing with 9 points (on just 4-for-19 shooting), 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 turnover.
● Entering this game, Penn State was 8-43 in Big Ten road games under Head Coach Ed Dechellis. Three of those roads wins have come at Illinois, once one of the toughest places to play in the conference. On the flip side, Weber had only lost 12 Big Ten homes game up to this point in his career, with Penn State accounting for 25% of those conference losses.
● Didn’t know that Illinois would go the last 8 minutes of the first half without a field goal, which was reminiscent of the first half stinker against Indiana, when the Illini went more than 10 minutes without a made basket from the field.
● Knew that Penn State won the 2009 NIT, but didn’t realize that the team’s 27 wins were the most in school history.
● Former Illini center Shaun Pruitt was in attendance for this game.
● By the end of this game, McCamey would have a 5:1 assists-to-turnover ratio in the last five games. More specifically, McCamey had 35 assists and 7 turnovers in the last 5 games. That’s an incredible sign of McCamey’s growth during his junior season.
● Didn’t realize how lucky Illinois was to win this game. All I remember after this game was feeling relieved that Illinois won, but not too happy with how it happened. Man, looking back on this game, Illinois got a lot of breaks at the end.
Let’s do this thing.
Penn State (8-7, 0-3) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (11-5, 3-0)
For reference’s sake, here is Penn State’s starting lineup:
G Chris Babb (Sophomore), G Talor Battle (Junior), G Tim Frazier (Freshman), F David Jackson (Junior), F Andrew Ott (Junior); Head Coach Ed Dechellis (7th season at Penn State).
Illinois has restored order in its starting lineup, bringing back Demetri McCamey for Jeff Jordan, and then going with D.J. Richardson, Bill Cole, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale.
Announcers: Dave Revsine and Jim Jackson.
Officials: Jim Burr (cue the theme music from Psycho), Ted Valentine and Curtis Shaw.
● Demetri McCamey: Nice push and pull up at 18:32 gives Illinois a 2-0 lead. Jim Jackson hits it on the head: McCamey was under control there. An opportunistic basket there. Great hands at 18 minutes, deflecting the ball away from Tim Frazier. The loose ball goes to Cole, who fires to McCamey. The Illini junior point guard breaks down the defense and hits Richardson in the corner for a three. Comes out rolling and with momentum from the Indiana game, hitting a long three at 17:15 off the screen game. Great square up there for an 8-2 Illinois lead. Nearly steals the ball from Frazier at 17 minutes. Has been aggressive on defense, which is usually not the norm with McCamey. Has the ball blocked out of bounds on an aggressive push at 16:36. Can’t connect on an open three off the inbound – great look there.
A bit too aggressive at 13:14, trying to do too much one-on-one after Tisdale tipped a missed shot to him. Misses a tough pop back in the lane but nearly steals the ball from Penn State by getting in the passing lane and deflecting the ball out of bounds. Good recovery. Great dribble drive and cross-court kick at 11:52 leads to an open three for Richardson, who buries it. Nice job on ensuing possession, as he hits Keller on the break for an alley-oop layup. McCamey is playing with great control and intensity thus far.
Gets brief rest out of under-12 before replacing Jordan at 9:15. Drills a beautiful jumper off the curl at 8:30 to give Illinois a 23-21 lead. A great job of moving without the ball, as McCamey started on the opposite wing, ran the baseline and then came off a screen, all before catching, squaring and firing in one motion. Jackson again hits it on the head: McCamey is playing with great rhythm.
Bad pass at 6:48 as he tried to hit Paul on a lob dunk. The play wasn’t there, but McCamey seemed set on making it work. Would have been better to pull the ball out and work the possession. A bit out of control after a beautiful split move at 6:23; McCamey has his shot blocked in the lane, igniting a Penn State break that does not score. Gets replaced by Richardson after this brief spurt of erratic play.
Back in at under-4, misses a layup in the open court at 1:57 after Tisdale’s length bothered a Battle shot and stared the break. Was a bit too fast on that move, and overshot the ball off the back iron. Gets burned on the next defensive possession, allowing too much penetration, but luckily Ott misses a contested layup as Tisdale and Griffey did a nice job of recovering and swarming. Illinois takes a timeout after securing the board, but McCamey can only get a long, fade away jumper from the top of the key out of the break. 7 points and 4 assists in the first half, but not a good job of running the show late in the half as Illinois goes scoreless for more than 8 minutes.
Allows penetration on first defensive possession of second half, but Tisdale is there to help and alter a Battle shot. Nice push and hit to Richardson, who misses a three at 19 minutes. Draws a foul on Battle on the push at 18:45. Buries a three at 18:22 to tie the game at 28. More strong off-the-ball movement by McCamey. Aggressive drive at 17:19 leads to a blocking foul. Could have been a charge there, but McCamey goes to the line for Illinois’ first two free throws of the game. McCamey hits both to make it 32-30 Penn State. McCamey is playing very aggressive here, penetrating and kicking before hitting a corner three at 16:28 to give Illinois a 33-32 lead. Good job of relocating after the pass. McCamey then buries a jumper 10 seconds later after Davis made a steal. Illinois up 35-32, with a 7-0 McCamey run forcing a Penn State timeout.
A bit of a heat check at 14:45, pulling up and missing a quick jumper at the top of the key. That ball spun in and out. I’ll live with that shot as McCamey has been feeling it and was trying to push the tempo, rather than letting this game continue to be a stuck-in-mud half-court affair that favors Penn State in my opinion. Poor containment of the dribble drive at 13:45 results in a breakdown and Tisdale foul on Andrew Jones, who misses both free throws. Turns the ball over on the baseline at 13:20 as Jordan overpenetrated and left him hung out to dry with a tough pass. Poor communication and lazy play on next Illini defensive possession, failing to get over a screen that results in a Babb three and 38-38 game. McCamey is mad that Paul didn’t get out on the screen quick enough, but there wasn’t good communication to switch. Good job of coming up with a loose ball at 12:25. On the break, feeds the ball to Jordan instead of Keller. Jordan’s shot is blocked out of bounds on what looked like some contact. Jackson makes a good point: McCamey may have been better off to go to Keller there.
Terrible angle on an entry pass to Tisdale leads to a steal by Cameron Woodyard, who then hits a three as McCamey is slow to close out. Illinois is down 43-38 with 10:10 to go. Poor containment at 9:22 as Bill Edwards easily gets into the lane and hits a lefty hanger to put Penn State up 45-38. Follows up by aggressively attacking the rim; though he misses, Tisdale follows up with a dunk. Hits an open three on the following possession as Richardson made a good pass on the reversal. McCamey’s three rattled in and out and then back in to make it 48-43 Penn State with 8:23 to go.
Nice penetration and kick to Cole for a three at 5 minutes to make it 50-49 Penn State. Beautiful use of the pump fake to free some space and get off a long three at 2:32 as the shot clock was expiring. McCamey buries the three to make it 53-52 Penn State. Humongous shot. Cold-blooded there by McCamey, who didn’t panic with the shot clock running down.
McCamey catches a huge break with 1:47 to go as he got caught under a Penn State screen, leading to an open Babb three that was badly missed. Follows up by coming up with a loose ball on the next Illini possession and then hitting a pull-up jumper off the pick and roll game with 1:08 to go to put Illinois up 54-53. McCamey with a season-high 25 points.
Poor box out at 46.4 seconds as he gives up the rebound following a missed three by Battle. Commits a foul on Babb after the rebound: luckily, Illinois with just 6 team fouls in the half. Gets lucky at 19.6 seconds as Richardson saves a loose ball to him. McCamey inexplicably leaves his feet while trying to pass down court and turns the ball over on the pass; however, he is fouled on the pass, with Battle reaching in. A lucky break there for the Illini.
In with 3.6 seconds left and Penn State inbounding the ball under the basket. Does a nice job of switching on Battle off a screen and then sliding his feet and forcing the Penn State guard into a difficult three that is short just before the buzzer.
Overall: Minuses some mental lapses here and there, a great game for McCamey, who was cold-blooded with his shot making in the last two minutes. Only 2 turnovers in 37 minutes, along with his 25 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals. Is far from the perfect player but seems to be turning the corner early in the Big Ten season, playing more with the poise of an upperclassmen and not pouting, as Jackson notes.
● D.J. Richardson: Starts the game on Battle. Nice job of filling the lane on the Illini break as he buries a corner three with 17:54 to give Illinois a 5-0 lead. Allows dribble penetration by Battle at 16:42, which results in a Babb three out of the corner and an 8-5 Illinois lead.
Back in at 12 minutes, cans an open three at 11:52, created off great penetration by McCamey. Richardson with 6 points and Illinois is back in front at 17-16. Poor containment at 11 minutes leads to easy Penn State penetration and a Babb three from the corner, tying the game at 19.
Rushes and badly misses a three at 7:52. Difficult shot there, as he was fading to his left. Good closeout on next possession as Battle throws up a long three, which was a way worse shot than what D.J. just put up. Fails to box out Ott at 3:36 and the PSU big man throws the ball off Griffey while falling out of bounds, to lead to under-4.
Misses an open corner three at 19 minutes of second half. Good look and step in; got to bury that. Gets caught under a screen at 15:55, resulting in a Battle three and a 35-35 game. Battle with his first three and just 9 points, but has done more than his stats indicate.
Illinois dodges a bullet out of the under-12 as Battle gets into the lane against Richardson but has his layup spin in and out before Tisdale grabs the board.
Poor shot selection at 3:40, rushing and missing a long jumper that was not within the context of the offense as Illinois could have tied or taken the lead on that possession.
Lazy swing pass to Cole is nearly stolen at 1:24. Good closeout on a Battle three at 46.4 but Illinois gives up the offensive board. Nice save of a dangerous Davis pass at 20 seconds, as he kept the ball from going out of bounds and got it over to McCamey.
Overall: A quiet offensive performance in 36 minutes, finishing with 6 points on 2 threes. Did do much of the heavy lifting against Battle, who may have got into the lane but did struggle on the night, so some credit certainly can go to Richardson for his defensive performance (though Tisdale’s presence on the backline certainly helped as well).
● Bill Cole: Loses Chris Babb on first Penn State possession and gets a break when the sophomore Nittany Lion misses an open three from the top of the key. Babb later hits a corner three when Cole was a bit slow to close out after Battle got into the lane.
Misses a three of the curl at 3:48.
Not doing much tonight – struggling with Babb. Fouls him on a baseline drive at 17:45 and then is slow to close out on a Babb three at 17:36 as Illinois falls behind 32-28. Babb with 12 points.
Very aggressive closeout on a missed Babb three with 14:55 to go as Illinois with a great defensive possession out of the under 16. The Illini did a good job of getting their bodies into Penn State and moving their feet on that possession.
Nearly picks up a charge at 7:14 as he helps for Tisdale, who got beat on the play. No foul is called – though the ball is knocked out of bounds by Penn State. First energy play all game from Cole. Loses his man underneath the basket at 6 minutes; Brooks can’t handle the pass down low but recovers to hit Edwards for a jumper and a 50-45 Penn State lead. After good collapsing team defense forced the ball out of bounds off Penn State on the previous possession, Cole hits a big corner three with 5 minutes to go to make it 50-49 Penn State. A great find by McCamey, and a good job of Cole being not only shooter-ready but a willing shooter.
With a little more than a minute to go, does a great job of getting on the floor for a loose ball and batting it to McCamey after Richardson made a sloppy pass. A nice job of switching on Battle and moving his feet on a three that is missed with 23 seconds left.
Overall: Compensates for a blah first 21 minutes with a strong finish in the last five minutes, hitting a big three to keep Illinois in the game. Finishes with 3 points, 2 assists and 1 rebound in 26 minutes.
● Mike Davis: Has the ball knocked away from him on the second possession. Apparently, the ball bounced off Davis, who wasn’t strong enough there. Give Illinois credit on that possession: they got the ball to Davis twice on the interior. Davis had just two shots against Indiana and needs to be more involved in the offense.
Illinois gets the ball to Davis out of the under 16 and he rewards the Illini with a fade away to the baseline that rattles in for a 12-9 Illinois lead.
Misses a similar turnaround at 10:04. A bit rushed there on that shot. Picks up an offensive foul on Penn State at 8:53. Fails to come up with consecutive defensive rebounds around 8:20 as he was stabbing at the ball rather than grabbing it.
Misses a tough jumper at the top of the key with 5:34 remaining. Was fading there instead of going straight up, and was probably a step out of his range there. Difficult shot leads to a Penn State break, in which Babb scores a layup and is fouled by Davis at the rim. Babb hits the free throw to make it 26-23 Penn State.
Back in for last minute. Nice recovery and steal after Battle got more penetration.
Great steal at 16:18 leads to a McCamey pull-up jumper and 35-32 Illinois lead. Davis used his long arms to strip the ball from an aggressive Battle, who was on the drive. Catches a break at 14:34 when he fails to close out on a Penn State three that is missed. Makes up for that mistake with a nice pass out of the high low to Tisdale, who gets the shot and the foul at 14:15.
Misses an open jumper at 9:39 as Illinois trails by five. Revsine says that Davis has yet to get going offensively – that’s two games in a row. That shot didn’t look good, as Davis failed to go up straight and was leaning to the side. Just 1-for-5 from the field and only 2 rebounds. Where’s the activity?
Nice assist to Tisdale on a dunk at 7:39. Good job of setting the screen on McCamey, rolling and then finding the diving Tisdale for a dunk. Misses a push jumper at 6:57; didn’t have control of the ball. I like the fact that Davis was looking to get involved, but needed to slow it down a bit on that play. Good post feed to Tisdale at 5:44 leads to a foul; is then replaced by Keller.
Nice job of tracking down a loose ball off a missed Battle three with 22 seconds left. While falling out of bounds, Davis nearly throws the ball away; luckily, Richardson saves the ball from going out of bounds on the sideline.
Overall: Make that three straight less than stellar games in the conference for Davis, who finished with just 2 points for the second straight game. Struggled from the floor, going 1-for-6 and only had 4 rebounds in 28 minutes. Surprised that Davis has been getting so much time and that Keller hasn’t gotten a few more of his minutes, as Davis hasn’t had great energy in a week now. Needs to pick it up – what better time that at Michigan State?
● Mike Tisdale: Terrible turnover on first possession, throwing an errant pass to McCamey on the ball reversal. That pass wasn’t even close there. Loses Ott on a back cut at 17:32, resulting in a foul on Cole and two free throws, which Ott hits to make it 5-2 Illinois. Buries a corner jumper at 16:06 off the screen and roll game. Tisdale really has that shot down as Illinois leads 10-7.
Nice baby hook at 14:13 gives Illinois a 14-11 lead. Good catch and patience in the post there. Good hustle at 13:22, tapping out a missed Davis shot to McCamey. Nice help defense at 11:22, altering a Babb shot in the lane and jumpstarting an Illinois break. Misses a jumper at 10:44, with the ball getting lodged between the hoop and backboard, leading to the under-12. Gets his first breather out of under-12. Good stamina thus far for Tisdale.
Back in at 9:15. Gets another interior touch and shows great patience, dribbling to the middle before going to the baseline and hitting a fade away jumper to tie the game at 21. Great start for Tisdale. More solid help defense at 8:07 as he blocks a driving shot by Battle, who got good penetration on Richardson. Gets another post feed at 7:25, but is bumped out before he travels, bringing us to the under-8 timeout.
Excellent job of getting back on defense and using his length to alter a Battle layup on the break at 16:17. Then secures the rebound. All-around great play by Tisdale. Spectacular hustle at 5:51, hustling down an offensive rebound after a missed three by Paul. Good closeout on an Edwards’ three with 4:48 to go during a helter-skelter play that results in a long Penn State offensive rebound. Misses a baseline hook at 4:20 – went a bit too fast on that play. Misses a tip-in attempt of a missed Cole three at 3:48. A good attempt there on the boards.
After Illinois has a good defensive possession out of the under-4, Tisdale makes a lazy reverse pass, which is stolen by Frazier, who gets on the break and dunks it down for a 28-23 Penn State lead. Good help defense at 2 minutes, altering a Battle layup after Cole got burned. Misses a corner jumper at the halftime horn.
Illinois starts the second half with a post touch for Tisdale, who hits a patient half hook to make it 28-25 Penn State. That’s not considered a point paint though, as Tisdale took that shot outside the lane. Good job on ensuing defensive possession, again altering a Battle shot in close after McCamey allowed penetration to Frazier. Caught too high on Ott at 17:56 as Penn State ran the dribble hand off game. Ott is fouled by Tisdale after getting a post touch and makes one of two free throws to make it 29-28 Penn State. Tisdale is unable to come up with the rebound of the missed free throw, which is grabbed by Babb. Not strong enough in the pick and roll game at 15:29. After receiving the pass, Tisdale was doubled and tied up on the play, leading to the under-16.
Much better strength at 14:15, catching a pass from Davis out of the high low and absorbing the contact when putting up a right-handed baseline half hook that fell through the goal, plus the foul. Hits the free throw to put Illinois up 38-35. Tisdale with 11 points and 10 rebounds thus far. Picks up a tough foul at 13:45 fouling Andrew Jones on a block attempt. Jones misses both free throws, and Tisdale is in good shape with just 2 fouls. Gets beat on an in-out dribble with under-12 minutes to go but Penn State misses a banker that is knocked out of bounds, leading to the under-12.
Great job of sticking with the play at 9:09 as he follows up a missed McCamey layup for a dunk and 45-40 game. More importantly, that basket ends a 10-0 Penn State run. A bit slow to close out on the ensuing possession, as Jeff Brooks hits a three in Tisdale’s eye to make it 48-40 Penn State. Surprise shot there. A good job of sliding his feet at 7:51 as Brooks dribbled the ball out of bounds, leading to the under-8.
Great dive and slam at 7:39 to cut the game to 48-45 Penn State. Brilliant play call by the Illini coaching staff out of the under-8. Great recovery and block of a driving Battle at 6:49 leads to an Illini break. Hustles his way down the court and gets a post touch, but air balls a baseline hook. Got pushed out on the play and rushed the shot. Gets good post position at 5:44 and is fouled hard on the shot. Hits one of two free throws to make it 50-46 with 5:44 to go. Gets called for a tough foul at 4:33 on an Edwards’ drive. That foul occurred after Illinois gave up a long offensive rebound. Edwards makes one of two free throws to make it 51-49. More dribble penetration causes Tisdale to help and lose Ott, who makes a nice left-handed layup at 3:09 to put Penn State up 53-49. Illinois takes another timeout after this basket. Great help at 2:02, blocking a driving Battle layup out of bounds to lead to the under-4.
Gets fouled with 17.4 seconds left as Illinois clings to a 54-53 lead. Time to show his 88% free throw shooting percentage in the one and one. Tisdale rattles out the free throw, which goes to Battle. Tisdale gets back on defense and eventually blocks a Battle drive with 3.6 seconds left. The ball stays with Penn State, which calls a timeout. Tisdale with a career-high 6 blocks (none bigger than that last one after choking at the line).
Illinois gets lucky as Tisdale makes a mental mistake on the game’s final play (a missed Battle three). After guarding Babb on the inbound, Tisdale loses his man, by running to the top of the key and trying to alter Battle’s three point heave. Tisdale leaves Babb open under the rim, and the Penn State sophomore catches the ball and nearly puts it in at the buzzer. Luckily, Babb was fading there and got blocked by the front of the rim. I hope Tisdale wasn’t taught to go out on that play; if so, Illinois got freaking lucky there.
Overall: With the exception of his apparent mental lapse on the last play of the game, his missed free throw with 17 seconds left and a couple of other mistakes, Tisdale had a great game, using his length to really alter Penn State shots at the rim. Amazingly, Tisdale almost had a triple-double, with 16 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high 7 blocks. He probably altered the trajectory of at least 3 or 4 shots. Two straight big games from Tisdale, who can frustrate at times but be underappreciated as well.
● Jeff Jordan: First Illini off the bench at 16:36, giving Richardson a breather. Commits a cardinal sin at 16:20, saving a defensive rebound under the Illinois basket. Ott is there to catch the ball and lay it in for an 8-7 Illinois lead. Gets burned by Battle on the next possession as the Penn State guard gets into the lane and hits a difficult left-handed layup for a 10-9 game. Badly misses a pull-up jumper off the curl with less than 16 minutes to go. Penn State gets the rebound but turns it over on an over-and-back, leading to the under-16.
Steals the ball from Babb at 14 minutes and starts an Illinois break that will result in a Paul turnover.
In for McCamey at under-12.
Lazy entry pass to Davis is nearly stolen at 5:59. Luckily, Penn State’s Jeff Brooks fouls over the back.
In for Cole at 14:15 of second half. Overpenetrates at 13:25 and makes a difficult pass to McCamey that leads to a quick turnover.
Overall: 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover and 1 steal in 18 minutes.
● Brandon Paul: Gets Cole out of the under-16. Nice defensive rebound of a missed Battle three but is out of control when trying to push the ball at 14:39, resulting in a wild layup that does not hit rim. Got away with a travel on that move. Anyways, Penn State is able to push off Paul’s rushed play, resulting in a Battle layup and 12-11 Illinois lead. After receiving the ball from Jordan on the break at 14 minutes, Paul tries to get too cute, with a behind-the-back pass to Tisdale that is stolen. Would have been better to go up for his own layup or throw a lob to Tisdale there. Anyways, Paul’s poor decision-making leads to an unbalanced floor and another Penn State layup from Battle, who makes it 14-13 Illinois.
Back in at under-8 and gives up a baseline jumper to Penn State’s Edwards. A bit slow to move his feet and nearly fouled the Penn State player. On next Illini possession, goes back door for a lob dunk but McCamey makes a bad pass. Slow to get back on defense as Edwards beats him down the floor but misses an open jumper in the lane. Misses an open three off the inbound curl at 5:51. Illinois is trying to get Paul going, who seems like he’s hit the freshman wall a bit. After a Tisdale offensive board, nearly has a lazy entry post pass stolen away. Hits back iron on a long three at 5 minutes, with the shot clock running down.
Back in with a little more than 13 minutes to go in the second half. A bit slow to hedge and closeout on a Babb three that ties the game at 38 with 13:05 to go. Poor communication there between Paul and McCamey when defending the screen and roll game. Air balls an open (and quick) jumper at 12:36. Good dive to the basket at 11:32 but his shot at the rim is blocked. Really struggling tonight.
Overall: Finishes with 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover and 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting in just 7 minutes. Safe to say, Paul didn’t do anything productive in this game. I would guess this was his worst game of the season. Looking like a freshman in recent games; perhaps he’s reached the equivalent of the freshman-15 in the basketball world?
● Dominique Keller: In at 13 minutes for Davis. Misses an open jumper at 12:17 after a nice pass from Tisdale in the post. On defensive switch, allows Babb to go baseline and kick out to the opposite corner for a Penn State three and 16-14 Illinois deficit. Gets paid off for running the court at 11:17 as McCamey hits him on an oop for a layup and 19-16 Illinois lead.
Fails to box out at 10:19, resulting in a Brooks stick back of a missed shot and a 21-19 Penn State lead. Not strong with the ball on the perimeter at 9:26, as he has the ball stripped by the freshman Edwards. Luckily, Penn State turns the ball over on the break. A weak sweep right there by Keller. Gets quickly replaced by Tisdale.
Back in at 1:35.
In for Davis at 14:15 of second half. Lazy pass to Paul is nearly stolen at 12:45. Misses a long face-up jumper at 12:05. Not a good shot, nor one that Keller usually takes on the baseline. That’s a possession killer there, though the offense wasn’t moving well there. Follows up by allowing dribble drive and penetration to David Jackson, who hits an uncontested leaner in the lane for a 40-38 Penn State lead with 11:48 to go. Poor effort in terms of closing out on opponent and moving his feet.
In at 5:44 for Davis. Misses an open corner three at 4:10. Good look, but didn’t have much lift there.
Overall: 2 points and 1 turnover in 11 indistinguishable minutes.
● Tyler Griffey: In at 5 minutes for Mike Davis, who just missed a shot and committed a defensive foul on the break. Lets Ott get behind him at 4:33 but catches a break when the Penn State center travels. Good attack of the offensive glass at 4:20 following a Tisdale miss, but is unable to secure the rebound. Good hustle, though.
Overall: Zeroes across the board in just 4 minutes. His breakout game will come against Michigan State.
● Bruce Weber: Illinois leads 10-9 at under-16. Sloppy start with two turnovers on first two possessions. Illinois then scored on its next three. Tisdale and Davis with just one shot between them thus far, though McCamey has been looking for his offense early and playing with great intensity. Defensively, Illinois has allowed some open Penn State threes, but the Nittany Lions are only 1-for-4 from downtown.
The game is tied at 19 at the under-12. Both teams are shooting over 50%, and the three ball is a factor early. Penn State is 3-for-7 from three; Illinois 3-for-4. Dribble penetration has been a problem for the Illini defense, which has given up some good looks. On the offensive end, McCamey has been a great facilitator, though he is gassed and will be heading to the bench out of the under 12.
Illinois leads 23-21 at the under-8. A key stat thus far: Illinois with a 9 to 2 advantage in points off turnovers. Tisdale and McCamey are having great first halves thus far; Tisdale has been good on both ends.
Down 26-23 at the under-4. Illinois with its sloppiest segment of the game, as the offense was way too rushed. Some weird lineups out there, with Tisdale, Griffey, Cole, Jordan and Richardson at one point. Penn State is doing a good job of pushing off rushed shots and the Illini are struggling to defend the three-point line. Penn State is getting open looks, but missing. Penn State is shooting around 38% and Illinois 40%. Illinois is starting to get beat up the court. This could easily be a 6-9 point lead for Penn State, which is simply missing some good looks. Illinois with 0 field goals in 5:20, and Penn State has an 8-2 advantage in fast-break points.
Bruce Weber calls a timeout at 1:35 as Penn State has taken a 28-23 lead. Illinois looks a step slow, with McCamey missing a layup and then getting burned on the other end. Illinois has been bad in the last 6 minutes of this game. Time to right the ship in the final minute and a half. Illinois’ offense looks like crap out of the timeout with McCamey missing a tough fade away jumper from the top of the key as the shot clock was running out.
Down 28-23 at the break, as Penn State closes the half on a 12-4 run. Illinois misses its last 12 shots of the half, and has not scored since the 8:34 mark. That’s two straight games of long offensive droughts (Illinois went 10 minutes without a field goal against Indiana, and only had 5 field goals in the first half of that game). Surprisingly, Illinois is getting outscored big time in the paint, 14-2 to be exact. Penn State is getting way too much penetration and could be up bigger if some open threes had fallen. Illinois with another bad first half, at least in the last 10 minutes, as the offense had no identity. Must get the ball into the paint, as Tisdale’s touches have typically been outside the lane. Going to need to show some urgency here as yet another comeback will be needed.
Here’s a bad stat coming out of the half: Penn State is 30-3 in the last two seasons when leading at halftime. Can the Nittany Lions make it 4 straight against the Illini and 5 of the last 6?
Some more halftime stats: Penn State shooting 35%; Illinois 32%. Penn State is 3-for-13 from three; Illinois 3-for-8. Illinois is also getting beat 21 to 17 on the boards, 14 to 2 in paint points and 8 to 2 in fast break points.
Illinois also did not get to the free throw line in the first half, after going there 39 times against Indiana. Penn State was 3-for-3 from the free throw line. Jackson makes a good point out of halftime, saying that the Illini aren’t being aggressive enough, and failing to get the ball inside or out in transition.
The game is tied at 35 out of the under 16. McCamey has come out and carried the Illini offensively, though Penn State is not going away. The Nittany Lions are giving Illinois a lot of problems with an offense that is emphasizing ball movement and the dribble drive. They’re making the Illini work defensively. If there’s one thing that’s certain about this Illini team, it’s not a good defensive team.
Down 40-38 at under-12. Weber has gone to Paul and Keller for energy, and they haven’t reciprocated. Paul is really having a rough game, and doesn’t look like he can be out there. Another segment where the offense looked stuck in mud. Defensively, Illinois is having to work hard as Penn State is really enforcing its will on this game, keeping the Illini off balance with the dribble drive. Illinois looks like it’s sleepwalking again. The Assembly Hall is very quiet. Babb is temporarily out with a hand injury.
Down 48-43 at the under-8. Penn State was on a 10-run to make it 45-38 before McCamey and Tisdale picked up their play. Illinois’ offense leads a lot to be desired though as the whole team is not involved (McCamey and Tisdale have all 22 of Illinois’ second half points at this point). On the other end, Penn State is executing brilliantly, getting open looks from three off of dribble penetration. The Nittany Lions are 5-for-8 from three in the second half; Illinois 3-for-4. If Illinois is going to win this game, it’s going to have to shut off the penetration and run out on the three-point line. Weber can’t seem to find anyone to spark the team tonight, with the exception of McCamey and Tisdale.
Babb is back in the game out of the under-8. Give Weber credit out of under-8; Illinois finally shows some execution. McCamey hits Davis off a screen and roll and Davis finds a diving Tisdale for a dunk and 48-45 game. After a Cole three has the game at 50-49 and a Tisdale foul, Weber takes a timeout at 4:33 as Edwards prepares to shoot two free throws. He then takes a timeout at 3:02 after an Ott layup makes it 53-49 Penn State. The Illinois possession looks terrible out of the timeout, but McCamey uses a beautiful pump fake to free up some space and hit a three as the horn expired to cut the game to 53-52 with 2:32 to go.
Down 53-52 at the under-4. Illinois has dodged some bullets, with McCamey hitting a clutch three with the shot clock running out and the Illini giving up penetration but having Penn State miss an open three. Illinois’ defensive energy has been better, but Penn State is still getting into the lane. As a result, the Illini are having to help and leaving the weak side open for rebounds. Penn State with several offensive rebounds in the last couple of minutes. Weber comes out of the under-4 with his starting lineup.
Penn State takes a timeout at 1:02 after McCamey hits a clutch pull-up jumper to put Illinois up 54-53. Battle misses two threes before Illinois tracks down a loose ball in a wild scramble that results in McCamey getting fouled. The Illini call a timeout with 19.6 seconds left and a 54-53 lead. Both teams with 6 team fouls, so Illinois will need to get this ball inbounds and make some free throws. They get it in and Tisdale is fouled. Weber subs Jordan in for McCamey for defensive purposes. Tisdale misses the free throw but gets back on defense and blocks a Battle layup away with three seconds left. The ball stays with Penn State, which calls a timeout.
Penn State with 7 team fouls, Illinois with 6 out of the timeout. Jackson says Penn State should go for a quick pick and roll to get a shot up at the rim, possibly for a tip opportunity. Penn State has missed its last six shots. Battle is 1-for-8 in the second half.
Weber comes out with Tisdale guarding the inbounder (Babb) and Jordan, Richardson, Cole and McCamey, who does a good job of switching on Battle after Richardson is screened off. Babb floats in a pass to Battle, who fires up a desperation fade-away three over McCamey. The ball is short but Babb is wide open under the basket. He can’t come up with the rebound and tip in. Tisdale with a bad mental error there, losing Babb as he went to the top of the key to try and block the shot. He left Babb open under the hoop, and the sophomore just missed laying that in at the horn. Illinois escapes by the hair on Tisdale’s chinny chin chin.
Overall: I don’t know what it is about Penn State, but Illinois rarely looks or plays good against this team. With the exception of a couple of nice plays out of the timeout, the Illini offense was not good tonight. McCamey and Tisdale carried the show, and Weber needs to find a way to get these two guys and Davis to all have big games on the same night. And then there’s the recurring problem of having long offensive spurts and playing flat for periods of time that put the Illini in a hole and require comebacks. Weber just does not seem to be able to get through to this team early in the year, in terms of brining consistent effort, energy and focus.
Overall: Not sure how it happened, but Illinois wins 54-53. Not sure we deserved this game more than Penn State. Anyways, Illinois started off the game well before going cold in the last eight minutes of the first half. Thanks to McCamey hitting some clutch defense and Tisdale being a nuisance at the rim, Illinois was able to survive shaky offense, poor containment of the penetration and further problems guarding the three-point line. Thank God Babb missed the tip-in at the end. That would have been a disaster. Anyways, has there ever been a more uninspiring or unlikely team to start the Big Ten 4-0? Somehow, Illinois finds itself without a conference loss, with a real test coming up in Michigan State.
Play of the Game: With about 2 minutes to go and Illinois down 53-49, McCamey finds himself with the ball a couple of steps behind the three-point line. As the shot clock is set to expire in seconds, McCamey uses a beautiful pump fake to free some space, and then cans a three as the horn expires to keep the Illini in the game at 53-52. McCamey will follow up with a big jumper on the next possession to put the Illini up for good and conclude the game’s scoring.
Player of the Game: I want to say McCamey for his clutch shooting, but I’ll go with Tisdale, who really made things tough on Battle with his length down low. Tisdale was blessed with height, and he used it to his advantage tonight, bailing out Illinois perimeter defenders who struggled to contain the ball by changing the trajectory of many shots.
Things I Liked:
● Tisdale’s defensive effort and use of his length.
● McCamey playing with big stones.
Things I Didn’t Like:
● Another offensive draught and period of uninspired play puts the Illini in the hole.
● Hated how Tisdale left Babb on the game’s final possession.
● Yet another comeback was needed.
● Davis going MIA yet again.
● With the exception of Cole late in the game, a lack of spark from Cole, Jordan or Keller.
● Paul really struggling (though it’s part of being a freshman).
Well, that’s it for another Illini Tale of the Tape.
Up next: Illinois takes on The Izzone.
Topics: Assembly Hall, Bill Cole, Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, Chris Babb, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Dominique Keller, Ed Dechellis, Illinois Basketball, Jeff Jordan, Jeffrey Jordan, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Penn State Basketball, Penn State Nittany Lions, Richard Semrau, Talor Battle, Tyler Griffey, U-of-I Basketball, University Of Illinois