When I walked into the Bryce Jordan Center’s arena, just before noon on Sunday, Patrick Chambers was running his Nittany Lions through a scout of the Illini. Five Lions wore orange jerseys with the numbers 2, 13, 24, 32 and 33. They were preparing for Joe Bertrand, Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Nnanna Egwu and Jon Ekey.
I left the building, and walked a mile down College Avenue, which is Green Street and the Quad at the same time, with downtown Champaign thrown in as well.
When I got back, both teams were on the court for shootaround.
I asked Paris Parham whether it’s usual for teams to dress up like their opponents. He said no. I told him the Lions had dressed as Illinois’ starting five.
He said “they don’t know who the starting five are,” and damn near winked.
February 9, 2014 may be remembered as my mother’s 80th birthday (although not by my mother, who doesn’t remember anything these days). It will certainly be remembered for Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill breaking the starting line-up.
The Illini men ended their 8-game losing streak Sunday afternoon at Penn State.
Nunn and Malcolm Hill delivered career highs in scoring. Nunn had 19, including 4-of-9 from three-point range. Hill added eleven.
It’s a little late coming according to everyone not named John Groce. John Groce made it clear, in his postgame remarks, that these two needed to learn and acclimate to Groce defensive schemes before they could earn major minute responsibility.
To the miscellany:
This game will also be remembered as the Orange Krush’s annual Long Ass Roadtrip. They outperformed the entire Penn State crowd. They did not outpopulate them. There were at least 4,000 people on hand. (I don’t buy the official attendance stat, which was twice that much.)
Referee Pat Driscoll got chop blocked into the cheerleading section, and was momentarily unsure whether he’d be able to continue.
At the next media timeout, I got up to tell referee Mark Whitehead that his shoe was untied. He said he was so concerned about Pat, that he’d failed to notice it. But he added that landing in the cheerleaders had raised Pat’s spirits.
After Rayvonte Rice missed a pair of free throws, he used the next PSU foul for a practice session. Ray ran down court with the ball, and attempted a statistically non-existent freebie.
The Penn State student section gave him an earful. Ray collected te ball, and returned to the line. But in the interim, Tim Frazier moved into the lane. When Ray released his second attempt, Frazier lept into the sky, and flicked the ball from within the hoop.
Ray smiled broadly. It was great gamesmanship.