January 25, 2010

The State of State Hoops: Opposite Directions

Two teams took to the court this weekend, each headed in very opposite directions. Let's take a look at what you might have missed.

Falling down...

Every stereotype about Penn State men's basketball came to life yesterday. Talor Battle once again strung together a man-crushing performance (28 pts, 8 rebs, 6 assists) and actually got some help offensively this time from Chris Babb (16 pts) and DJ Jackson (12 pts) in helping PSU to climb to an improbable 52-36 second half lead at Wisconsin, only to completely blow it and ultimately lose in overtime, 79-71.

If there's one telling stat to the game, it surely does stick out: 18 turnovers for PSU to Wisconsin's five. Just think of all those extra possessions the Badgers got, allowing them to hit some key shots down the stretch.

I was in New York for the weekend visiting a friend, so I wasn't able to watch this OMFG WE'RE BEATING WISCONSIN BY 16 POINTS--OH WAIT, I FORGOT, WE'RE PENN STATE BASKETBALL debacle. On the one hand, I'm glad I wasn't able to do so, but a part of me wishes I could have seen it live, simply because it seems like it was the most compelling effort the Fighting DeChellises have put together in Big Ten play this season.

Surely, this team could not be any more demoralized than they are right now, having once again blown a second-half lead in such dramatic fashion. They need to keep their heads up though, because Illinois is coming to the BJC on Wednesday, one of the few games left on the schedule that I feel they have a realistic shot at winning. --Tim

Rising up...

If five years ago you told me that the Penn State women's basketball team was ranked 23rd in the nation, owning a 15-4 record, second place in the Big Ten and riding a six-game win streak; the men's team was 8-11, last in the Big Ten and wallowing in a seven-game losing streak; but it was the men who were getting all the headlines, I would have called you positively insane.

But as you read this, it is the absolute truth.

The Lady Lions beat up on Illinois yesterday afternoon, in front of a season-high 8,471 fans at the Bryce-Jordan Center. The 70-66 win vaulted Penn State into a comfortably-secure second place in the Big Ten standings, behind Ohio State. Two weeks ago, I pointed to this very four-game stretch as being key to whether or not the Lady Lions can finish the season with a bang. So far, so good.

Purdue comes into Happy Valley this week. But this isn't the kind of Boilermaker team Penn State fans are used to. Purdue is struggling with a 9-10 record, and hovering around the middle of the Big Ten. Following the date with Purdue, Penn State goes on the road for two games at Michigan and MSU. That makes this game against the Boilermakers incredibly important. The Lady Lions cannot afford a letdown at home to an opponent they should not struggle to put away.

Realistically, for the Lady Lions to make the NCAA Tournament, they would have to win no fewer than seven of their final nine regular season games. Looking at the schedule, these ladies might be off to the Dance sooner than later. --Mike

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