The Lady Lions lost their second game in a row Sunday afternoon against the Michigan Wolverines. Here are our grades from today's game:
There was nothing really bad about today's shooting problem. There was nothing really special either. Senior Tyra Grant had a pretty good day shooting the ball finishing 8-for-18 on the game. Other than her, no one really added much to the offense. Alex Bentley had a lackluster game with only eight points and her lack of scoring really hurt the Lady Lions. Julia Trogele contributed 11 points but, without Bentley's production, Penn State's offense was very one-dimensional. As a whole, the team finished shooting 45.6 percent from the floor. Nevertheless, other than the strong first 10 minutes of play where the Lady Lions came out on fire, the offense didn't have that spark we've seen in other games this season.
Like the offense, the defense today was average at best. They held Michigan to only 41.8 percent shooting on the game but they allowed the Wolverines to shoot 50 percent in the second half. The team had eight steals and both Nikki Greene and Grant chipped in two blocks apiece. However, the biggest difference in the game was 3-point shooting and Penn State's perimeter defense wasn't good enough against the deep shooting Wolverines. Michigan made eight 3-point baskets and in a four-point game it was a big reason Penn State lost it.
The Lady Lions get an A+ for the first ten minutes of the game. The rest? They get an F. After watching Purdue build an early lead against them on Thursday, the Lady Lions came out on fire today. The team opened the game at a high pace running up and down the court to build an early 15 point lead. Penn State held Michigan to not a single field goal for eight-straight minutes and looked like it was going to blow out the Wolverines. Once Michigan started hitting a couple baskets, Penn State had no answer and its intensity dropped tremendously. Simply put, it seemed as if Michigan wanted this game a lot more than Penn State.
Free Throws: F
It was either an incomplete or an F. We went with the F because the lack of free throws is what lost this game for Penn State. Shooting 7-for-10 from the charity stripe isn't bad when its one player, but when that is how the entire performed, then it is. Grant is used to getting to the free throw line at least 10 to 12 times a game because when Penn State is struggling, that is how she brings the team back into it. That was what was missing today. It wasn't necessarily a poor shooting performance from the free throw line, but simply the inability to draw fouls.
After weekend in which the Penn State wrestling team split its dual meets with No. 1 Iowa and No. 12, here are a few things that stuck out.
1. David Erwin and Adam Lynch- At the beginning of the season the future of these two looked questionable. Erwin was struggling at 174, and Lynch was watching Colby Pisani wrestle at 141. Now Erwin is looking like a legitimate contender at 184 after going 2-0 after beating No. 7 Phil Keddy and No. 16 Travis Rutt. Meanwhile, Lynch had two upsets over No. 5 Montel Marion and No. 20 Cole Schmitt. The combined 4-0 record made these two grapplers the Lions' top performers of the weekend.
2. Molinaro gets a split- Frank Molinaro had a tough month of January. He faced the top four wrestlers at 149-pounds, including No. 1 Brent Metcalf and No. 2 Kyle Ruschell this weekend. After dropping the first three decisions in those matchups, Molinaro was able to get a victory over Ruschell Sunday. If anything, that showed just how good Metcalf is after he pinned Molinaro two days earlier. However, Molinaro hadn't faced Metcalf before and if the two meet again, the outcome may be different.
3. Nothing settled at 197- Neither Clay Steadman nor David Crowell was able to separate from the other at this weight. Crowell is still working up to 197 after being listed as a 184-pounder to begin the season. Coach Cael Sanderson keeps saying he doesn't want this back-and-forth game to continue, so he'll have to make a decision soon to get one of the 197-pounder ready for Big Tens.
4. Sanderson rebound- It was good to see Cyler Sanderson come back with a big victory in the Wisconsin meet following his upset loss at Iowa. Sanderson has been quietly consistent this season and leads the team with 57 dual meet points.
The Lions dropped to 0-9 in the Big Ten on Sunday with a 66-46 loss to Purdue in West Lafayette. Here is a player-by-player breakdown of the contest:
Talor Battle: C+
Apparently for the Lions to have a chance at winning, Battle must play out of his mind. In each of the last four games, Battle has done just that, and Penn State lost four close games. On Sunday he was mediocre -- understandable, given that not even LeBron James scores 20 points every single night. Apparently, mediocre isn't good enough for the Lions to come within 20 points. Battle finished with 13 points and three boards.
DJ Jackson: B-
Jackson had another double-digit scoring performance, but his rebounding suffered against a very physical Purdue squad. Jackson certainly didn't play his A-game on Thursday -- 11 points and just two rebounds. But when head coach Ed DeChellis took out most of his starters at the end of the game, Jackson was still on the court because of his effort.
Bill Edwards: B+
The lone bright spot for the Lions on Sunday was Edwards, who finished with a double-double (10 points and 13 boards). Edwards was the only Lion with at least seven rebounds, and he finished with 13. It's a good sign for DeChellis that, even as a freshman, Edwards isn't afraid to use his size against the physicality of the Boilermakers.
Tim Frazier: C-
One first-half play embodied Frazier's day, as well as his conference season, thus far. On a pick and roll, the Boilermakers used both defenders to trap Frazier in the backcourt. Frazier used his quickness and his crossover to split the defense, but instead of driving to the hoop, he pulled up at the foul line and missed a jumper. That tentativeness has categorized the first half of his conference season.
Drew Jones: C-
Jones pulled down six boards, so his low-scoring performance doesn't look quite as bad compared to some other Lions. Jones finished with just four points but made some nice low-post moves that he couldn't quite finish. Jones needs to be quicker with the basketball in order to start finishing in a conference that seems to move much faster than Drew Jones does.
Jeff Brooks: C
Six points and four boards for Brooks, who never really got himself involved in the contest. He only played 17 minutes. Brooks has improved from some early-January performances, where he struggled to even get on the stat sheet. But now, with the Lions on a nine-game losing streak, DeChellis really needs more out of Brooks.
Chris Babb: D-
Every time Babb appears to be emerging as the team's second scorer, he seems to take a step back. He did just that on Sunday. The sophomore shooting guard was held scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting, and missed three 3-pointers. Babb has been inconsistent all season and after a career-high 18 points Wednesday, the Purdue game was no different.
Andrew Ott: N/A
Ott didn't receive the necessary minutes for a grade, despite starting the game. He picked up an early foul and played sloppy defense on his way to no points and one board in just five minutes. Monday's DeChellis press conference should shed some more light on Ott's decrease in minutes.
Also N/A: Cammeron Woodyard, Sasa Borovnjak, Adam Highberger
It Was Over When: Penn State allowed Loyola to force a fifth game. Penn State led the match 2-1, and it didn't close out the match. The Ramblers made it clear early in the fifth game, the Nittany Lions weren't going to win the match on their court. Loyola went on to win the fifth game by a lopsided score of 15-7.
Player of the Match: Edgardo Goas. The redshirt sophomore setter was all over the place Saturday night. As always he paced the offense with 67 assists, but he also led the team with 13 digs and he contributed five kills, two blocks and an ace.
Stat of the Match: .220--The hitting percentage of both outside hitters, Will Price and Joe Sunder. The team always seems to get 20 or so kills from both of these guys, and that didn't change Saturday with Price recording 22 kills and Sunder 19. The difference was the amount of attacks it took the duo to get its kills. Each player was set 50 times in the match. Max Lipsitz had just two less kills than Sunder (17) and was set 20 times less (30).
Surprise of the Match: Penn State lost. The Lions were upset last year in Chicago as well, and one would think they would've had a chip on their shoulders, and brought their "A" games into Alumni Gym.
What's next: The Lions return to the comfort of Rec Hall and the EIVA Friday at 7 p.m. against Rutgers-Newark.
Though No. 19 Penn State didn't beat No.1 Alabama like it did last March at Rec Hall, the Nittany Lions did put up their best score of the season against the Crimson Tide and the Golden Gophers tonight.
Penn State's night started off on the vault, the event where the Lions' score of 49.500 tied a school record last week. The results weren't as good as last week but the team's score of 49.225 was its second best of the season so far. Just a week after her perfect 10 on the vault, Brandi Personett led the team with a 9.900 on the event.
The Lions then moved over to the uneven bars where Penn State coach Steve Shephard implemented a lineup change. Freshman Madison Merriam replaced senior co-captain Rosie Smith and went on to score a 9.800. However, senior Brandi Personett had an uncharacteristic fall on the bars and scored 8.750, a score that didn't count toward the team score. The team ended with a score on bars of 48.825, also its second best score of the year.
The next event was the balance beam, which has haunted the Lions in their opening three meets and has been their worst event. Things turned around for the Lions tonight as a team score of 49.050 was better than the team's scores on bars and the floor exercise and by far its best on the beam all season. Senior co-captain Allie Southard, who fell last week on the beam, bounced back nicely and tied for Penn State's best score with freshman Sharaya Musser.
The Lions then brought their momentum from a very encouraging beam performance into the floor exercise. The meet was still up in the air as the Crimson Tide, up 147.400-147.100, were on the beam while the Lions were on the floor. One Alabama gymnast fell on the beam and if one more had done the same, the outcome of the meet might have been very different. Nonetheless, Personett rebounded from her fall on the bars and led the way on the floor with a 9.900. The team finished with a score of 48.925.
The meet ended with Alabama in first with 196.600, Penn State in second with 196.050 and Minnesota in third (192.850).
Despite the second place finish, the Lions all seemed to be happy with the team's score. The team has gotten better every meet in the early going and the success on the balance beam tonight is very encouraging for a team with a ton of potential.
For the third week in a row, Penn State will host at least one Big Ten school as Illinois travels to Happy Valley to take on the Lions at Rec Hall next weekend. Penn State, likely to go up from No. 19 in this week's rankings, looks to continue to pile on better scores every week.
Following Personett's floor routine, the final two scores for each team are still missing from the scoreboard to build up suspense when the final scores are announced.
After the scores have been announced, Alabama stands in first with a 196.600. Penn State is in second with a 196.025, its best score of the season. Minnesota rounds out the tri-meet with a 192.800.
We're heading down to the floor to talk to the team. Check back with Beam Me Up later as Jake will wrap up the meet.
Rohrbaugh scores a 9.725 and Bencsko just finished her routine.
Personett is the final performer of the night for the Lions.
Looks like the crew here is holding the last two 'Bama scores for dramatic effect. We were able to catch Priess' but not Dennis'. One judge gave Dennis a 9.900, though.
Barring anything short of three perfect routines from the Lions to close out their meet, it appears the Tide are going to leave Rec Hall with a first-place finish.
Freshman Madison Merriam scores a 9.750.
Southard finishes her routine for the Lions just as Priess ends her beam routine.
Konsevick scored a 9.775 on floor for the Lions.
Priess goes 9.900; Southard goes 9.600.
Waiting on the score of Dennis, who went just before Priess.
Stack-Eaton goes 9.875.
A small window of opportunity for the Lions opens after a fall by Hoffman on beam. Hoffman was the late add to the lineup.
Konsevick finally starts floor off for the Lions. The Lions are going to have perform lights out on floor for any chance to upset the Tide. With Hoffman's score likely to drop and only the anchor Priess left, the Lions will need to be nearly flawless on floor and need a little bit of luck.
Guitierrez goes 9.775.
The Lions still have not started. Not sure what the hold up is. They aren't even warming up.
Minnesota gets started on the bars after a delay because of an equipment issue.
A good start for the Tide, as Price goes 9.8.
The Lions have yet to start their floor routines.
The lineups for the Lions and Tide on their final events:
Crimson Tide (beam):
The Tide make a late change to their lineup. They sub in junior All-American Kayla Hoffman for Ricki Lebegern.
Personett finishes with a 9.800.
Before tonight, the Lions had yet to go 48.000 on beam. They surpassed that and more, going 49.025.
Trailing the Tide by 0.300 going into the final events - floor for the Lions and beam for the Tide - the Lions have a realistic shot at pulling off the upset.
The Lions showed a lot of character and poise tonight on beam. They knew they needed to come up big on beam after last week's nightmare. They did that and more.
Southard also goes 9.825.
The sophomore Whitney Bencsko finishes her routine and stays on.
This is exactly what the Lions needed. It appears they have overcome the beam problem, at least temporarily, giving them an outside shot of topping the Tide for a second straight year.
The score should only improve as a determined Personett, fresh off a fall on bars, ends it for the Lions on beam. This performance has to bring some relief to coach Shephard.
Southard stays on as the crowd erupts after her routine. Southard acknowledges the support by saluting to the crowd.
Musser scores a 9.825.
The freshman Musser, who did not compete on beam last week, is back in the lineup. She also stays on the beam.
Now it's Allie Southard's turn on beam. Southard is coming off last week's nightmare on beam, where she fell twice and scored an 8.575.
This is a huge performance for the Lions, who need Southard to rebound strong.
Konsevick follows with another very solid performance on beam. Konsevick, who fell last week en route to a 9.200, stays on tonight for a score of 9.800.
Rohrbaugh starts off for the Lions and stays on the beam, a positive sign for the Lions. If the Lions have any chance of pulling the upset, they're going to need to go in the high 48s at least on beam.
Rohrbaugh's score comes in at 9.775.
Ettl gets a 9.800. Here is a quick recap of Penn State's scores on the uneven bars.
Team score: 48.825
Though Penn State's team score was lower than last week's score of 49.100, it was better than both scores on the uneven bars from the first two meets of the season.
After two events, Alabama is in first with a score of 98.250. Penn State is close behind with a 98.050 and Minnesota is in third with a 96.725.
Penn State will now move on to compete on the balance beam, the event which has plagued the Lions in its three meets this season.
Stay tuned as Jared Shanker will bring you coverage of the rest of the meet. I will be back later to wrap-up tonight's meet.
Musser's score was just announced at an 9.875.
Senior Alexandra Brockway, an All-American on bars, is due up next.
Brockway scores a 9.575 with the anchor, sophomore Natalie Ettl, up next to close it out for Penn State.
Ettl as always is sporting a brace on her right knee. The sophomore is a specialist on bars as it is the only event she competes but she does it very well.
Ettl, who posted a 9.900 last week against Cornell, Iowa, and Yale, performs well again as she sticks her landing and draws a considerable cheer from the Penn State crowd.
Merriam does a solid routine with Shephard coaching her from the side. She sticks her landing and moments later it is announced that she got a 9.800.
Bencsko goes next and does what looks like a great routine but then only scores a 9.775.
Personett is up next. She told me earlier this week that the uneven bars are her least favorite event. It may have showed in this instance as she falls and does not perform up to par, especially for her standards. Her score will most likely not count toward Penn State's total team score on the bars.
Musser goes next and does well to recover for Penn State after Personett's fall.
Personett's score flashes up and scores an 8.750.
After concluding on the floor exercise, the nation's top team, Alabama, posted a 48.875. No. 23 Minnesota posted a 48.100 on the beam.
For some comparison, Alabama posted a 49.450 on floor last week on its way to an overall score of 197.450, by far the best score in an individual meet by any team this year.
Minnesota scored 48.650 on the beam in its last meet against Michigan State.
Penn State now moves onto the bars where it performed well last week with a team score of 49.100.
Penn State coach Steve Shephard has decided to shake up the lineup on the uneven bars. Freshman Madison Merriam will lead off and will compete on the event for the first time this season. Rosie Smith will not compete on bars in this meet.
Musser performs Penn State's best vault of the night.
Senior Brandi Personett goes next and does not emulate the same vault she performed last week when she got her perfect 10 but still performs a good routine. We will have to wait a few minutes to see what score the judges give her.
Meanwhile, Smith's score of 9.775 has been announced as well as Bencsko's 9.850 and Musser's 9.900.
Personett's score was just announced at a 9.900.
A recap of Penn State's vault scores:
Team score: 49.225
* - score did not factor into team score
Smith performs a solid vault with for the most part a good landing. She stumbled a bit at the end.
Hover's score was just announced at 9.525. Penn State has to be hoping that no other Lions falls. The team's five best scores out the six competitors are factored into the team score and if the Lions are forced to count Hover's score, they won't be looking at a good score like last week.
All-American sophomore Whitney Bencsko is due up next for Penn State. Not a perfect landing but another solid vault for the Lions. However, it may not be as good as Bencsko's vault last week when she scored a 9.900.
Meanwhile, Alabama and Minnesota have gotten off to slow starts on the floor exercise and the balance beam, respectively. Not one of Alabama's first three gymnasts surpassed a 9.775 on the floor and none of the Golden Gophers have surpassed a 9.675 on the beam.
Freshman Sharaya Musser is up next on the vault for Penn State.
Rohrbaugh leads off and performs a solid vault for the Lions. She stuck her landing pretty well and received a nice ovation from the Rec Hall crowd. Moments later, her score of 9.800 flashes up on the screen. That is her second best of the season after last week's 9.900.
Danielle Hover, a junior, is up next for Penn State. Hover runs down the blue mat lied down in front of her and springs off the vault. Her landing was shaky and she fell off the mat a little bit. That will not receive a score as good as last week's 9.800.
Senior co-captain Rosie Smith is up next.
Penn State tied a school record last week on the vault posting a 49.500. Three Lions scored career bests including three-time All-American senior Brandi Personett, who scored the first perfect 10 of her career and just the eighth in school history on any event.
The Lions are warming up on the vault and senior Casey Rohrbaugh will start it off for the Lions in several moments.
The national anthem has just concluded, the lineups have been announced, and we are ready to get under way from Rec Hall.
Penn State will start on the vault, Minnesota will start on the balance beam, and Alabama will start on the floor exercise.
Good evening gymnastics fans. We're live at Rec Hall where the No. 19 Nittany Lions are about 5 minutes from taking on No. 1 Alabama and No. 23 Minnesota.
Penn State is coming off its first victory of the season last Saturday night at Rec Hall and is looking to knock of the Crimson Tide for the second straight year. Last year, Alabama came into Rec Hall as No. 11 and left with a disappointing loss in the Lions' best meet of the year.
Stay tuned to our live blog here on Beam Me Up where I, along with my partner Jared Shanker, will take you through the events of tonight's meet.
The rundown: Penn State will play its second match in as many nights as they take on Loyola-Chicago tonight at 7 CT at Alumni Gym. Both teams enter tonight's game with a winning streak. The Ramblers have started the season 7-0, including a sweep over No. 15 St. Francis (Pa.) last night. The No. 5 Nittany Lions, meanwhile, have won six straight after losing their season-opener to No. 1 USC in the Outrigger Invitational.
What to expect: Much has been said about the revenge factor in this game -- Loyola upset then-No. 1 Penn State last year at Alumni Gym, the Lions' first loss since winning the 2008 National Championship -- but Mark Pavlik's squad isn't focusing on getting even. They just want to play some good volleyball. Expect Joe Sunder, who had a career-high 20 kills last night, to continue his hot hitting.
Here we go again: The atmosphere in Alumni Gym the last time the Lions came to town was absolutely wild. That's not changing this year. The Loyola athletic department is projecting a sold-out crowd tonight, and is urging fans to buy tickets in advance.
He's their guy: Mike Bunting absolutely ripped through Penn State's defense last February, totaling 32 blocks in Loyola's 3-2 win. The Lions will have their eye on containing him this time around, but it won't be easy. Bunting is red hot right now. The 6-foot-4 outside hitter -- a native of Wyomissing who was actually recruited by Pavlik but turned down Penn State for a better financial package at Loyola -- is having a monstrous start to his sophomore campaign. Bunting was named MIVA Offensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row after he posted his first career double-double (24 kills, 10 digs) in the Ramblers' 3-1 win over IPFW last Friday.
Prediction: PSU 3 Loyola 1. Yes, Loyola's hostile crowd will play a factor in this game. That's why I have the Lions losing a set. But Penn State shouldn't be too affected by the rowdy fans -- because they've already experienced that pressure already this season. Last night the Lions played in front of 1,279 loud Lewis supporters in Romeoville, Ill., and over 3,000 filled the Stan Sheriff Center to cheer on Hawaii in Penn State's five-set victory over the Warriors at the Outrigger Invitational. The frosh -- Ian Hendries, Nick Turko and Tom Comfort -- might struggle at first, so expect veteran leaders like Will Price and Max Lipsitz to step up big time and lead the Lions out of Chicago (somewhat) unscathed.
It Was Over When...: Penn State went on a 3-0 run midway in the third set as the teams were deadlocked at 15-15. The Nittany Lions won the first set, but dropped the second. Lewis was feeding off of an energetic, red-clad home crowd of 1,279 and at this point the momentum could've gone either way. But two Will Price kills and an Ian Hendries ace gave PSU an 18-15 lead along with the confidence and energy to close out the match.
Player of the Match: Joe Sunder. The redshirt sophomore had a career night posting 20 kills, his new personal-best. Sunder also tied for second on the team with 11 digs.
Stat of the Match: Two -- the number of sets freshman Tom Comfort played in PSU's 3-1 win. For the second consecutive match, Comfort's lack of productivity is the stat we're highlighting. He had two kills on nine attempts (.111 hitting) while he was in last night and was most likely replaced by the more experienced Alan Mars. Could Comfort's success in Hawaii be a fluke? Probably not. We know he has the skill, the frosh is most likely just adjusting to the demands of collegiate volleyball and the high expectations he created for himself. Comfort needs to show more consistency and composure soon though, or his starting spot is in serious jeopardy.
Surprise of the Match: Max Lipsitz did not record a service error last night -- the first time he has gone errorless from the line all season. Serving is undoubtedly the senior captain's biggest weakness and his effectiveness last night -- Lipsitz also recorded one service ace -- proved he is taking a step forward.
What's next: The Lions will take on Loyola-Chicago tonight at at 7 CT.
With Penn State's 1-0 win over Delaware last night, the Icers moved to 8-2 in one-goal games this season thanks to a second period goal from defenseman Rich O'Brien. Here is the breakdown of the games and their scores.
4-3 vs. Towson (OT)
1-2 vs. Ohio
4-3 vs. Ohio (OT)
3-4 vs. West Chester (Shootout)
4-3 vs. Drexel
4-3 vs. Rhode Island (Shootout)
2-1 vs. Delaware (Shootout)
3-2 vs. Ohio
5-4 vs. West Chester (Shootout)
1-0 vs. Delaware
Now if that wasn't impressive enough, here are the players who have scored the game winning goal, either in regulation, overtime or shootout.
George Saad (Also had a shootout goal in the Rhode Island game)
Paul Daley (2)
So not only has Penn State found ways to win 80 percent of its close games, its done so by having seven players combine to win those eight games. For such a young team, this type of experience is invaluable and will be key come time for the playoffs and nationals.
The Icers have won their last five one-goal games and are clearly showing more of a comfort-level in those tight spots. It'll be interesting to see how the team handles these situations with much more on the line in March.
Coming off Penn State coach Cael Sanderson's worse loss ever as a head coach, the Nittany Lions' matchup with Wisconsin looks to be a must-win scenario for building Penn State's confidence.
No. 13 Penn State (9-5-1, 1-2-0 Big Ten), No. 12 Wisconsin (5-7-0, 1-1-0)
PSU- No. 12 Brad Pataky (19-6, 2-1)
Wisconsin- Drew Hammen (5-14, 0-2)
Hammen's two Big Ten-dual opponents have been No. 1 Angel Escobedo of Indiana and No. 6 Zach Sanders of Minnesota. It doesn't get any easier against Pataky. Assistant coach Casey Cunningham said Pataky needs to improve in the hand-tie battle. Expect him to do so. Pataky has had trouble on the bottom when wrestling taller opponents, but Hammen only has an inch on him.
Prediction: Pataky by major decision. PSU- 4 Wisconsin- 0
PSU- Bryan Pearsall (3-16, 1-2)
Wisconsin- No. 8 Tyler Graff (18-4, 2-0)
Did anyone else see Pearsall's transformation last night against No. 6 Daniel Dennis of Iowa? After the first period, when it looked as if Dennis would notch the major decision easily, Pearsall started fighting and tying up Dennis. He lost by major decision, but it didn't come easy. The Badger's Graff was a takedown machine on Friday night in piling up 29 points. It was the fourth time this year he scored over 20 points. Expect Pearsall to fight again and narrowly avoid the technical fall.
Prediction: Graff by major decision. PSU- 4 Wisconsin- 4
PSU- Adam Lynch (7-9, 2-1)
Wisconsin- No. 20 Cole Schmidt (14-11, 1-1)
The fates are aligning for Lynch. His work ethic has produced success. When those two factors clash, a potent combination is created. That is what will happen on Sunday. Schmidt is coming off a technical fall loss to No. 4 Michael Thorn of Minnesota. Lynch just won in sudden victory over No. 5 Montell Marion. Cunningham said the coaching staff is now expecting Lynch to win these matches. The senior's confidence is soaring so expect a decision bordering on a major - and yes, I did say major.
Prediction: Lynch by decision. PSU- 7 Wisconsin- 4
PSU- No. 5 Frank Molinaro (22-3, 1-2)
Wisconsin- No. 2 Kyle Ruschell (20-2, 2-0)
I knew Metcalf was good, but I never anticipated the utter domination he put on Molinaro last night - call me naÃ¯ve. Molinaro's loss has to be a confidence killer especially with how excited he was to take on Metcalf. Ruschell was barely victorious over No. 18 Mario Mason of Minnesota in a 5-4 decision. But can Molinaro regroup after being thrown around by Metcalf? This one is a tough call. I'll go with Ruschell - if only to spice things up.
Prediction: Ruschell by decision. PSU- 7 Wisconsin- 7
PSU- No. 5 Cyler Sanderson (21-3, 2-1)
Wisconsin- Greg Burke (7-14, 0-2)
Do you want to see attitude? Just wait until you watch Sanderson tomorrow. I sat stunned when the Lion 157-pounder could only rack up two points on Friday night. He'll respond with a lot of takedowns and a couple turns.
Prediction: Sanderson by technical fall. PSU- 12 Wisconsin- 7
PSU- No. 8 Dan Vallimont (19-5, 1-2)
Wisconsin- No. 1 Andrew Howe (22-0, 2-0)
I'm thinking this will be another low-scoring Vallimont bout like his one against No. 5 Ryan Morningstar on Friday. Vallimont should start choosing neutral instead of bottom, but Cunningham said Vallimont needs to learn how to escape from the bottom if he wants to be an NCAA Champion contender. Howe will pick up some major riding time.
Prediction: Howe by decision. PSU- 12 Wisconsin- 10
PSU- Justin Ortega (6-13, 0-3)
Wisconsin- Jimmy Duffy (3-15, 0-2) or Brendan Ard (4-4, 0-0)
Many people don't know Ortega has been suffering from heart issues, leading to decreased energy. The Lion 174-pounder is a battler, and Wisconsin hasn't shown much at 174 pounds this year.
Prediction: Ortega by decision. PSU- 15 Wisconsin- 10
PSU- No. 13 Dave Erwin (21-6, 2-1)
Wisconsin- No. 16 Travis Rutt (9-4, 2-0)
If you haven't noticed, Erwin is good - real good. He beat No. 7 Phil Keddy on Friday, and Cunningham only sees Erwin improving. How about another victory against a ranked opponent to build upon his already mounting confidence.
Prediction: Erwin by decision. PSU- 18 Wisconsin- 10
PSU- David Crowell (14-9, 0-1)
Wisconsin- No. 8 Trevor Brandvold (10-3, 2-0)
Brandvold is coming off a 4-2 decision over No. 14 Sonny Yohn of Minnesota. Crowell is looking for his first dual victory this season, and he is still adjusting to the new 197-pound weight class. Brandvold is a bigger kid, and Crowell may be overmatched.
Prediction: Brandvold by major decision. PSU- 18 Wisconsin 14
PSU- No. 11 Cameron Wade (14-6, 2-1)
Wisconsin- Eric Bugenhagen (10-13, 0-2)
Who else is waiting for that Wade offense to pick up? Wade constantly stresses his need to wrestle seven minutes, and Cael Sanderson keeps affirming that. Wade may not be perfect two days after his 6-1 loss to No. 9 Dan Erekson, but we'll see some improvements. This match should have some atmosphere.
Beating Texas made the Wildcats a nice story. Beating the Jayhawks would establish the Wildcats as a legitimate threat to win the national title. All season long, the Big 12 has been looked at as a two-team conference. Jacob Pullen and the 'Cats could change that perception with a win on Saturday.
Easier said than done. Xavier Henry and Sherron Collins make up an incredible backcourt, and Cole Aldrich is quietly having a great season. Sure, Aldrich may not be first on the team in scoring (he's fourth) but the 6-foot-11 center is pulling down 10 boards per game and is the Jayhawks' most valuable player because of the role he plays and the way he understands it. Although I'm sure Bill Self wouldn't care if Aldrich scored a little more.
Prediction: Kansas 77, Kansas State 70
Player to watch: Samardo Samuels, Louisville
The Cardinals' slow start took some attention away from Samuels' play, but he has a legitimate shot at making first-team all Big East -- a conference with three national player of the year candidates.
Samuels is averaging 16 points and eight boards, and if he has that kind of a performance in Morgantown against West Virginia on Saturday, the Cardinals may have gotten over the hump and off the bubble. They've had three chances to do just that in the last two weeks, but they have lost them all -- through no fault of Samuels. He scored 21 against Villanova and 25 at Pittsburgh in losing efforts
The Nittany Lions host No. 1 Alabama at Rec Hall on Saturday. When was the last time Penn State faced off against the top-ranked team in the nation during the regular season?
That would be in the Lions' opening meet of 2002, where they met preseason No. 1 UCLA at the Super Six Challenge. Also present was No. 2 Georgia and host No. 4 Alabama.
The Lions ran into No. 1 Georgia last season at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Raleigh, N.C., where they finished second to Georgia.
The largest crowd ever recorded at Rec Hall was in 1981 when 8,700 came out to see No. 1 Utah take on the Lions. For a point of reference, over the last 12 years the Lions' average attendance is 2,519.
The first ever Beam Me Up quote of the week comes from senior Alexandra Brockway talking about last year's upset of Alabama, the team that comes back to Rec Hall this weekend as the No. 1 team in the nation.
As a bit of preface, the Nittany Lions were down to floor, their final event at last year's tri-meet against Alabama and Ohio State. The scores between the Crimson Tide and the Lions were neck and neck, and coach Steve Shephard had yet to figure out who his final floor gymast would be.
"One funny thing is that Steve was debating between me and someone else on the floor lineup, and we're standing on the side of the floor and he goes 'Wow Alex, you're real energetic today, what's going on?' and I was just like 'I really wanna kick Alabama's ass.' And he was like, 'You're in!' "
Brockway proceeded to score a 9.575, which didn't end up factoring into the Lions' floor score.
Each day this week, we will examine a different team in the American Lacrosse Conference. We are saving Penn State for next week, when we will examine each facet of the 2010 Nittany Lions.
Today's ALC team: Northwestern
Final 2009 record: 23-0, 6-0 ALC
Against Penn State: 17-6 Win, 13-3 Win
2010 Game against Penn State: April 11, University Park
Last season: The Wildcats were the No. 1 team all season as they averaged 17.6 goals scored a game while holding teams to an average of 6.83. Northwestern beat Penn State for the ALC title 13-3 and won its fifth-straight national title 21-7 over North Carolina.
Outlook: Lacrosse teams around the country have more hope this season than in recent years that they can beat the Wildcats, in large part because of the loss of Hannah Nielsen. Nielsen led the Wildcats in assists (83) and points (142) en route to winning the Tewaaraton Trophy and Lacrosse Honda Sports Award in 2008 and 2009. Nielsen ended her career as the Wildcats all-time leader in points (398) and assists (224).
Nielsen is arguably the greatest to ever play the sport and was obviously critical in Northwestern's success. Though you don't replace a player like her overnight, the Wildcats are far from easy to beat. Katrina Dowd and Danielle Spencer are returning after leading the team with 75 and 64 goals, respectively. Though the Wildcats lost Morgan Lathrop -- whose 83-3 (.965) record in four years of starting is best in NU history -- sophomore Brianne LoManto saw action in 11 games in relief and is more than capable of shouldering the load for the Wildcats.
This team has to lose eventually... right? Until they do, I'm not picking against them. They lost a legend, but the Wildcats have enough firepower to repeat for a sixth-straight title. The ALC is going to be the most difficult conference in lacrosse, and all five teams have a shot at upending Northwestern. The games at Columbus and University Park in particular are games that should give the Wildcats a scare. They won't go undefeated, and they won't win a sixth-straight national title, but another ALC title is imminent.
The rundown: The No. 5 Nittany Lions (5-1. 3-0 EIVA) will play their fourth ranked opponent of the year when they travel to Romeoville, Ill. tonight to take on No. 14 Lewis (4-0, 0-0 MIVA). The game is the first in a two-match Midwestern road trip for the Lions -- they'll play Loyola-Chicago tomorrow night at Alumni Gym.
Last time out: Penn State -- which owns a 14-7 all-time record against the Flyers, including wins in the last five meetings -- beat Lewis last year at Rec Hall in four sets. 6-foot-7 outside hitter Nathan Klaas led the Flyers with 14 kills on .407 hitting, while setter Mike Iandolo -- who transferred from West Coast power Long Beach State in 2008 -- had 53 assists on the night.
Home sweet home: Lewis lost only one match last year at Neil Carey Arena -- a 3-1 decision to then-No. 14 Ohio State in early April.
No time to rest: Tonight's showdown with Penn State will be the Flyers' fourth match in seven days. After battling to a five-set victory over Rutgers-Newark on Jan. 22, Lewis swept NJIT and Carthrage College on Jan. 23 and Jan. 26, respectively.
Fantastic Frosh: Penn State isn't the only team with rookies making early contributions. Flyers' freshman Ian Karbiener posted 18 kills against Rutgers-Newark, the most by a Lewis freshman since junior Brian Muesenfechter had 22 against Loyola Chicago in 2008.
What to look for: Keep an eye on Max Lipsitz this weekend. The senior captain is just nine blocks away from passing Ivan Contreras on the Lion's all-time Total Blocks list.
1. Keith Kowal - 527
2. Ramon Hernandez - 497
3. Max Holt - 492
4. Nate Meerstein - 456
5. Sergio Pampena - 444
6. Ivan Contreras - 391
7. Max Lipsitz - 382
Prediction: PSU 3 Lewis 1. Expect the first set to be very close as Penn State will work to shake off the rust after a 10-hour bus ride to Illinois. But once the Lions find their rhythm, they'll out-dig, out-kill, and definitely out-block their MIVA opponent.
Each day this week, we will examine a different team in the American Lacrosse Conference. We are saving Penn State for next week, when we will examine each facet of the 2010 Nittany Lions.
Today's ALC team: Ohio State
Final 2009 record: 11-6, 2-2 ALC
Against Penn State: 13-9 Loss, 11-7 Loss
2010 Game against Penn State: April 18, Columbus
Last season: After a mid-season seven-game win streak, the Buckeyes fell to then-No. 4 North Carolina and then-No. 2 Maryland by two goals and one goal, respectively. The Buckeyes were upset by Penn State late April, and then again to Nittany Lions less than two weeks later to end Ohio State's season in the ALC semis.
Outlook: The Buckeyes return six of their top seven scorers, including senior Kelly Haggerty, who led the team in goals (52), assists (39) and points (91). The first team All-ALC attacker ranked fourth in points per game and seventh points in the NCAA. Gabby Capuzzi is also returning after starting all 17 games in her stellar freshman season. Capuzzi scored in all but two games, and posted 30 points on the season and team-highs in groundballs (30) and caused turnovers (15).
Ohio State lost goalkeeper Kristen Gilwee, who started all but one game in goal, but junior Annie Carruthers seems ready as she started once last season and saw action in seven games, posting an 8.18 goals against average. In 16 games, Gilwee's was 11.22.
The Buckeyes' schedule is favorable with home games against Penn State, Florida and Northwestern. This team went 6-2 at home last season, and the losses were to the No. 4 and No. 2 team in the nation. Due to the team's domination in Columbus -- the site of the 2010 ALC tournament -- the Buckeyes will find success when it matters most.
My predicted finish for Ohio State is more out of confidence in Florida and Penn State than a knock on the Buckeyes. This team could win the conference, or it coud finish last. The ALC is simply that balanced. I believe it will lose to Northwestern and be upset by Penn State (again) and Florida-- at least, prior to the ALC tournament.
Some of college football's best are exiting the sport this year, and ESPN decided to look back on its initial top-150 prospects of the 2006 recruiting class and decide who is the best of the best.
Not surprisingly, the team is SEC-heavy -- Jared Odrick was the only Penn Stater to make the cut -- with 10 selections.
Tim Tebow, of course, is the chosen leader of this bunch, edging Sam Bradford and Matt Stafford for signal caller duties.
Name recognition is why we come away so impressed with the '06 class. Myron Rolle, the former No. 1 recruit who went on to star at Florida State, is now across the pond at Oxford studying medicine.
Then, there's No. 3 prospect, Vidal Hazelton, who spurned nearby PSU for the sandy beaches of USC, only to transfer after three years. He's set to suit up for Cincinnati next fall.
Penn State stockpiled its share of talent from this group of players, as well, including Navorro Bowman, Maurice Evans, Bani Gbadyu and Chris Bell.
* * * * *
Ken Griffey says he's feeling much better now that he's undergone arthroscopic knee surgery.
That's great. I guess.
Look, everyone loves Junior Griffey. We can all harken back to the days when the kid flew around the outfield in Seattle, making incredible play after incredible play, then come up to the plate and smack out a few homers.
But this isn't the man we remember playing ball with his dad -- professionally. Griffey has had roughly 12,000 operations since leaving the Great Northwest the first time. At this point, after trying so hard to stay healthy, who would be surprised to learn Junior's right knee had been re-enforced with adamantium?
Griffey's had a great run. He's a active leader in career home runs with 630. In his 20-year stint in the majors, Junior has made 13 All-Star teams, won an MVP award and 10 Gold Gloves.
And now that he's 40 and can't seriously be called "The Kid" anymore, it's time for Ken to hang up the spikes. At least he won't have to wait too long to put on another baseball jersey, since he's bound for the Hall of Fame in a few short years.
Tough loss for the Lady Lions tonight against Purdue. Riding a six-game win streak and its first ranking in five years (should be short lived with the loss), Penn State fell to the Boilermakers by four in an overtime thriller. After a furious comeback led by freshman Alex Bentley, the Lady Lions couldn't come out with a win after a missed layup in the last seconds by Julia Trogele. But as Tyra Grant said after the game, no game is won or lost on just one shot. So having said that, here are our grades from what happened through the full 45 minutes of play.
If this grade was based on the performances by Grant and Bentley, it would be an A. However, basketball is a team sport, so based on the team's performance, the grade drops two letters. Those two players combined for 53 points. The rest of the team? Well, they only scored 23. Trogele chipped in seven points and Nikki Greene had nine, but the production dropped off mightily after Grant and Bentley. The team shot 40 percent, which isn't horrible and was better than Purdue, but the team committed way too many turnovers that led to 12 steals by Purdue. However, it was worth noting the lights-out shooting by Bentley down the stretch. Offensively, she led her team back into the game, and her shot has never looked smoother than it did tonight.
Why did this team lose tonight? Because they missed its free throws. There were many other factors, especially the slow start, but missing eight free throws trying to come back from an 11-point deficit is a killer. There was a point early in the first half when Penn State had six personal fouls to Purdue's one, and that dug Penn State a huge hole that took all game to come back from. Purdue's K.K. Houser's statline is enough reasoning for such a low grade. She shot 2-for-8 from the field and ended up with 18 points. How? She was sent to the free throw line 13 times because of Penn State's constant inability to keep its hands to itself. There were some questionable calls, but there were some really stupid fouls by the Lady Lions. Greene fouled out of the game, and both Grant and Trogele each had four fouls. By the end of the game, Penn State had committed six more fouls than Purdue.
Hardest category to give a grade to because it really was a tale of two games for Penn State. Late in the second half and at a point in overtime, the Lady Lions played extremely intense basketball. The only problem was they needed to play that intense because they played so lax in the first half. Purdue came out with a huge amount of momentum thanks to its upset over Ohio State, and Penn State found itself 11 points down early in the second half. With her team down big, Bentley played aggressive defense and she took the game over, but it was just too little too late. Had Penn State come out from the start with a sense of urgency, then it never would have needed her to play the way she did down the stretch. You can bet coach Coquese Washington wasn't happy with her team at halftime.
Another hard category to grade. The Lady Lions forced 19 turnovers, but Purdue ended the game with 12 more steals than Penn State. The stat that really sticks out, though, is blocks. Penn State finished with 11 compared to Purdue's three, and the freshman Greene had seven of them. She patrolled the paint and simply let her height and size do the work in this game. At times it worked very effectively. PSU also held Purdue to 36.4 percent shooting on the game and got big stops when needed. The problem was simply too many fouls and Purdue's ability to get to the free throw line.
Be sure to check Friday's issue of The Daily Collegian for full coverage of the Lady Lions' loss and continue to frequently check Washington's Post for more updates and analysis.
In less than 24 hours, the Penn State wrestling team will be attempting to end No. 1 Iowa's 55-match winning streak. We're going to break the dual meet down, bout-by-bout.
The Hawkeyes enter Friday's dual with a 16-0 record and are 2-0 in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions are 9-4-1 on the season and 1-1 in the Big Ten.
PSU- No. 12 Brad Pataky (19-5)
Iowa- No. 4 Matt McDonough (22-0)
Pataky was a takedown machine early in the season but has cooled off of late. McDonough is a redshirt freshman and has begun his Hawkeye career on fire. Pataky will have to win the takedown battle to win what could be a high scoring bout.
Prediction: McDonough by decision. PSU- 0 Iowa- 3
PSU- Bryan Pearsall (3-15)
Iowa- No. 6 Daniel Dennis (10-1)
Pearsall has struggled to get wins, but coach Cael Sanderson believes he is making progress. Still, it will be tough for him to come away with a victory at Iowa. Dennis' only loss was to No. 5 Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State.
Prediction: Dennis by major decision. PSU- 0 Iowa- 7
PSU- Adam Lynch (6-9)
Iowa- No. 5 Montell Marion (14-2)
Lynch energized the Rec Hall crowd with his pin against No. 11 Ryan Prater. The transitive property gives Lynch a chance because Prater pinned Marion earlier in the year. But, this isn't a math challenge.
Prediction: Marion by decision. PSU- 0 Iowa- 10
PSU- No. 5 Frank Molinaro (22-2)
Iowa- No. 1 Brent Metcalf (22-0)
There's not much to say about Metcalf that Penn State fans don't know. He's been in the NCAA final the past two seasons, winning it in 2008. Of his 17 wins this season, 15 have earned bonus points. Molinaro has the confidence and ability to compete with Metcalf, but it will take a perfect performance by the Lion 149-pounder.
Prediction: Metcalf by decision: PSU- 0 Iowa- 13
PSU- No. 5 Cyler Sanderson (21-2)
Iowa- Aaron Janssen (9-4) OR Jake Kerr (6-6)
This is a must-win for the Lions and bonus points would be preferred. Sanderson said he loves competing at Iowa and expects some friends to make the trip from Iowa State. In expect Janssen to start with Kerr on a three-bout losing streak.
Prediction: Sanderson by major decision. PSU- 4 Iowa-13
PSU- No. 8 Dan Vallimont (19-4)
Iowa- No. 5 Ryan Morningstar (17-3)
Vallimont has a tough weekend, much like Molinaro. A win here would be vital for the Lions' chances in the end. Oklahoma State's Alex Meade is a common opponent that Vallimont beat, while Morningstar suffered a loss. This should be a tight one.
Prediction: Vallimont by decision. PSU- 7 Iowa- 13
PSU- Justin Ortega (6-12)
Iowa- No. 2 Jay Borschel (21-0)
Ortega has struggled of late, dropping his last five bouts. Meanwhile, Borschel started the year with five-straight wins by fall against smaller schools but has had just two pins since.
Prediction: Borschel by major decision. PSU- 7 Iowa- 17
PSU- No. 13 David Erwin (20-6)
Iowa- No. 7 Phil Keddy (16-5)
These are two evenly matched opponents. The two only have one common opponent, and each came out with a win by decision. This is a bout where you just have to flip a coin.
Prediction: Erwin by decision. PSU- 10 Iowa- 17
PSU- Clay Steadman (8-8) or David Crowell (17-10)
Iowa- Luke Lofthouse (14-11)
Looking at Steadman's results, he's kept the majority of his matches close. Other than two pins, his losses have all been by four points or less. Because of that consistency, expect him to get the call against Iowa. Lofthouse is filling in for injured Chad Beatty and lost four of his last five bouts.
Prediction: Steadman by decision. PSU- 13 Iowa- 17
PSU- No. 11 Cameron Wade (14-5)
Iowa- No. 9 Dan Erekson (1-0)
Erekson has wrestled in just one match this season after returning from injury. Wade will be his first real test. If Erekson is still in early season form, Wade could take advantage.
It's not too often the No. 1 team in the nation comes to Happy Valley to compete in Rec Hall. In fact, Penn State coach Steve Shephard, currently in his 18th year as head coach, couldn't remember the last time it happened. But this weekend, top-ranked Alabama and No. 23 Minnesota will take on the No. 19 Nittany Lions in front of the Penn State crowd on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Here is a quick scouting report of the the Lions' two opponents.
No. 1 Alabama: The Crimson Tide has three first place finishes and propelled themselves to the top of the rankings after posting a 197.450 against Arkansas last week. Considering no other team in the nation has even topped the 197.000 mark in the early going, that score shows the talent of this team. Following last week's season-high, Alabama's average now stands at 196.458, exactly 2.000 ahead of Penn State going into the weekend. However, the Lions do have one thing going for them. Last March, Alabama came into Rec Hall and Penn State put up its best score of the season and upset the Crimson Tide. The Lions will look to carry the momentum from last year's meet into Saturday night's meet and defeat the nation's top team.
No. 23 Minnesota: This will be the second Big Ten foe to compete at Rec Hall in as many weeks after Iowa lost to the Lions last week. Minnesota is a better team than Iowa and will pose more of a threat to Penn State than the Hawkeyes did last Saturday when they scored a 192.175. Minnesota's average stands at 193.833 with a high score of 195.350 tallied last week against Michigan State, which Penn State lost to in the season opener. The last time these two teams faced each other was in last year's Big Ten Championships. In that competition, Penn State finished third with a score of 196.525 while the Golden Gophers finished right behind them in fourth with a score of 196.000.
The most-anticipated matchup this weekend pits No.1 Brent Metcalf of Iowa against No. 5 Frank Molinaro of Penn State. With a 22-0 record, Metcalf has had no problem dispatching his opponents this season. Molinaro stands at 22-2. His two losses came from higher-ranked opponents: a 5-2 defeat to No. 4 Kyle Terry of Oklahoma and a 5-3 loss to No. 3 Lance Palmer of Ohio State. The showdown with Metcalf will be the first time Molinaro will ever meet him. Molinaro can forget his past two close defeats with upsets over Metcalf on Friday and No. 2 Kyle Ruschell of Wisconsin on Sunday. But from a technical standpoint, how can Molinaro beat Metcalf? Let's ask those who know best.
Head coach Cael Sanderson
"Technically, you just have to beat him. You have to beat him in the tie-ups. You have to control the tie-up. You have to ride him. It's just like you have to beat anybody else. You have to win the positions. That is what all of our guys have to do."
Assistant coach Troy Letters
"Metcalf is going to be hand-fighting hard -- hanging on his head -- so Frank needs to beat him in the hand-fight battle from whistle to whistle. That is what he needs to do. He needs to hand-fight well. He needs to control the tie-up. If he can dictate the hand-fight match and win in that battle, I think he can beat him."
Purdue hits both and pulls off the victory against Penn State. A hard fought game by the Lady Lions but missed free-throws and sloppy play early on led to their first loss since Illinois beat them on New Years Eve. We're heading down to hear from the players but stay posted for post game analysis and our report card.
Alex Bentley hits another shot for Penn State to cut Purdue's lead down to two and PSU fouls immediately. Purdue's Rayburn misses the first shot, giving Penn State a chance to tie the game up and send it into another OT. Grant misses the three and Wolff misses the putback. However, Trogele is there for the rebound and draws the foul. After hitting the first, Trogele misses the second. Penn State picks up the offensive rebound and misses a wide open put back. Purdue back to the line with a chance to seal the game.
Purdue gets two huge offensive rebounds and eventually gets fouled to go to the line. Bentley argues with the ref and Julie Trogele looks on in disbelief. Two free throws could put this game away for Purdue and send Penn State to its first loss in weeks. The Boilermakers convert both and Washington calls a timeout with her team down four and time winding down.
The veteran Grant answers right back with a big three pointer but the young Greene commits a foul in the paint to send Purdue back to the charity stripe. After the Boilermakers hit both shots, Bentley draws the foul on Purdue's KK Houser to shoot a pair of her own. Her first shot rims out and the crowd lets out a giant sigh. Bentley comes back and hits the second and PSU is down two with one minute remaining. Greene comes up big down low and forces a jump ball but the possession arrow pointed in Purdue's favor. Boilermakers call a timeout with a 75-73 lead and 52.5 on the game clock.
PSU wins the tip and but Greene was too indecisive and threw the ball away, leading to a Purdue layup. Greene attempts to use her size down in the post for a basket but comes up empty both times. Purdue extends the lead to four. Alex Bentley knocks down a fadeaway shot to cut it back to two. Nikki uses her height and swats a Purdue shot that falls into Grant's hands but Trogele is unable to hit the wide-open three. Purdue drills a big three pointer to give the team a five point lead but Bentley finds Trogele down low to cut it back down to three. Trogele gets called for a blocking foul to send Rayburn to the line and falls down hard. Purdue sinks one free throw for a 73-69 lead with 1:48 left.
Grant tries to draw the foul and throws up a shot that falls feet bellow the net and out of bounds- Purdue ball. A quick foul will send Purdue to the line with 26.3 seconds remaining. Howell misses the first free throw, a huge break for the Lady Lions but sinks the second. With no timeouts left, Washington watches as her players try to tie the game. And, again, Bentley does it. The freshman drives into the paint and puts up a shot that sinks through the net. A nice defensive stand by Penn State gives the Lady Lions the ball back with five seconds but a half-court heave by Bentley doesn't have enough power. We're going to overtime.
Nikki Greene forces the ball out of bounds but Purdue's Rayburn scores to give the Boilermakers the lead again. Washington calls her final timeout. Purdue up, 64-63 with 34.3 seconds to go.
And Alex Bentley does it. Without passing the ball off to any of her teammates she takes it to the basket herself and knocks down the layup while drawing a foul. The crowd erupts and Bentley responds by hitting her free-throw. The Penn State bench is feeling it now and Washington settles her players down as she comes up with a plan to try and hold Purdue and get the ball back. Penn State finally leads again, 63-62, with 56.7 seconds on the clock.
Purdue's Rayburn misses and Penn State knocks the ball out of bounds. After checking the scorer's table, the ref confirms the ball does not hit the rim. Purdue unable to hit the quick basket and gets called for a shot clock violation. Penn State calls a 30 second timeout with a chance to tie the game at 62. Only 1:07 remains for PSU to complete the comeback...
Grant comes out of the timeout and quickly cuts the lead to four. Purdue calls a 30 second timeout to talk things over, let's see if Penn State can hold them and get within two...Alex Bentley grabs the rebound and charges up the sideline and gets Penn State within striking distance. With only 1:38 remaining, Penn State is now down 62-60. Can they get win number seven in a row? We'll see what Washington draws up defensively.
Grant misses a three point attempt after the timeout but Penn State gets the ball right back with three minutes on the clock. After Grant misses another shot from long distance, the Lady Lions get the ball right back and the senior leader calls a heads up timeout after diving for a rebound. Penn State still down, 62-56 with 2:27 left.
Purdue misses its free-throw and Bentley comes up with another basket, giving her 15 points and the Lady Lions a seven point deficit. Nikki Greene overpowers Purdue down low and cuts the lead to five, picking up a foul in the process. Tyra Grant screams at her teammates to fire them up as Greene cuts it to four with six minutes left in the game. Marisa Wolfe commits a very, very stupid foul as Purdue's Rayburn had an easy layup. Rayburn hits the free throw and puts Purdue back up seven. After Wolfe picks up another foul Purdue goes back to the line. The Lady Lions not pleased with the crowd, raise their arms to a chorus of boo's from the Penn State crowd. After Penn State is unable to sustain a run, Tyra Grant manages to get fouled shooting a three. The senior converts converts only one of three. After Penn State steals the ball, Grant misses a layup. One ref calls travel, the other calls foul. Purdue gets the ball and the crowd gets to its feet angrily and lets the refs hear it. Penn State down, 62-56, with 3:36 left in this one.
Jodi Howell comes out of the timeout and makes a three for Purdue. On the offensive end, Grant misses a layup but Bentley comes out of nowhere to convert the putback and keep this game in striking distance. Bentley's aggressive defense leads to a foul on the defensive end and Purdue extends the lead back to eight points. Penn State has been playing with more heart and urgency this half and at times it has paid off. Washington is going to need Bentley and Grant to take over the game in the last ten minutes to make up for the constant fouls down low. As I type this, Wolff commits another one down low to give Purdue a chance for a three-point play. Shots continue to not drop for Penn State as Trogele misses on offense. After getting the ball back, Bentley runs up and hits a running jumper and Greene steals the ball on defense to give PSU the ball back but Meredith Monroe misses a jumper. Another foul on Penn State puts Purdue back on the line. With 7:22 in the game, Penn State down 57-48.
Alex Bentley taking this game into her own hands and steals the ball right out of a Purdue players hands before racing up court for an easy layup. The bench and crowd gets on its feet before Wilson scores for the Boilermakers to give Purdue the five point lead. After Zha Zha misses a three, Greene is called for the foul down low. Penn State down by five but playing with a purpose thanks to the play of Bentley. 11:12 remaining in the game, PSU down 49-44
Grant gets back to the line and connects on one of two free throws but after a Purdue travel Penn State regains possession. With the shot clock winding down, Grant forces a long three point attempt that doesn't fall. On the other end, Purdue's Ashley Wilson muscles her way to the hoop for two and a foul, but misses the extra shot. Trying to make something happen, Grant gets called for the offensive charge and Washington takes her out. After Purdue gambles and misses a three ball, Bentley charges up the court and finds Gray in the corner for the three to cut it to seven. On the next possession, Bentley races up the floor again and this time finds Trogele who hits the jumper. Purdue timeout with Penn State charging back. PSU down, 47-42
Thirty seconds into the half, Penn State commits its first foul of the half, Trogele's second. Bentley starts things off for Penn State, cutting the lead to two as she cuts through the Purdue defense. Trogele picks up her third foul and second of the half to send Purdue to the line. After hitting the free throw, Purdue extends the lead to seven points, its largest lead of the game. Grant gets fouled on the other end while shooting a three and hits two of her free throws as Washington sits on the scorer's table upset with her team's play. Purdue continues to answer back on the offensive end while Grant continues to answer back by drawing a foul. Grant gets things going for Penn State and makes a three pointer from the corner to cut the deficit to four points. Greene gets called for the foul and "communicates loudly with Marisa Wolfe" according to Lady Lions reporter Bill Landis. After Purdue hits both free throws, Grant turns the ball over and Rayburn hits the three ball on the opposite end. Washington calls a timeout with her team down nine and meets with the assistant coaches on the court before talking to her players. Penn State down, 45-36.
Thoughts at the half
Penn State is struggling. Luckily for the Lady Lions, they have found a way to only be down by four at the half. Turnovers and fouls have plagued the first half of play but Tyra Grant's 12 points as well as some strong play by Nikki Greene has kept PSU in the game. As we said in the podcast before the game, you never know what to expect from Purdue. They have beaten some good teams and they have lost to some bad teams. So far tonight, they have looked pretty good against the Lady Lions. If Penn State wants to stay in the Top 25 and eventually move up in the rankings, this is a game they need to win. A loss tonight, even with a win on the road against Michigan, will likely drop PSU back outside of the Top 25. Here are some first half stats:
-Both teams shooting very poorly- Penn State at 39.3 percent and Purdue at 33.3 percent.
-Both teams led by its star player- Tyra Grant leads PSU with 12 and Brittany Rayburn leads Purdue with 10.
-Purdue has gotten nine points off the bench while Penn State has gotten just four.
-Penn State leading with 16 points in the paint compared to Purdue's 10.
-Major difference so far? Eight steals by Purdue and only two by Penn State.
What kind of adjustments will Coquese Washington have her players make? Stay tuned to find out in the second half.
Purdue's Malone drills a three-point basket and puts her team back up by six. Nikki Greene picks up another basket down low and Purdue travels on the following possession. Lady Lions unable to convert anything on their last basket sending Penn State to the locker room down 33-29. From the looks of it, coach Coquese Washington doesn't look too happy going into the half. Let's see how her team responds to the challenge in the second period of play.
After Purdue extends the lead to six, Grant does what she does best- get to the free throw line. The senior sinks one of two shots but grabs the rebound on the defensive end, leading to a Marisa Wolfe basket to cut the lead to three. Purdue leads, 30-27.
Purdue comes out of the timeout and cuts the Penn State lead to one. Both teams trade turnovers and forced shots before Purdue finally takes the lead minutes later. Rayburn nails a three point basket from the corner to give the Boilermakers a 28-24 lead. The Lady Lions have looked very sloppy coming out of the last timeout as Washington slowly walks onto the court to talk to her point guard one-on-one during a timeout. While the Lady Lions have cut down on the foul, committing only one in the last few minutes, the turnovers have been a major problem. Let's see how Washington's players respond out of the timeout with 3:33 remaining in the first half.
Nikki Greene wide open under the basket grabs a pass by Bentley to put in the nifty lay-in after the timeout to tie the game. Greene follows it up on the defensive end with a block that goes off of a Purdue player to give the Lady Lions the ball again. Two free throws by Janessa Wolff gives Penn State the lead, 21-19. On the following possession, Greene shows just how much she has grown this season. Going up against a Purdue player, the freshman put her hands up and used her size to force the block instead of trying to swat the ball like in the past. Well done Nikki, well done. Bentley comes back on the offensive end and sinks a three pointer from the top of the key. A Purdue turnover on the following play sends us to another timeout. Penn State leading, 24-21.
Penn State picks up yet another foul to send Purdue to the line. A very undisciplined game so far for the Lady Lions compared to the Boilermakers. Penn State know has six fouls through seven minutes while Purdue has just one. The Lady Lions have looked pretty solid on the offensive end of the game when slowing things down but their defense and transition offense has made this a 15-15 game with 12:41 remaining in the half. Alex Bentley gets her first basket of the game to give Penn State the lead again but Purdue ties it back at 17.
After a quick start by Grant on the offensive end, Washington gives the senior a breather and brings back Gray into the lineup. Trogele whistled for a foul down low sending Purdue's Jones to the line for two. Purdue takes the lead thanks to a pair of turnovers by the Lady Lions including a failed pass by Bentley to her teammate Gray who wasn't paying attention to the ball. Washington takes out the two and replace them with Grant and Emily Phillips. Grant comes in and gives Penn State the lead again. However, Purdue makes a basket down low and draws the foul as well. Grant has been excellent on the offensive end so far for the Lady Lions with nine points but fouls and turnovers have made this a 12-11 game with 13:59 left in the first.
Washington subs Trogele out for Gray but after a foul by Gray, Trogele is back in the game. Purdue's Malone shows off her quickness driving through the Lady Lions defense with a layup to cut the lead to 9-5. Media timeout.
Purdue wins the opening tipoff and after an offensive rebound, Brittany Rayburn called for a travel down low thanks to solid Lady Lions defense.
Trogele drains a nice jumper to put the first points on the board. A big game by Trogele on the offensive end could make this a tough game for Purdue as the Lady Lions would have a third scorer behind Grant and Bentley.
Nikki Greene picks up a quick foul and Coquese Washington doesn't waste any time taking the young center out of the game for Janessa Wolff. PSU has been successful lately because players like Greene and Trogele have stayed out of foul trouble and an early foul by Greene is not a good start.
Grant comes up with two baskets on the offensive end, including a three pointer from the corner to give Penn State a 7-3 lead. The senior continues putting the ball in the basket with an underhanded layup to extend the lead to six.
Hey Lady Lion enthusiasts, Alex Angert here from the Bryce Jordan Center to bring you live coverage of tonight's basketball game. While the men's team may not be playing so well lately, the women are surging. A win tonight would give them seven in a row and further solidify Penn State's place towards the top of the Big Ten standings. Here's tonight's starting lineup:
The Lady Lions face an unpredictable team tonight in the Purdue Boilermakers. At times, the Boilermakers can be a very dangerous team. Just ask No. 4 Ohio State who Purdue shocked earlier this week or the teams that the Boilermakers upset last year in the NCAA tournament en route to an Elite Eight berth. Here is a closer look at tonight's opponent:
10-10, 5-4 Big Ten
Obviously the most impressive victory is the most recent one over the Buckeyes. Other than that win, the Boilermakers have been inconsistent in the conference. They beat a Minnesota team that overmatched Penn State earlier in the season but they were dominated by the Gophers three weeks later. Other losses include Michigan State, Wisconsin and a very good Georgetown team. Bottom Line- We don't know what to expect with this team.
Points- Brittany Rayburn, 14. 8
Rebounds- Sam Ostrallo, 5.5
Assists- FahKara Malone, 4.2
Purdue doesn't have a Jenna Smith, Allyssa DeHaan or a Jantel Lavender. Its best player is the sophomore Rayburn. She is the team's go-to player but she is also the only player averaging double figures this season. Purdue is the type of team that doesn't have two big scorers but rather eight players who average five points a game. The Boilermakers share the ball, and they spread the minutes out. Bottom Line- Shut down Rayburn and get a big game by Tyra Grant or Alex Bentley and the Lady Lions should win.
Jan. 15- Purdue won 59-48
Feb. 19- Purdue won 69-51
As you can see, Purdue had no problem with the Lady Lions last year. However, that was last year. Penn State is a completely new team this year and so is Purdue. Three of Purdue's starters from that team are gone as are three of Penn State's. The difference? Penn State's new freshmen have played a much bigger role than the Boilermakers thus far. Rayburn's role has greatly increased for Purdue so it will be interesting to see how Penn State handles her this time around. Bottom Line- Last year's games don't mean a thing.
Jared Starbird couldn't think of two better examples of model student-athletes than Kyle and Alan Mars.
Starbird coached both players at Gates-Chili High School and also had the brothers in his Principles of Engineering class, and was impressed with the duo's work ethic.
"They get to there early, they stay late," Starbird said. "Kyle and Alan are any coaches' or teachers dream. They're such hard workers."
Penn State coach Mark Pavlik noted that Alan sometimes gets frustrated when things don't go his way on the court, and his high school coach completely agreed.
"Alan was really, really tough on himself," Starbird said. "And volleyball is a sport where you need a short term memory, and to just forget about the last play. I tried to help him remember that."
Starbird was the JV/Assistant Varsity Coach when Alan played for the Spartans. Starbird knew Alan was good - "He was absolutely one of the biggest talents in the country," he said - but was unsure of how far his abilities could take him.
"I played a little in college, but at a Division-III level so it was tough for me to gauge what Division-I-caliber play looked like," Starbird said. "But once Alan went to Penn State, I knew that Kyle was developing into a very skilled player and knew he too could go to a top program."
Starbird, who was the head varsity coach for most of Kyle's Spartan career, wasn't the only one who noticed the younger Mars' potential. At a tournament in Rochester, Starbird remembers Kyle receiving extra attention from opposing players.
"At the net the other team had this UCLA recruit, and he was one of three players who was 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7," he said. "The three of them were on the front line and put a triple block up against Kyle, but he was just ripping through it."
The Penn State men's basketball team may still be searching for its first conference win, but 20 games into the season, the Nittany Lions may have finally solved their biggest non-record question: who will help Talor Battle score points?
Babb struggled for a couple of games after breaking his finger, but for the most part he has had a very productive conference season. His shooting percentage has gone up -- he was 6-for-12 from the floor in the last two games -- and he has developed a game off the bounce instead of simply settling for 3-pointers.
Jackson has become Talor Battle's biggest option down low once he drives, consistently using back-door cuts and screens to get open around the rim. The result: nine points and five boards per game.
Of all the negatives discussed at head coach Ed DeChellis' postgame press conference, the balanced scoring was the only topic he acknowledged as a positive.
"I think we had three guys that scored in double-figures tonight," DeChellis said. "That's all positive. That's all good stuff -- [Babb] and DJ and Talor. Hopefully we continue to build off of that."
Phil Mickelson started his press conference at Torrey Pines on Wednesday saying golf needs Tiger Woods.
It was the only statement he made about Woods' off-the-course situation and said he wouldn't publicly address the matter anymore.
His only words said enough.
When golf's second-hand man publicly acknowledges he -- and hundreds of other golfers -- can't keep the ship afloat, you know you have a problem, Mr. Finch.
The PGA commissioner can't be feeling comfortable when his second-biggest star refutes the claim the sport can survive without Woods, as Finch has said.
For the record, we agree with Mickelson.
Golf already is a four-tournament season.
One man keeps it from becoming even less than that.
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What might a Brian Kelly recruiting class look like? A first-year high school special teams coach could bring a quality recruiting class to Notre Dame on sheer desire. Interestingly, Kelly's approach might not directly reflect that kind of will, a Sports Illustrated story suggests.
Kelly's gearing up to coach with the big boys. He did a heck of job at Cincinnati, running along side the big boys until one of them smashed the mid-major boys that he had been coaching right up until the big game/aforementioned smashing, the Sugar Bowl.
And even though his new employer, Notre Dame, hasn't been living up to its biggest-boy name, I think we can agree that as far as recruiting goes, Notre Dame is still Notre Dame, bringing in strong recruiting classes no matter the previous season's record. And Cincinnati is still Cincinnati at least until they can prove they can hang at the top. With respect to recruiting, it's major league (ND) and AAA (Cincy).
A recent SportsIllustrated.cnn.com story relates Kelly's history of passing up the blue chips in favor of the three-star guys that the top programs left behind. He's even quoted as saying last April, "I'm not comfortable with the four-star guys." And later adding, "I don't really know that my philosophy has changed relative to the process."
Kelly is now at a school that will be able to recruit off its name and history for at least a few years to come, even if they continue their lackluster ways. That means that whether he likes it or not, he is going to have to get comfortable recruiting the big boys -- the four- and five-star high school recruits. ND will not be happy with anything less -- and will be even less amused at the kind of bruising his Cincy boys got from Florida.
("But Florida would have done that to a lot of major programs!" Sorry, in the Golden Domes of ND fans, the Irish are always favored to win -- or at least compete.)
SI reports that Kelly's got a few big shots on the line already. (Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he's going after the stars, and he'll get a few at least.)
It'll be interesting to see just how many and how big his recruits are following a coaching change.
Either way, the big story won't be written until this time a couple years from now, when critics discuss just how well he prepared his catches to step into senior roles and win games. That was always his predecessor's problem. Chuck got the players, but didn't win the games. We'll see what Kelly's approach will change.
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Who was the first team to hit 20 wins this season?
No, not Kentucky or Texas. Not Villanova or Syracuse. Not Michigan State, Duke or any team from a major basketball conference, for that matter.
In fact, the Mountain West's Brigham Young Cougars hold that honor after beating San Diego State on Saturday.
BYU, ranked 12th in Monday's AP poll and 10th in the ESPN/USA poll, has never advanced farther than the regional final in the NCAA tournament, and its only been that far twice. The Cougars have won the NIT twice (in 1951 and '66, back when that meant something). They've won three conference tournaments. And that's about it for the men's program's achievements in Provo.
They may have lost at New Mexico Wednesday night, but look out for the Stormin' Mormons come March. They can spread the ball around, with almost four players averaging double-digit points per game (Brazilian senior Jonathan Tavernari is putting up 9.6 ppg).
As a team, BYU shoots well overall (50.7 percent from the field), from the foul line (77.6 percent) and from downtown (41.6 percent from the 3-point arc). And Jimmer Fredette is a pretty nice go-to guy, leading the team in points and assists.
You can have your Wildcats. I'll stick with the Cougars once the tourney starts (at least for a little while).
The addition of Kyle Mars -- younger brother of redshirt junior Alan -- has worked out well for Penn State. Kyle, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter, has made an immediate impact for the No. 5 Nittany Lions, playing in all three sets of the team's sweep over Springfield College last weekend, registering four kills in the match.
Gates-Chili High School, however, isn't doing as well. The Spartans are struggling to fill the void left by Mars, a four-year varsity starter, and they are the first to admit it.
Here is a video produced by MPNnow.com documenting Gates-Chili's transition into life after Mars:
This week for the Stat Book we will take a look at senior outside hitter Will Price's serving statistics and how they compare to his teammates.
Serving has been a struggle all season long for the Nittany Lions, and Price has proven to be a bright spot in Penn State's serving rotation.
Here we are with this week's Stat Book...
Price has 16 aces on the season and 13 errors, making him the only player on the team with a better than 1/1 ace to error ratio.
The next closest is Freshman Tom Comfort who has seven aces and seven errors for exactly 1/1.
Despite being the leader on the team in aces, Price is only tied for second with his 13 errors with Freshman Ian Hendries. Hendries is a jump float server, which is a more conservative approach, and he doesn't have any aces to go along with his 13 errors for the lowest ratio on the team with 0/13.
Price is five errors, or .83 per match, away from sophomore Joe Sunder and senior Max Lipsitz's 18 errors. Sunder sports a respectable 11/18 ace to error ratio, while Lipsitz is another float server and sports a 2/18 or 1/9 ratio.
Price averages .76 aces per set, which is ahead of Sunder's .52 average for the team lead.
The Lions have struggled all season long, and if the Lions want to compete with the better competition on the West Coast, or even their next opponents this weekend in Chicago, they will need the Sunders and Comforts of the world to have ratios a little closer to Price's and the Hendries' and Lipstiz's to bring down the errors.
PSU showed signs of improvement Tuesday against Juniata. Price again led the Lions with four aces and just one error. Lipsitz came into Tuesday night averaging four errors per match and only finished with two. Hendries, on the other hand, went backwards. He came into Tuesday averaging less than two errors per match and had four against the Eagles.
Look for PSU to continue to iron out its serving woes as the season continues.
Game of the Night: No. 16 Wisconsin at No. 12 Purdue
This is a prime opportunity for the Boilermakers to earn a signature win against one of the best teams in the conference. But it's also revenge time. Purdue was undefeated and ranked fourth in the country in early January, but dropped the Jan. 9 game to Wisconsin in Madison, 73-66, to start a three-game skid.
The Boilermakers have since recovered, beating Illinois and Michigan in their last two games, but this one means a lot. The Badgers have a target on their back.
Nittany Lion fans have seen the Badgers beat Penn State twice already and may be familiar with their game. It's a balanced offense led by Trevon Hughes but supported by four other players averaging eight points a game.
This would be a tough road victory in West Lafayette, though, to sweep the season series.
Prediction: Purdue 72 - Wisconsin 63
Player to Watch: Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
Aminu is considered by many as one of the top NBA prospects in college basketball. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is projected as a top 10 draft pick by many outlets. He's a big dude who averages 16.9 points and 11.4 rebounds a game in the ACC -- it's no wonder why he's so highly coveted. His athleticism is really impressive, too. But NBA scouts love when prospects face other big name prospects. He'll face Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors tonight, who at 6-foot-10 will likely guard Aminu.
They're pretty similar players, so both will battle against each other for a chance to distance themselves from each other. Whenever these talented players face each other, they usually raise their games to higher levels. That's great for the college basketball audience. Favors put up 17 points and 14 rebounds in the Yellow Jackets' last home game, but he has yet to really emerge as a scorer. He hasn't topped 20 points yet. Consider this a chance for Aminu to show the talented freshman who's boss.
As per Hardwood Hits tradition, here is an individual grade for each player for their performance in tonight's 77-67 loss to Illinois.
Talor Battle: B
Battle didn't score until the 9:50 mark in the first half, but going quickly with three 3-pointers in less than two minutes. DeChellis said he pulled Battle from the game to get him a quick breather, as well as in the second half. I'm wondering if his ankle is still bothering him at all. In my opinion, he wasn't the same dominating guard fans have become accustomed to watching. Against Illinois last year, he won the game for the Lions. He missed two big free throws down the stretch with 1:24 left, which would have brought the game to a manageable five point deficit.
Chris Babb: A
Babb put up a career high scoring effort for the second straight game, putting up 18 tonight on 6-of-12 shooting. It was only the sixth time all year he shot 50 percent or better from the field. The Arlington, Tx., native looked confident shooting the ball and he hit the 3-pointer to give the Lions their first lead of the game with 15:51 to go.
Bill Edwards: C+
Edwards was basically non-existent in the second half and only scored two points in the game. He didn't have a field goal (only points came at the free throw line) and didn't grab any rebounds. He had a couple nice passes driving through the lane, but DeChellis has to expect more out of a starting forward.
DJ Jackson: B
Jackson was his normal self, scoring double-digit points for the eighth time this season (13 points). He surprisingly only hit on 4-of-11 of his field goal attempts, one of his worst percentages of the year.
Andrew Ott: B-
Ott wasn't very productive tonight, only managing four points and three rebounds in 21 minutes. Drew Jones outperformed him tonight, so I wouldn't be entirely surprised if he got the starting spot back from Ott.
Drew Jones: B
Jones showed flashes of his old self tonight. He caught a pass in traffic and hit a 12-foot jumper from Battle. He grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed foul shot, created space and hit a layup. Problem was, he stepped out of bounds before he hit the shot. But it was a confident move and he had a couple of them tonight.
Jeff Brooks: C+
Brooks played 19 minutes and only managed three points on 1-of-5 shooting. We've seen him struggle once again, which is a shame given his talent.
Tim Frazier: C
Nothing special from him. He got rejected on a layup attempt by Illinois' Bill Cole, which garnered boo's from the crowd.
Cammeron Woodyard & Adam Highberger: No Grade
Neither guard played the minimum 10 minute requirement to earn a grade, but if I could grade Woodyard, it'd be an F. He shot the ball twice from 3-point range and airballed his shot twice. I think he'd agree with this grade, too. He's in the game to make shots and he couldn't even draw iron tonight.
Cael Sanderson sat down with Jeff Byers for his weekly radio show. Here are some of the topics the two discussed:
1. Look back at the Illinois match- Sanderson said the Penn State crowd "was awesome." He said it is a dream for a wrestler to step out there and represent the Nittany Lions in front of such a large crowd. He mentioned Adam Lynch's pin as one of the moments that stuck out from the dual. Sanderson said it was a big win for the team, and the wrestlers have a lot to be happy about.
2. Look back at the Ohio State match- Sanderson said the Lions know they can compete, and it doesn't matter who they're wrestling. He thought the team had a lot of opportunities to beat the Buckeyes, but believed just being in that meet helped the team realize its potential. "It shows us we're getting to a position where we're making progress," Sanderson said.
3. On his coaching style- Sanderson said it was a combination of his experiences under his dad and coach Bobby Douglas. He believes coach Douglas is the best technique coach in the world, while his dad was good at establishing a good attitude.
4. Looking ahead- The coach said he's always looking to make progress, and acknowledged that he's surrounded himself with great people as he recognized his assistant coaches. He has a ton of confidence in them and relies on them. Sanderson said they're all working together and will never be satisfied. He said his dad has often told him to steal good ideas. "If you see other coaches doing things well, or you see something you like, just do it," Sanderson said.
5. Patience as a coach- Sanderson said patience is part of the learning curve as a coach, and he's still settling in. He admitted to losing his patience over the weekend and got on the team a little bit, but said he's going to focus on the positives and make sure the team is having fun.
6. Situation at 197-pounds- Sanderson said he's been real happy with Clay Steadman. He said Steadman always wrestles hard in practice and has the potential to be an All-American if he believes in his shots. Sanderson believes David Crowell can also compete at a national level and has some good things to build off of from his last match.
7. Looking ahead to Iowa- Sanderson and the team are excited to go up against the No. 1 team at Iowa. He said Iowa is a very solid team, and it will be a tough test for all of the Lions. Sanderson said the environment created by the Penn State crowd against Illinois helped prepare the team for what it will see in Iowa City.
8. Individual matchups- Sanderson talked about three wrestlers in particular with Byers. He said 125-pounder Brad Pataky has had a good week, and the coaches know he can beat anyone in the country. He'll be facing undefeated freshman Matt McDonough, ranked fourth in the nation.
Sanderson believed Frank Molinaro had a good showing against Ohio State's Lance Palmer and knows he can compete with the best. That's what he'll be facing in No. 1 Brent Metcalf of Iowa. Sanderson said Molinaro needs to go out and compete and can't just dodge bullets from Metcalf. The Lions' coach said this of Molinaro: "The bigger the match, the better he's going to wrestle."
Finally, Sanderson said Dan Vallimont has phenomenal shots, and amazing speed. It just comes down to the 165-pounder having fun. Sanderson said he can have a good weekend as he takes on the No. 5 and No. 1 wrestlers in his weight class.
That's going to do it for this game. Penn State drops a 77-67 decision to the Illini, marking their eighth straight loss in Big Ten play and overall. Make sure to grab a copy of Thursday's Collegian to get our biting commentary on tonight's game.
Illinois leads Penn State 68-62, 1:13 to go
Ed DeChellis was yelling across the court for Chris Babb to come get the ball as the Lions advanced the ball down the court. He didn't move much, but the Lions found him and the sophomore rattled in the 3-pointer for his 17th point of the game.
Penn State continues to foul the Illini, which it started doing at the 3:20 mark.
Illinois leads Penn State 66-59, 1:45 to go
After a possession in which DeChellis burned two timeouts, the Lions couldn't draw iron on a shot.
Chris Babb was forced to take a ridiculous, streetball-esque 3-pointer in which he didn't have his feet set. Shot clock violation.
Looks like the Lions are out of this one. The crowd is silent and the Lions aren't scoring easily.
Illinois leads Penn State 61-53, 3:02 to go
The Illini have made two really, really tough shots on their last two possessions. Dominique Keller hit the last one, a leaner on the baseline with the shot clock expiring. Before that, Mike Davis hit an unlikely fade away on the baseline, also with the shot clock expiring.
Penn State isn't getting any help from Lady Luck. The Lions will have to convert on offense in the final three minutes to get this victory.
The game's leading scorer, sophomore Chris Babb, missed two open 3-pointers, but Andrew Ott scored on a Talor Battle miss to cut the lead to two.
It's another barnburner between Illinois and Penn State.
Battle stole the ball at half court and deked out Mike Tinsdale but missed the layup. Ott was there to clean up the garbage.
Illinois leads Penn State 55-51, 7:40 to go
The Fighting Illini have found their shooting strokes, going on a 7-0 run in a two-minute span to take the lead and the momentum back from the Lions.
The BJC was silent as Penn State called a timeout after Mike Davis' field goal. They just got a little more hyped after the playing of "Shout," as voted upon by fans in a text-messaging poll.
Battle hasn't defended well all night -- and left Bill Cole open for a 3-pointer and also let D.J. Richardson get open for an open jumper.
Penn State leads Illinois 48-46, 11:58 to go
The Nittany Lions have slowed down offensively, but they're still looking solid on defense. The great D caused Illinois to have a shot clock violation and Illinois isn't getting the same open shots they were finding in the first half.
Jeff Brooks had an awesome blocked shot on Bill Cole, but Jackson got whistled for a foul 10 seconds later as Illinois retained possession. Jackson earned two fouls in a minute span.
Penn State leads Illinois 46-42, 14:52 to go
The BJC is rocking after a Chris Babb 3-pointer and a D.J. Jackson layup to seize the lead for the time being. It's the first lead they've had since being up 2-0 in the game's first minute.
Battle found Jackson cutting down the lane to finish the play and complete a 13-2 run to open up action in the second half.
Penn State has dominated the glass and loose balls in the early going, too. Looks like Illinois may be cooling down.
Illinois leads Penn State 42-41, 16:39 to go
The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 8-2 run to start the half with some nice passing and slick shooting. They've only missed one shot so far in the second half.
Chris Babb had a nice catch-n-shoot 3-pointer on the wing and D.J. Jackson got open underneath and caught a Battle pass to close the game to one point, drawing a Bruce Weber timeout. It's the loudest the crowd has been since the THON line dance at halftime.
Illinois leads Penn State at the half, 40-33. The Fighting Illini are shooting 56 percent from the floor, most of those shots coming on wide open jumpers or second chances.
Illinois' freshman guard Brandon Paul is perfect from the floor and has 10 points already. He didn't even score in the first meeting between the two teams and only played seven minutes. He's tearing it up so far.
Junior 6-foot-9 forward Bill Cole is a perfect 3-of-3 from the 3-point line for nine points.
Battle leads all scorers with 11 points, nine of which came in a two-minute span. Babb has seven, Jackson has five and Drew Jones has four. Jones has been playing more confidently -- he's 2-for-2 from the floor and grabbed two rebounds in nine minutes of action.
Penn State has outrebounded all of its Big Ten opponents thus far this year, but it is getting beat 16-11 on the boards at the half. This is a trend to keep an eye on in the second half.
Illinois leads 36-26, 2:31 to go in the first half
Battle caught fire with three consecutive 3-pointers in a two-minute span, which brought the Lions within three points (29-26). Then, Battle exited the game and the Illini responded with seven straight points to push the lead to 10 points.
Illinois is shooting 63 percent from 3-point range (7-of-11). Freshman guard Brandon Paul hit a devastating 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring for the last Illini points.
Illinois leads 26-17, 7:30 to go in the first half
Talor Battle scored his first points of the game at the 9:50 mark, hitting a jump shot on the baseline. He didn't look good on defense a couple possessions later, though, getting burned backdoor by freshman guard D.J. Richardson.
Freshman guard Tim Frazier entered the game for the Lions, and his first shot attempt didn't turn out too well. He got rejected by junior forward Bill Cole, garnering some boo's from the crowd.
Richardson leads all scorers with 8 points and D.J. Jackson leads Penn State with 5.
Illinois leads 22-13, 11:23 to go in the 1st half
Jeff Brooks passed two teammates on two consecutive plays, great looks, resulting in four quick points for the Lions. (two free throws by D.J. Jackson and a dunk by Drew Jones) Then Brooks missed an easy leaner in the paint on the next possession.
Brooks is being guarded by freshman Illini Brandon Paul, who is listed at 6-foot-4. Brooks should be dominating him in the post.
Illinois hasn't cooled off yet -- Mike Davis came off the bench and hit a jumper at the elbow to add to the lead.
Quick start for the Illini. Penn State grabbed its first lead in the last two games early off a nice drive by Chris Babb, but the Fighting Illini found their shot.
They lead 20-9 at the 13:16 mark as DeChellis burns a 30-second timeout before the first media timeout, which will likely come in the next minute.
Illinois is shooting the lights out thus far, 8-for-10 from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Forward Bill Cole and freshman D.J. Richardson both have 6 points with two 3-pointers a piece.
The lineups have been announced and we're about to get underway at the Bryce Jordan Center. Steve Hennessey here with the live blog of tonight's action.
Penn State is still searching for its first conference victory and tonight will likely be another good opportunity. In the last nine meetings between the Fighting Illini and the Lions, five of those games have been decided by one point.
That's including Illinois' 54-53 win 15 days ago, but this time it's in front of the BJC crowd.
Here are tonight's starting lineups, the same one coach Ed DeChellis has put on the floor the last two games:
It's absurdly early tip-off night at the Bryce Jordan Center. Seriously, though, both teams are warming up on THON night, with all individual ticket sales going to the dance marathon.
Illinois is wearing their dark blue uniforms instead of the really-works-everywhere orange they used to knock off PSU 15 days ago. Hennessey will be along to provide a live blog once the game actually gets rolling, but until then, here's a few things to watch.
Close game alert: A lot has been made of the close series between these two teams and after a one-point loss at Assembly Hall, its a pretty valid point. Last year's meeting at the BJC ended with a 64-63 win over the Illini so we're anxious to see if this year's game goes to the wire as well.
PG war: Talor Battle is leading Penn State in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Demetri McCamey leads Illinois at 15.4 ppg and was the difference in the first meeting, dropping 25 and the clinching 3-pointer. With two candidates for All-Big Ten going at it, this game cold well be decided by whichever guard makes the last play.
Where's the help: The Nittany Lions got a whopping zero points off the bench last time out at Wisconsin. Talking to players and coach Ed DeChellis this week, they aren't too worried about the lack of production but would like to see the bench step up and be consistent.
With that, we'll take a step back and Steve will return with starters and the beginning of action.
Each day this week, we will examine a different team in the American Lacrosse Conference. We are saving Penn State for next week, when we will examine each facet of the 2010 Nittany Lions.
Today's ALC team: Florida
Final 2009 record: N/A
Against Penn State: N/A
2010 Game against Penn State: April 3, Gainesville
Last season: N/A
Outlook: In the inaugural season of Gator lacrosse, Coach Amanda O'Leary hopes to hit the ground running. Her roster features 24 freshmen and a few upperclassmen from other schools or club teams. The inexperience will likely lead to freshmen errors teams like Penn State or Northwestern would avoid.
But O'Leary has been recruiting for a few years now and this team won't need a long time to catch up to the rest of the conference. The Gators will host Vanderbilt and Penn State and make the trips to Northwestern, Ohio State and Johns Hopkins to round out conference play.
Obviously there is no history to base our prediction on, but with the attitude and style of O'Leary and the excitement in Gainesville, this team will quickly find success.
On Monday, I did an interview with Frank Seravalli. Icers fans will recognize the name, as he is the brother of forward Nick Seravalli. He is also the Flyers beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News.
We talked about a longer piece I am working on about composite sticks, which are an issue at every level of the sport. But we also talked about the state of the NHL and some current topics. Among the topics he discussed was the Stephane Auger/Alex Burrows controversy, and the possible trade of Atlanta forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
In the near future, I hope to put up a couple more audio clips from the interview, especially pertaining to the composite sticks when that comes to fruition. But for right now, here is Seravalli talking about the compact Eastern Conference playoff race:
Regardless of the meaning of tonight's game, here are some keys for the Lions to snap their seven-game losing streak:
1. No drop off
Yeah, it sounds funny for a team that hasn't won in its last seven games, but the Lions played their best game of the season Sunday at Wisconsin until the final two minutes. If they play as well as they did on Sunday, they should be the better team on the floor tonight. But the Lions have struggled with consistency all season. More of the same could mean an 0-8 start to the Big Ten season.
2. Take care of the ball
Eighteen turnovers led to 33 points in Madison on Sunday. Coach Ed DeChellis' take:
"Some of them are very careless. We don't understand how important that ball is. We don't understand how much of a possession game this thing is. And if we don't turn it over there, and if you're not careless with it, there's two they don't get. We made some feeds to the post that had no chance of getting there."
3. Bench points
The Lions had 16 points from Chris Babb on Sunday and got some key buckets down low from Andrew Ott. Both Babb and Ott have stepped up before, but they have rarely been able to string two of those games together. That's why scoreless bench performances like the Lions got on Sunday from Drew Jones, Jeff Brooks and Tim Frazier will be unacceptable. Although, some consistency from Babb and Ott wouldn't hurt either.
It is a matchup of two tournament-bound teams in the Big East, so it almost has to be our game of the night. But given the fact that the Irish play in the nation's deepest conference, yet are still short on quality wins, this game takes on an even greater meaning.
The Irish, led by potential All-American, Luke Harangody, are seen as a fringe team in a Big East conference with several established teams. This is in part due to their lack of past tournament success and poor record against quality opposition. A win tonight would finally give the Irish some credibility.
Unfortunately for head coach Mike Brey, they are playing Villanova on the road. Not an easy thing to do. The Cats are one of the nation's deepest teams -- specifically at guard -- and have seven players averaging more than 8.5 points per game. Scottie Reynolds may be right up there with Harangody and Syracuse's Wesley Johnson for Big East player of the year, but stopping the Cats isn't as simple as stopping one man.
Prediction: Villanova 78, Notre Dame 67
Player to watch: Jimmer Fredette, BYU
The Cougars are a legitimate top-10 team (despite the lack of a quality win) and Jimmer Fredette is their best player. So why hasn't the guard from New York gotten more attention?
If Fredette played on any other team in the nation, he would be receiving All-American attention, but he plays for the Cougars and has been pushed to the backburner. Not convinced of his talent? Have a look:
Despite the lack of fanfare, a 20-1 record is probably good enough consolation for him. Tonight he faces a New Mexico team looking to solidify its case as an NCAA-tournament caliber team. Should be a fun matchup to watch once the Penn State game ends.
It Was Over When...: The Nittany Lions went on a 9-1 run to start the first set. It became clear that Juniata -- the nation's top ranked Divison-III school -- was no match for a D-I power like Penn State.
Player of the Match: Ian Hendries. The frosh showed great composure in his fourth career start. The Cardif, Calif., native posted six kills on .750 hitting.
Stat of the Match: .000 -- Freshman Tom Comfort's hitting percentage. After starting his collegiate career with a bang, the rookie from Orchard Park, N.Y., has struggled since returning from Hawaii, and was one of the few Lions who could not find consistency in tonight's match.
Surprise of the Match: Penn States' serving woes -- something that has plagued the team early on this season -- seemed to ease up a bit tonight. The Lions did have 11 serving errors, but they also had seven serving aces, including four from outside hitter Will Price.
Quotable: "Grade my own performance? I don't think I'm going to go down that road." -Senior captain Will Price on evaluating his effort against the Eagles.
Still not satisfied with his team's performances this season, coach Steve Shephard is contemplating shuffling up the lineup for Saturday's meet.
The No. 19 Lions host a pair of ranked teams, including No. 1 Alabama, which claimed the top spot with a 197.450 this weekend, by far the highest single-meet score in the country this season. Minnesota, ranked 23rd, also visits Rec Hall on Saturday.
Beam has been the Lions' Achilles heel all season, and the situation didn't improve during their home opener last Saturday. The Lions fell four times, counting two, and for the third time this season, failed to top 48.000 on the event.
Shephard said change is "always a possibility" on beam. Asked if change was probable, Shephard said he will discuss any possible changes on beam tomorrow with assistant coach Jess Bastardi, who has been away from the team all week for personal reasons.
Beam isn't the only event Shephard may switch up, though. Changes could be coming at bars, as well. One possible change could be the insertion of freshman Madison Merriam into the bars lineup, potentially as early as this weekend. Merriam, performing in an exhibition role, outscored a pair of Lions on bars this past weekend.
"[Madison] has a real good chance of getting in on bars," Shephard said. "She's hit both times we've put her in exhibition."
The message is clear from Shephard, though: nobody is safe from change.
President Barack Obama unknowingly gave Kentucky the kiss of death when he praised the Wildcats for raising money to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.
Obviously no one can fault the man, or the team. John Calipari's squad helped bring in $1 million in the "Hoops for Haiti" telethon, an act of kindness and charity that prompted the Prez to call the 'Cats' coach and offer his thanks.
A wonderful gesture. A touching lending of a hand to those in need. A well-deserved token of appreciation.
Unfortunately, that's where the good times ended.
Kentucky freshman DeMarcus Cousins told Obama he looked forward to meeting him personally at the White House after the season -- a custom for the winners of the NCAA tournament.
Here's how Obama responded: "The way you guys are going, that may happen."
That story ran on ESPN.com at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, a mere half-hour before Kentucky took on SEC-foe South Carolina in Columbia.
About two hours later, the No. 1 Wildcats fell flat against the Gamecocks, dropping to 19-1 and leaving no more undefeated teams in Division I.
I'm sure this was all just a big coincidence. After all, Kentucky is really good -- but let's face it, the Wildcats weren't running the table this year. They have Vanderbilt and Mississippi up next on the schedule, and at least one of those would likely have been a loss regardless of what Obama did.
That said, I just hope this bad juju doesn't rattle the Saints too much.
* * * * *
Really Paul Shirley? Really?
You're funny at times. You sold your "outsider-as-an-insider" gimmick pretty well, even parlaying it into a book about your time as an NBA benchwarmer.
But your thoughts on Haiti are simply mind-boggling. I won't link it to it here, sparing you the satisfaction of another hit for your shock-value blog.
Don't want to donate money? Fine. No one has to tell you how to use your "hard-earned" cash. Don't want to see all of the damage done to that country? You're probably (and unfortunately) not alone.
But did you really have to go this far?:
Dear Haitians - First of all, kudos on developing the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Your commitment to human rights, infrastructure, and birth control should be applauded. As we prepare to assist you in this difficult time, a polite request: If it's possible, could you not re-build your island home in the image of its predecessor? Could you not resort to the creation of flimsy shanty- and shack-towns? And could some of you maybe use a condom once in a while?
Sincerely, The Rest of the World
Right. I mean, if they were like us, they could be doing constructive things with their time and health and money -- like denigrating poorer countries for not being able to do the same.
Each day this week, we will examine a different team in the American Lacrosse Conference. We are saving Penn State for next week, when we will examine each facet of the 2010 Nittany Lions.
Today's ALC team: Johns Hopkins
Final 2009 record: 5-12, 0-4 ALC
Against Penn State: 12-11 Loss
2010 Game against Penn State: April 25, University Park
Last season: Hopkins struggled on the road as it went winless in six road games and one neutral-site game, and it posted a .500 record at home. The Jays' season ended after a 14-8 loss to Vanderbilt in the first round of the ALC tournament.
Outlook: Last season was a breakout year for young Blue Jays Candace Rossi and Colleen McCaffrey. As freshmen, Rossi led the Blue Jays with 29 goals and 33 points and McCaffrey was second with 28 goals and 32 points. Also returning is senior midfielder Angela Hughes, who led the team in ground balls (22) and caused turnovers (22) and posted 13 points. Hughes was named First-Team All-ALC.
The 2010 schedule features a five-game home stand followed by a grueling road-trip with visits to Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Penn State. The three make up Hopkins biggest opponents this season and biggest competition for ALC glory.
The Jays must improve on the road this year for a shot at an ALC crown or NCAA berth. With Rossi, Hughes and McCaffrey leading the way, the potential is certainly there for Hopkins to surprise the ALC. Though the Jays will continue to improve with age, postseason play is unlikely this year as their most challenging games are away from home.
The last time we updated you on Tyra Grant's quest to become just the fourth ever Lady Lion with 2000 career points, she had just moved into sixth place on the list with 1,739 points.
Her 15 points in Sunday's victory against Illinois gave her enough points to pass the 1,8000 point mark and a current total of 1,811.
While the Lady Lions have been hot these past two weeks since Grant moved into sixth place, her scoring numbers have dipped a little bit. It's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm sure coach Coquese Washington would much rather see Grant get nine assists and a win instead of 30 points and a loss.
Her last four games went as followed: 20 points against Iowa, 23 points against Michigan State, 14 points against Wisconsin and 15 against Illinois.
Those numbers have her more than 150 points off of reaching Suzie McConnell for fifth place on the all-time list.
As we tweeted earlier, forward George Saad's status is still uncertain after he suffered a knee injury last weekend.
Saad said today at practice he is getting an MRI on his right knee Thursday, followed by a trip to the doctor Friday for a diagnosis. Saad said it's suspected to be a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury, but he hopes it's only a sprain, which he said will allow him to return in a couple of weeks. Saad had crutches at practice today.
"I can walk on it and everything, I just have a brace and they give me the crutches as a precaution," Saad said. "I'm only getting the MRI to see if it's my [anterior cruciate ligament]. Hopefully it's not, it's just my MCL and I'll be back in a couple of weeks."
Saad said if it is a tear, he was told he'd be out four to eight weeks.
He injured the knee Friday night, after he had a knee-on-knee collision with another player during the Icers' 3-1 win at West Chester.
"I was skating down the side boards, went to do a power move outside, and a kid went up to hit me," Saad said. "And his knee came out and clipped the side of my knee. My knee kind of buckled in. Felt kind of weird at first, but I went back to bench, wasn't feeling too bad so I went out next shift, took the faceoff and then just couldn't take it."
Saad also said he hurt the same knee two years ago on a similar type of play.
"I stretched my ACL and MCL very badly, I almost tore both of them and needed surgery," Saad said. "But I was fortunate, definitely. So I'm hoping this is pretty much just the same thing with the MCL."
K-State already has its statement win, an upset over then No.1 Texas, but Baylor is still seeking that key victory. The Wildcats are looking to bounce back from a loss to Oklahoma State, but with a bout with No.2 Kansas waiting, the Golden Bears are primed to strike.
Baylor, last year's NIT runner-up also has a huge matchup with Texas this weekend, so expect both teams to come out fired up and using this matchup as a test before the weekend. This game's big matchup will be a guard battle between Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn and his 19.3 ppg and K-State's Jacob Pullen at 18.8 ppg. Whichever team wins this matchup will not only have a big win on their resume, but plenty of momentum heading into a huge weekend match.
Prediciton: Baylor 73 - K-State 68
Player to Watch: Lazar Hayward, Marquette Forward
Marquette has struggled in the Big East this year, holding a 2-5 record in conference, but Hayward has done all he can for the Golden Eagles. The senior forward is averaging 18.4 ppg with 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. Hayward's overall numbers are down from last season, its to be expected after losing three guards who played four years in the same system. With sub-.500 Rutgers on the docket tonight, Hayward should find room to post some solid numbers.
Last night, in a thrilling contest, LeBron James and the Cavs bested Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, 92-91. Both James and Wade finished with 32 points but a closer look at the game shows not only why James had the better night, but why Cleveland won.
At halftime, Wade had 30 points. Thirty! That type of insane production was followed by two points in the second half. Not only that, but Wade missed two big foul shots with less than a minute to go and a buzzer beater that could have won the game. Miami as a team was 1-6 in the fourth quarter from the charity stripe, which is a killer for any squad.
On the other hand, James had 12 points in the second half, including two huge free throws (a notorious shortcoming of his) with four seconds to go to put Cleveland ahead.
While it would be too much to read into this one game and say that LeBron is definitively the better player, he did have the better game last night and I would personally take James over Wade.
As another note, in his last three games, LeBron has defeated Kobe, Kevin Durant and D-Wade. Impressive stuff right there.
To wrap this recap up, enjoy the top play of last night's game, courtesy of King James.
I'll Play 'Ya For It:
I'm not sure many of us remember this commercial, seeing as it ran 17 years ago during the Super Bowl, but if you believe the rumors, a remake is in the works for this year's game with LeBron James and Dwight Howard.
Over the weekend, I read this interview with Jim Ferguson -- part of the team that developed the ad -- about the original ad and some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that went into it.
For example, Larry Bird had to ask Jordan to play for the meal because of MJ's gambling issues (stemming from tape of him surfacing gambling in a casino the night before a game).
Although most of the shots are obviously done through editing, Larry wasn't too happy with that. Bird evidently wanted to figure out if he could actually hit the shot off the scoreboard. If Larry Bird is going to make a buck off his talent while fattening America up, he's going to do it right! Not with any of your space-age editing tricks!
Also, Jordan's oh-so-very 90s outfit was included in the ad because of a clause in the contract that stated Mike got to wear his own brand's clothes. It's good to see that a lot of Jordan's clothing always looked atrocious.
But here's the best part, for the part of the ad where the pair appear to be in the rafters of the gym. The director put them on a beam placed on a rig about 10 feet off the ground to film the shot. This is where it gets funny.
"I remember Jordan saying, 'If we fall, I'm going to own McDonald's,' " Ferguson said. "So there were five or six production assistants under them and if they fell, they would fall on those guys."
Make sure to keep your eyes peeled in a couple of weeks to see if McDonald's runs this remake and what it might entail.
Yesterday, we did the East. Now, we take down the West. This time, Copain and I are joined by men's basketball reporter Andrew Robinson and Icers reporter Paul Casella.
Blackhawks: Here's a team that spent a lot in the offseason and spent wisely. The Blackhawks are tied for the most wins in the NHL and have a plethora of young talent. Grade: A
Predators: They don't have a prolific goalscorer or a strong offense, but they're hanging around. They'll need the defense to stay strong if they want to secure a playoff spot. Grade: B
Red Wings: A slew of injuries have kept this perennial powerhouse from breaking from the middle of the pack. They have history behind them, but are gonna need a strong finish. Grade: C
Blues: A very young team. It hasn't been a good year, but at least they're not as bad as St. Louis' football team. Grade: C-
Blue Jackets: Rick Nash deserves better. If you look up sophomore slump in the dictionary, Steve Mason's mug will stare back at you. Grade: F
Avalanche: Who, other than Robinson, saw this coming? Matt Duchene is contending for Rookie of the Year. If they can solidify the blue line and hold off Vancouver, there is a playoff run in their future. Grade: A
Canucks: The Sedins are earning every cent they whined for in the offseason. There is a very lengthy road trip coming up, and that could make or break the season. Grade: A-
Flames: Jerome Iginla can only carry this team so far for so long, and 1-8-1 in their last 10 games is fairly ugly. Grade: C-
Wild: We almost forgot to grade this team. Doesn't that just sum up the season for this team? Grade: D
Oilers: We tried to say something snarky, but really everything ended up with a lot of profanity. The worst team in the NHL. They have yet to win a game in 2010. Grade: FAIL (minus)
Sharks: This team could go all the way. There's a lot of talent here, from Thornton to Heatley to Marleau to Boyle to everyone else. Grade: A
Coyotes: This team got better when Gretzky left. Unlike the next team. Too bad nobody has noticed or cared. Grade: B
Kings: Kopitar and Quick have made this team borderline respectable again. They actually could make the playoffs. Grade: B+
Ducks: Quack, quack, fail. No flying V is gonna save this team. They're on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Grade: D
Stars: They've done anything but shine this year. How Mike Modano is still hanging around is anyone's guess. And how is Marty Turco still in existence? Grade: D
Penn State sophomore guard Chris Babb appeared at a wing-eating contest Tuesday in the HUB-Robeson Center.
At about 12:30 p.m., six competitors squared off in an eating competition to determine the "Ultimate Fan" of Penn State basketball. The contest? Who could eat 10 wings (sponsored by Wings Over Happy Valley) in the fastest amount of time?
The winner: Scott Umble, an animal science major from Atglen, Pa. (outside of Lancaster)
"I focused mentally, I came prepared and I dominated the wings," Umble said. "I enjoyed myself and it was incredible."
Babb threw T-shirts out to the crowd that gathered on the first floor of the HUB-Robeson Center and encouraged the competitors as they ate. He stuck around after and handed out fliers to students walking by.
"It's real good to get involved with THON and stuff like this," Babb said. "We got fans coming out and we're trying to get as many people as we can to come out to support us. We're not having a great season right now so it's good to see people still care about us and still come out and see us."
Assistant Marketing Manager Matt Checchio MC'd the event. He said Umble would advance to a second competition that hadn't been announced yet.
Checchio said there would also be another similar competition in the HUB next week.
Umble was excited to hear there would be another chance to show off his eating capabilities.
"If there's another competition, it's all about mental focus," Umble explained. "It's about coming prepared. You gotta get your gameface on and get that mentality. You gotta show those wings who's boss."
In this edition of our weekly chat with Penn State men's volleyball coach Mark Pavlik, we have a little bit of everything. The Nittany Lions' head guy discusses his team's match tonight against the Juniata Eagles, the recent success of the Lady Lions and struggles of the Penn State men's basketball team, and setter Edgardo Goas' recent honor as EIVA Player of the Week. We even solicit Pavlik's thoughts on Super Bowl XLIV -- which does not include his beloved Steelers.
It's quite the coincidence. In an attempt to take a personal turn toward maturity, Boston Celtics forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis has decided to trade in his life-long nickname. At just three years in the league, the big man out of LSU has incurred a suspension stemming from an off-court fight and a $25,000 fine for a confrontation with a fan, according to ESPN.com.
Davis has expressed a desire to leave these problems in the past and work to rebuild his reputation into one of grown-up distinction.
As Davis praised the Celtics organization for its support despite his troubles, it is most appropriate, then, that Celtics coach Doc Rivers had the most profound insight on his player's desired image change.
"Actions change your image most of the time, but we'll see. That's good though. It's a start, right?" Rivers told reporters before expressing his good faith in Davis character.
It remains to be seen whether Davis' name change will distance him from past mistakes and help usher in a new era of maturity.
More immediately pressing, however, is what name will replace the "Big Baby" moniker. Davis, who wears No. 11 for the Celts, has taken a liking to one reporter's suggestion, "Uno Uno." Undeniably, this possibility screams maturity, especially considering its similarity to NFL wide receiver/stoic sage Chad Ochocinco's nickname-turned-legal-surname (from Chad Johnson).
But as Rivers indicated, Davis' image really comes down to his behavior. I hope they reflect his positive intentions.
That's what the IMG Academies and the National High School Coaches Association plan to hold this summer in 7-on-7 football and boys and girls 7-on-7 lacrosse, team tennis and team golf. They hope to expand it to basketball and baseball, as well.
I want to make fun. Really, I do. But hey, if they can make a playoff system work, can't college football?
Here's how the Lions graded out in each event from this week's sweep of Cornell, Iowa and Yale in the Lions' home-opening quad-meet.
Analysis: The Lions couldn't have gotten off to a faster start to their first home meet of the season, getting the crowd on their feet early. The Lions matched a school record with a team score 49.500 on vault, which was set back in 2003. Casey Rohrbaugh started off the record run with a career-high 9.900. Two gymnasts later, Rosie Smith matched Rohrbaugh's score, which was also a personal high for Smith. Danielle Hover and freshman Sharaya Musser also scored very high, but it was senior All-American and anchor Brandi Personett who saved the best for last. Personett nailed her routine, stuck the landing and the judges rewarded her with only the eighth 10.000 in school history.
Analysis: The Lions carried the momentum from vault into bars, where they scored a season-high 49.100. Four of the five scores were 9.800 or higher, and the Lions didn't count a single fall on the event. Sophomore Natalie Ettl, knee brace and all, won the event with a career-high 9.900. Alexandra Brockway (9.875), still recovering from a preseason ankle injury, and Musser (9.825) rounded out the top three overall. Personett recorded a 9.800 and Smith posted a 9.700.
Analysis: It appeared the Lions were well on their way to a possible 197.000, until they stepped up to the balance beam, which coach Steve Shephard described as a "disaster." The beam has been a problem for the Lions all season, but Saturday may have been the worst through three meets. The Lions counted a number of falls on their way to a 47.825, once again failing to reach 48.000. The score could have been worse had anchor Personett not score a 9.875. Factored into the team score was two sub-9.300s. Against better competition, this beam score probably prevents the Lions from finishing in first place.
Analysis: The Lions rebounded nicely from beam on floor exercise to finish out the meet. There were a few slips during routines but nothing major. Shephard was pleased with floor but added there was still room for improvement. Personett won the event with a 9.900 to finish with a 39.575 all-around score, also good for first. Freshman Madison Merriam, who was a last-minute scratch from floor last week at the Denver Winterfest Classic, came back strong with a 9.825 to finish in second. Whitney Bencsko, who finished second in the all-around, scored a 9.800 on floor to place third.
Analysis: The Lions improved greatly from their first two meets, but after such a strong start on vault and bars, a 195.325 final score is a slight disappointment. Still, the Lions should walk away pleased from the meet considering it is still early in the season and they will continue to improve as the weeks go on. The Lions were able to open their home schedule with a 3-0 sweep, but they will need a better effort this week if they plan to sweep No. 23 Minnesota and new No. 1 Alabama, which scored a 197.450 last week, by far the highest single-meet score this season.
The Nittany Lions jumped three spots in the latest GymInfo rankings to No. 19 after the Lions' sweep of Cornell, Iowa and Yale on Saturday.
The Lions' average team score of 194.458 ranks second in the Big Ten, behind No. 17 Michigan, which averages a 194.600. Michigan State (No. 22), Minnesota (No. 23) and Ohio State (No. 25) are the remaining ranked Big Ten teams.
The Lions fell in the rankings the previous two weeks after consecutive second-place finishes on the road. They began the year ranked No. 11 in the preseason polls.
With help from Saturday's 49.500 on vault, tying a school record, the Lions' bumped up their average on the event to 49.117, which is tied for fifth in the country with Oregon State, which the Lions face in a quad-meet Mar. 12 in Salt Lake City.
The Lions will have a chance to knock off the No. 1 team in the country this week, though. Alabama, which comes to town Saturday along with No. 23 Minnesota, made the leap to No. 1 with an average score of 196.458, narrowly edging Oklahoma. The Crimson Tide scored a 197.450 this past weekend, tops in the country so far this season.
Individually, senior All-American Brandi Personett, who scored a perfect 10.000 on vault Saturday, is tops in the country on the event, averaging a 9.933. Erin Davis of Nebraska is the only other gymnast to score a 10.000 thus far, which she also did on vault.
Personett ranks third in the country on floor exercise with a 9.900, 0.012 behind No. 1 Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs of UCLA. Personett is 12th in the all-around with a 39.190.
Whitney Bencsko (23rd, vault) and Natalie Ettl (t-18th, bars) are also ranked for the Lions.
It's the second edition of A Monday Minute and we decided to go digital. Instead of brining you just the transcript of our weekly player interview, we're going to put up the full audio clip. It'll be a chance to really get to know the players of the Penn State men's volleyball team.
This week's subject is frosh Nick Turko. The 6-foot-5 middle hitter from Lewisberry started in the Nittany Lions' first two matches in the Outrigger Invitational, but lost his starting position to Ian Hendries after leaving the Hawaii match with an ankle injury. Turko is now fully healthy and working his way back into the Lions' rotation.
In our minute -- well, actually 1:37 -- we discuss Turko's favorite Penn State class, cheesy jokes from coach Mark Pavlik, and try to figure out the difference between Morgan Freeman flicks Seven and Lucky Number Slevin.
To the surprise of no one, All-American senior Brandi Personett was honored as the Big Ten Gymnast of the Week after her stellar performance in Saturday's quad-meet.
Personett placed first in all-around with a score of 39.575, just .025 short of her career high she set last year. Personett also nailed her vault routine on her way to her first perfect score of 10.000, just the eighth perfect 10 in Penn State women's gymnastics history.
Following Saturday's performance, Personett ranks No. 12 in the nation in the all-around with an average score of 39.190. Personett is ranked No. 1 on the vault with a 9.933 average.
This is the 11th time in her career Personett has won Big Ten Gymnast of the Week and already the second time this season. She also won the award following the season opening meet in East Lansing, Mich.
There is always a lot of stress placed on bonus points in wrestling. The only Nittany Lion to gain bonus points against Illinois on Friday was 141-pounder Adam Lynch with his six-point pin. Against Ohio State on Sunday, two Lions received bonus points - Cyler Sanderson and Dave Erwin both tallied major decisions. But for Penn State to defeat upcoming opponents No. 1 Iowa and No. 18 Wisconsin, its key members need to rack in several four-to-six-point performances. Here is how the ranked Lions stack up against the unranked in tallying dual meet bonus points this season. The bonus points are in parentheses.
Each day this week, we will examine a different team in the American Lacrosse Conference. We are saving Penn State for next week, when we will examine each facet of the 2010 Nittany Lions.
Today's ALC team: Vanderbilt
Final 2009 record: 10-7, 2-2 ALC
Against Penn State: 12-7 Win
2010 Game against Penn State: March 21, Nashville
Last season: The Commodores finished at No. 11 in the final IWLCA rankings of last season. Along with Northwestern, Vanderbilt was the only other ALC representative in the NCAA tournament. It lost to then-No. 6 Notre Dame 19-13.
Outlook: With 11 returning starters (seven of them seniors), expectations are high for the 2010 Commodores. Among the seniors are All-Americans Alex Mundy -- who led the team with 43 ground balls and 23 caused turnovers -- and Sarah Downing -- who scored two goals and added an assist against the Lions last season. Also returning is sophomore goalkeeper Natalie Wills, whose 13 saves and three ground balls against Penn State earned her Womenslax.com Rookie of the Week honors. The freshman finished 10-5 and earned a spot on the 2009-2010 U.S. Developmental team.
The Commodores close out their season at Gainesville and Evanston before the ALC tournament in Columbus. Barring injuries, Vanderbilt is in prime position to challenge Northwestern for the ALC crown and make some noise in the National Tournament.
Much has been made about the Nittany Lions' struggles down the stretch of games. They have been outscored 91-67 in the last five minutes of each Big Ten game and their one overtime session. Let's just say had the games been stopped after 35 minutes, their record would look a little different:
December 28: Minnesota 75, Penn State 70
Score with five to go: 60-58 Minnesota
Although the Lions were trailing with five to go, the Lions and Gophers swapped leads for most of the second half until a Lawrence Westbrook 3-pointer gave the Gophers a decisive edge.
January 3: Wisconsin 63, Penn State 46
Score with five to go: 56-40 Wisconsin
This was the only game so far this season that the Lions did not lose in the last five minutes. The Badgers were the better team for the entire game and there isn't much to say about this matchup other than the very telling final score.
January 7: Michigan 64, Penn State 55
Score with five to go: 47-46, Penn State
Penn State led this game by as many as 16 points, but wound up losing by nine. It was just after the five-minute mark that the Wolverines took their first second-half lead, and Michigan never looked back. Of all the collapses this year, the Michigan game may be the worst in terms of the Lions' late-game performance.
January 12: Illinois 54, Penn State 53
Score with five to go: 50-46, Penn State
Head coach Ed DeChellis has stressed "making plays" down the stretch all season. On Jan. 12, Illinois did just that. Demetri McCamey hit an incredible off-balance 3-pointer to keep Illinois in the game and Talor Battle couldn't do the same for Penn State as time expired.
January 16: Iowa 67, Penn State 64
Score with five to go: 56-50, Iowa
This was the one game the Lions played well down the stretch. Unfortunately, by that time, they had dug themselves too big of a hole. Also, despite improved late-game efforts, the Lions did miss a pair of very critical free throws that typified their season.
January 21: Indiana 67, Penn State 61
Score with five to go: Indiana 58, Penn State 52
The Lions just didn't make a run in this game. Indiana had the lead all game and down the stretch, the Lions never put together a run that could catapult them past the Hoosiers.
January 24: Wisconsin 79, Penn State 71 OT
Score with five to go: 56-51 Penn State
It may not have been as much of a choke as the Michigan game, but it was certainly one the Lions should have wrapped up long before the five-minute mark. Penn State not only blew a 16-point second-half lead, but after Talor Battle responded and helped give Penn State a late eight-point lead, the Lions couldn't get the basket that would have sealed the game. Wisconsin took advantage.
To summarize: The Lions are 3-4 in conference after 35 minutes. They are 0-7 in final scores -- the ones that matter.
We're a little more than halfway through this NHL season, and it would be rather appropriate to toss out some grades. Icers reporter Tom Copain will help me put this together. Today we'll take care of the East, and check back for the West tomorrow.
Devils: Going into the season, it didn't appear the Devils would amount to much more than a six seed in the conference. Low and behold, they sit atop the division and Martin Brodeur shows no signs of aging. Grade: A
Penguins: Malkin has disappeared at times and they've dealt with injuries. However, they remain hot in the chase of the Devils, and they have the talent to go on a hot streak. Grade: A-
Flyers: They've really come on strong since the axing of coach John Stevens. The talent is there, but overcoming NJ and Pittsburgh will be a tough task. Grade: B
Rangers: Another disappointing season for the Broadway Blueshirts. Nothing can go right, and it's only a matter of time before the front office gets cleaned out. Maybe. Grade: D
Islanders: Frequent cellar dwellers, the other New York team has seen a rejuvenation, with star rookie John Tavares leading the charge. They still can't secure an arena deal, but they're on the upswing. Grade: C
Sabres: Not many bad things to say here. Solid defense and Ryan Miller needs to stay healthy. Grade: A
Senators: Surprising, given the goaltending and injuries. It may be hard to keep up with Buffalo. They've allowed more goals than they've scored. It's hard to see how they're doing it, but major props to 'em. Grade: B+
Canadiens: The offseason spending that including bringing in Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri hasn't really paid off. Who knows where they would be without goaltender Jaroslav Halak? Grade: B-
Bruins: Bitten by the injury bug, which didn't help. Currently the No. 9 seed in the East, they could pull off a playoff appearance, but it won't be easy. Grade: C
Maple Leafs: The season has been an outright disaster. They should start thinking about next season already. The Phil Kessel trade isn't looking so hot, especially since the draft pick could be fairly high. Grade: F
Capitals: Another fantastic season by Ovechkin and Co. Backstrom, Green and Semin have been a nice supporting cast. Only worry is goaltending. However, they're 19 points ahead of the second place teamGrade: A
Panthers: Highly unlikely they catch the Caps. They've been fairly average and are in the same boat as the Bruins. Grade: C
Thrashers: They're sinking fast and a Kovalchuk trade could be inevitable. Let the sweepstakes begin. Grade: C-
Lightning: Stamkos has been stepping up, but it's looking more likely that Lecavalier is gonna call somewhere else home next year. Grade: C-
Hurricanes: The second-worst team in the league. They go from conference finals to possible first overall draft pick in one year. We don't really need to say anything else. This is an epic fail. Grade: F
Fun video. We love brawls. But what's better than little kid brawls? Gotta love Russia.
The Orange and the Hoyas. That's about as big as it gets rivalry-wise in the nation's deepest conference. This season however, with each team in the top-10, the game takes on even more meaning.
The Orange's lone loss came at home to a Pitt team that the Hoyas handled, but that game wasn't necessarily indicative of the way Syracuse is playing right now. The Orange may be the most balanced team in the nation.
They have a shooter in Andy Rautins, post presences in Rick Jackson, Arinze Onuaku and Kris Joseph, passers in Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine and a go-to-guy in Wesley Johnson. Not to mention one of the best coaches in history.
But the Hoyas are no slouch. Greg Monroe may be the nation's smartest and most complete big man. If the Hoyas are on from the perimeter, Monroe will be able to pass the ball out of the post to them. In turn, the shooters would free up space for Monroe to go to work in the middle of the zone.
Expect a classic, as Cuse-Gtown always is.
Prediction: Syracuse 90, Georgetown 88 F2OT
Player to watch: Xavier Henry, Kansas
Henry gets his first taste of the Kansas-Missouri rivalry in a game that could go a long way in asserting the Jayhawks' dominance. Henry, who is averaging 14 points and four boards, has given Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich another option (if you can call it that because he is so much more.
If Henry has a big game on a national stage in a rivalry game, there will be very few people willing to question a No. 1 seed for Kansas in the NCAA tournament.
- First off, no Jason Kidd or Erick Dampier for Dallas yesterday. The Mavs were without two of their bigger pieces and they still rolled the Knicks on the road.
- New York was obliterated from beyond the arc. Dallas, who shoots 35.3 percent from the land of 3, made it rain all over the Knicks last night, hitting 12 of them while shooting 54.5 percent. I know Mike D'Antoni's teams aren't know for defense, but c'mon fellas, get a hand up or something. On the other hand, the Knicks just had a cracker jack performance with the 3 ball, shooting 25 of them and hitting four. What a bunch of sharpshooters.
- Seven men hit double figures in points for the Mavs in this game. SEVEN. Meanwhile, the Knicks, had two. When Drew Gooden drops 15 points and 18 boards on you, you need to start evaluating yourself as a basketball player and really look in the mirror and wonder if you have any pride in what you do. Drew Gooden is hot garbage, a fourth overall selection who's played for seven teams in eight years and should never, under any circumstances, drop 15 and 18 on a pro team at this point.
It's just an abysmal performance by a team that has been showing signs of promise this season and has actually gotten the city back into the team, so much so that season ticket sales have gone up and this is how you repay them.
"I hope not because if it was there, we're in trouble," D'Antoni said after the game.
This is not to say that the Knicks are a terrible team, they aren't, at least not nearly as bad as they were under Isiah Thomas. This was just a pitiful, disgusting performance that not only embarrassed them (hopefully) but their fans.
Play of the Weekend - Where Goran Dragic Joins A Special Club:
That would be the "Coming to a Poster Near You" club. Friday night Dragic decided to try his hardest to stop Derrick Rose on a fast break, only to end with disastrous consequences.
First off, I appreciate the hustle, you don't see that from every player nowadays, so it's refreshing. Secondly, who knew Derrick Rose had those kind of hops? You get up there son!
Thirdly, man Phoenix, what happened? After starting the season 14-3, the Suns are now 26-19, with a winning percentage of .429 over that stretch. Phoenix is currently holding the seventh seed but watch out for Memphis, which is playing some inspired basketball, and Oklahoma City, aka The Team Formally Known As The Sonics.
As much as Phoenix has given us some inspired playoff runs in the past, I'd rather see these young teams make the playoffs and give it a go against the Lakers and the Nuggets. Kevin Durant in the playoffs against Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony would be must-watch television.
As I wrote about Monday, Penn State got a huge lift this past weekend from its power play unit, a weak point of sorts for the Icers at times this season.
This growth and improvement on the power play is something Penn State is crediting to the maturity of its 13 young players, who replaced last year's senior class.
"The new guys have stepped in from Day 1 and played a huge role," defenseman Steve Thurston said. "We needed them to. We didn't have enough old guys to fill a lineup so they played well and they're older new guys. They've been around for a while, they know how to play the game, and it's good to see them step up and they should be good in years to come also."
This is something that caught the Icers by surprise.
"I think a lot of guys have stepped up that we might have thought didn't have that chance to step up, and they're playing well for us now so you really can't complain," forward Tim O'Brien said. "Like I said before, when coaches have a hard time making a lineup, that's always a good thing. Hopefully we can continue that. Georgie [Saad] got hurt [Friday]. We'll see how he is this coming week, and hopefully another younger guy can step up and produce for us as well."
Saad suffered a knee injury, and his condition was unknown after the game. The forward will undergo more tests.
We'll be at practice Tuesday, and coach Scott Balboni should have an update on his condition. Stay tuned to BTP, where we'll fill you in.
For the first time since 2004-05, the Lady Lions are nationally ranked. After picking up 18 votes last week, Penn State is ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings. The team won its sixth consecutive game and has now won 10 of its last 11. The Lady Lions defeated Wisconsin on the road for sole possession of second place in the Big Ten on Thursday and rebounded from a loss against Illinois earlier this season to beat the Illini Sunday. With 84 votes, the Lady Lions are one of two Big Ten teams, along with Ohio State, in the Top 25. Michigan State sits right outside of the Top 25 with 59 votes and Wisconsin picked up three votes as well. The Lady Lions beat both of those teams during the last two weeks. Next up for Penn State is a home game against Purdue on Jan. 28.
Happy Monday from the basement of Burrowes Building! Eddie Gentile -- former copy desk editor and writer for the Penn State women's tennis team, Lady Icers and Nittany Lions baseball team -- here to reintroduce a classic Above the Net segment.
Welcome to this year's first edition of Lion Lookback. Here we will put to bed the latest Penn State men's volleyball match.
It Was Over When...: Penn State scored the 30th point of the third set. Throughout Saturday's matchup, the scrappy Springfield team was able to keep the Lions in check and keep the score close.
Player of the Match: Dennis Del Valle. Del Valle tied a career high with 18 digs Saturday night in a performance his coach called one of the libero's best ever.
Stat of the Match: 5. After falling back by five points late in the first set, the Pride took advantage of five Penn State attack errors to go on an 8-3 run. The spree would force the Lions to score 33 points to take the first set. By the end of the match, Penn State took control and limited its attack errors to just five total in the final set.
Surprise of the Match: Springfield was able to hang with the No. 6 Lions until the end Saturday night. While the first set looked the closest on paper, the third set featured seven lead changes while the score was brought to a tie nine times.
Quotable: "I just want to get back to practice and keep working on those [things that worked well]," Del Valle on what comes next after his career performance.
What's Next: The Lions play host to Juniata Tuesday night at Rec Hall in a rematch of last year's EIVA Championship match.
As always, here are the end-of-the-weekend bracket projections:
Midwest Region (St. Louis)
2. West Virginia
3. Kansas St.
6. Florida St.
7. Mississippi St.
9. Oklahoma St.
10. St. Mary's
12. Virginia Tech
14. Coastal Carolina
15. Morgan St.
16. Campbell/Prairie View A&M
With Texas' losses, the Wildcats of Kentucky have the tournament's No. 1 overall seed locked up for the week. Their prize: a regional in St. Louis and a bracket that features West Virginia, a very scary team if it gets good guard play. Who knows how far Wisconsin would have fallen had it not pulled off the comeback against Penn State on Sunday. Virginia Tech sneaks in as one of the last teams in, making it eight dancing in the ACC.
South Region (Houston)
5. Ohio St.
8. Northern Iowa
9. North Carolina
12. Seton Hall
13. Murray St.
15. Robert Morris
Some people have talked about dropping North Carolina out of the tournament with its recent string of losses. But three of the Heels' losses this season have come to three of the nation's top-five teams. Because of a brutal schedule, they should not be considered a bubble team -- at least not yet. The Jayhawks are a solid No. 1, and despite a loss this week, Duke remains a 2-seed because no one else asserted itself.
West Region (Salt Lake City)
2. Michigan St.
5. Georgia Tech
9. New Mexico
11. Texas A&M
12. Old Dominion
15. Weber St.
The Syracuse-Nova debate for the final No. 1 ended when UConn, this bracket's No. 6, knocked off Texas, giving both the Orange and Wildcats a top-seed. If the Spartans keep winning, expect to see them at the top of a bracket sometime soon, and if Tennessee plays the way it did against Georgia, expect the Vols to start dropping. One thing to note in this region: ODU, Cornell and Charleston could be some pretty scary mid-majors come March.
East Region (Syracuse)
6. Wake Forest
7. Notre Dame
11. Rhode Island
13. Louisiana Tech
15. Stephen F. Austin
16. Arkansas St.
Because of Texas' losses, the Horns will have to travel to the East region - a daunting task that could potentially present a matchup against a very good Villanova team. If that game ends up happening, it will be a classic matchup between finesse and power. Wake Forest and Notre Dame both move up with wins this week, and Memphis just barely slips by Cincinnati for the final spot because of the Cats' loss to another team on the outside looking in, Louisville.
Where Penn State fits in: Just like the last two weeks, nowhere. Although, as we saw on Sunday, the Nittany Lions have a very real chance to change some tournament seeds and burst some bubbles. They face Illinois on Wednesday with a chance to do just that to the slumping Illini.
Penn State prediction: No postseason
Final Four predictions: West Virginia, Villanova, Syracuse, Kansas
Brandi Personett's perfect score of 10.000 on the vault on Saturday night was a rare feat. But how rare? The three-time All-American senior's 10.000 was just the eighth in the history of the Penn State women's gymnastics program.
Here is the list of the eight perfect scores by Nittany Lions:
Holy smokes, what an exciting round of conference championships! We here at MAKE PLAYS are stoked for a Saints-Colts Super Bowl, and are already making travel arrangements to fly out to Miami in a couple of weeks. (OK, we're buying up Tostitos from every store in the county for a sweet Super Bowl party at home. Same difference, really.)
While the football games were going on, there were a bunch of other items of note circulating around the sports world. The best part: They don't have to do with Brett Favre's next potential retirement.
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Texas didn't seem too excited to carry the "No. 1 team in the country" title around.
After starting the season 17-0, the Longhorns have lost two games this past week.
How could this happen? Rick Barnes' squad looked untouchable in the first two months of the season. The Horns beat North Carolina, Iowa, Pitt, USC and Michigan State, each by double digits.
All right, so two of them were at home. The other three were on neutral sites, two of those in a Kansas City tournament in which Iowa was basically the home team.
But the other one was against a rebuilding Tar Heels squad in Cowboys Stadium. Take a guess as to which team's fans filled up most of those 38,052 seats.
Sure, Texas won 17-straight games. But once it started actually, you know, playing teams in their own gyms, all of a sudden things started going a little tougher. The Horns won by 11 at Arkansas on Jan. 5, then squeezed by Iowa State on the road a week later.
Then they went to No. 9 Kansas State and No. 21 UConn. You know how that went.
Now, the Wildcats and Huskies aren't great teams this season. K-State just lost to Oklahoma State on the same floor it wiped with Texas earlier this week. And UConn hadn't beaten a truly good team up to this point.
Obviously, the Longhorns won't be No. 1 when the next polls come out. But just how far should they slide? Out of the top-10? Out of the top-15?
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Did you know the NFL has a Cardiovascular Committee? Well, according to ESPN.com, it sure does, and it's discussing the possibility of mandating heart scans for all players as early as next month for the NFL Combine.
This comes on the heels of Bears DE Gaines Adams' untimely passing, stemming from the effects of an enlarged heart.
The NFL has taken heat in the past amid conversation that its retirees face too much medical uncertainty as they advance into old age after rough-and-tumble careers. Of course, this is more directly focused toward head trauma, but nonetheless it's an issue of players' (or former players') health.
There are still some questions to be answered before officials come to any decisions about heart scans, but in general I hope the NFL takes any plausible, accessible strides it can toward preventing medical disasters its players might face, starting from their first workouts (like at the combine) through retirement.
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The best football story of the week didn't take place in Indianapolis or New Orleans.
It took place in Boston, where BC linebacker Mark Herzlich returned to practice Thursday with his Eagle teammates for the first time since he announced he had cancer last May.
Herzlich, who said he had raised about $200,000 through Uplifting Athletes, participated in seven-on-seven drills with his teammates and said he hoped to be ready for the 2010 season.
Quite the comeback.
Good-guy Peyton Manning's success is admirable and Brett Favre's postseason run at 40 defies logic, but each quarterback's feat dulls in comparison to what Herzlich is attempting to do.
The 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year finished chemotherapy in November and is practicing with his team just two months later.
Throughout this past season, Herzlich served as an invaluable sideline presence during BC games.
"After about two hours of sulking, I realized this has got to be something I overcome," Herzlich told the AP about his initial diagnosis. "Once I made that decision, I was ready."
His story is far from finished, but no one needs to wait until the fall to see that Mark Herzlich is already a hero.
After the Nittany Lions dropped their seventh-straight Big Ten contest, we break down each player's performance against Wisconsin.
Talor Battle: A-
Battle played 44 out of 45 minutes and again was the Lions go-to-guy. The junior turned in 28 points with eight rebounds and six assists and was seemingly able to score at will. However, Battle loses a few points for the bad possession at the end of regulation when he took an off-balance three with a hand in his face.
Chris Babb: A-
After a few games mired in mediocrity, Babb returned with a 16-point performance on 6-of-12 shooting, with just five of his looks coming from deep. Babb didn't blow the box score away, but a more balanced scoring day and not relying on the deep ball should serve the sophomore well.
Bill Edwards: B
Edwards second career start went much better than his first. Six turnovers are an eyesore, but the rest of the 6-foot-6 swingman's numbers are solid. Edwards had eight rebounds, two assists and was credited with the Lions' only steal of the contest. The freshman has proven to be a reliable and versatile player, but he needs to make reducing turnovers a priority for the remainder of the season.
Andrew Ott: B-
The big junior played well but got in early foul trouble, scoring just six points. Ott showed nice post moves and was the closest thing the Lions had to an inside presence, but he traveled twice in key spots.
Drew Jones: D-
Jones did manage one rebound, and not much else. In 16 minutes off the pine, Jones missed his only shot and helped contribute to the bench's zero points. Jones has struggled all year and today seemed to personify his issues.
DJ Jackson: B
Another ho-hum performance for the junior, who scored 12 points and was Battle's main option off the dribble. Jackson also contributed six rebounds but did not have an assist which hurts his grade.
Tim Frazier, Cammeron Woodyard, Jeff Brooks: N/A.
None of these guys reached the Hardwood Hits 10 minute minimum to receive a grade.
However, as a whole, the bench gets an F given their zero points. This is most certainly an area the Lions must improve on in the coming games.
While it is easy to direct most of the focus from Saturday night's home opener at Rec Hall to Brandi Personett and her perfect 10 on the vault, Penn State coach Steve Shephard also had nice things to say about the performances of the Nittany Lions' freshmen.
Freshman Madison Merriam was scratched from the lineup last week at Denver because Steve Shephard said she was not ready to perform her floor routine. The week between the Denver meet and Saturday's meet against Cornell, Iowa and Yale must have made a huge difference for Merriam. The freshman performed a very smooth floor routine in her first performance in front of the home fans and posted a score of 9.825.
Though the floor exercise was the only event Merriam officially competed in, she did do exhibitions in the other three events.
"She did great on floor today and that was a bright spot," Shephard said. "...I mean, I think she's obviously doing a great job. Beam she struggled a little bit. But hey, she could be in the all around for us."
Shephard said Merriam's exhibition scores on vault and on bars were better than those of senior co-captain Rosie Smith's. I wouldn't be surprised to see Merriam crack the lineup in more than just the floor exercise in the near future.
The same goes for freshman Sharaya Musser. The highly touted freshman competed in three events in Penn State's opening meet at Michigan State and competed in the all-around last week at Denver. Musser only competed on the vault and the uneven bars in Saturday's meet but Shephard said he see's great potential in Musser especially because she had limited training time in the preseason due to an injury to her foot during a practice.
"I think Sharaya is capable of way more than what she is doing now and she is going to be a huge factor in our success this year," Shephard said. "She's behind in terms of her training, you know she had that injury, so she's only been training since we got back from Christmas. So I see her becoming a lot stronger."
The Lady Lions earned their sixth-straight conference win over Illinois Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center. The 70-66 win is the Lions' 10th in their last 11 games, and perhaps more importantly to the Lions, avenges a loss at the hands of the Fighting Illini back on Dec. 31 in Champaign.
Here's a look at how we grade the Lions in the win:
Illinois did a nice job of limiting Tyra Grant's scoring opportunites. The senior guard was held to 15 points, five of which came from free throws. Grant, though, found another way to get involved in the offense by dishing out nine assists. Carrying the brunt of the offense Sunday was freshman point guard Alex Bentley. Bentley was relentless in her approach, driving to basket and drawing contact to the tune of 19 points. The Lions shot much better than the 33.3 percent they shot in the first half and finished the game with a 41.8 shooting percentage. Penn State used a very balanced scoring attack against the Illini as all but two of the Lady Lions that saw the court scored. The two players that didn't score combined for just one field goal attempt.
The Lions had the daunting task of trying to contain Jenna Smith in this game. Then end result was another superb performance by the Illini's senior center. Smith finished the game with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but when the Lions had to stop Smith, they did. Nikki Greene did a nice job on a couple of possessions of screening Smith away from the basket, leading to Smith scoring just six points in the first half. Other than Smith, the rest of the Illini starting five finished with just 25 points combined. The Lions once again held an opponent below a 40 percent field goal percentage. Illinois finished the game with a 37.5 mark. The one area for the Lions to improve on defense came on the glass. Illinois grabbed 16 offensive rebounds.
The Lady Lions seem to be settling down in terms of committing fouls. As a team, the Lions committed just 16 fouls and didn't have any player reach three personals. Nikki Greene was the only starter to have more than two fouls. In total, Illinois got to the line just 18 times and converted 14 of those chances. The Lady Lions, meanwhile got to the line 29 times and got 21 points on those chances. In such a close game, the Lions were the more disciplined team and it paid dividends on the free throw stripe.
The one thing that never seems to be in short supply with this team is intensity. No matter the situation, the Lions always seemed pumped up and aware of the situation in the game. There weren't too many mental lapses in the game. Apart from a five second inbound violation, the Lions did a nice job of controlling momentum and energy. They never let Illinois pull out to a big lead, and at times seemed to have too much energy for the Illini to handle. Tyra Grant was once again a spark for the Lions as was freshman forward Marisa Wolfe. Wolfe hit a couple of key three pointers that really seemed to spark the Lions.
The Lady Lions are winning in a variety of ways. This one looked like it could have turned into a blow out, but it ended being a nail-biter. The Lady Lions showed resiliency in a tight contest against a team that had previously defeated them and earned another tough Big Ten win.
The Lions are back in action Thursday night when Purdue comes to the BJC.
Check the Collegian and Washington's Post for more coverage of the Lady Lions.
The Lady Lions picked up a big victory against Illinois to keep their winning streak alive. However, the team and community picked up an even bigger victory in its effort to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. Basketball takes a backseat now, as these are the statistics from today's PinkZone game:
Money raised (expected to increase once today's intake from ticket sales and the silent auction is added)
$66,446.24- More than the money raised during the first three PinkZone's combined
Breast cancer survivors in attendance
285 survivors- Decked out in pink, the cancer survivors met on the court during halftime dancing and singing along to "I will survive"
8,471- More than a thousand less than last year's PinkZone game. Albeit, this year's crowd didn't have to watch a 20-point meltdown like last seasons.
The Icers got Taylor Cera back this weekend but might possibly lose another forward to injury. Forward George Saad missed Saturday's game after hurting his knee Friday night when he collided with another player. Icers coach Scott Balboni said he wasn't sure how severe the injury was, but said Saad would have an MRI.
Cera scored in the third period Saturday to give the Icers a 3-1 lead. It was his second goal of the season, and his first since Oct. 16 when he scored in a 7-1 Icers win against West Chester.
"I thought he played good on the entire weekend," Balboni said. "He played more than I wanted to because of injuries, with Georgie getting hurt [Friday], he played more than I wanted him to. But I thought he played good, he certainly looked physically fit. I think he's gotta get a little bit of his hockey hands back still, a little bit. But overall I thought he had a great weekend."
Saturday's game was the fourth time Penn State was involved in a shootout this season. The Icers are now 3-1 in the shootout this season, with Dominic Morrone scoring in two of the four shootouts. His other shootout goal came in the shootout loss to the Golden Rams Oct.17
"It's kind of the same move I do all the time, it's like my signature move," Morrone said of his shootout goal Saturday. "Everybody kind of makes fun of me for it. But just went down, he was opposite glove though, but I still went for it. I saw the poke check, I just beat him with my backhand, which was good."
This week's rankings had the most movement at the top than any other rankings we've seen this season. All of the top-5 moved around somewhat, except for No. 1 Lindenwood, which continued to hold down the ACHA's top spot. Other than that, Penn State jumped from No. 5 to No. 2 after sweeping the Ohio Bobcats, who dropped one spot to No. 3. Illinois also dropped one spot, falling to No. 4, and Liberty, a team that hasn't lost since Nov. 21, also fell a spot to No. 5.
Liberty's drop despite not losing recently is simply a result of its soft schedule. The Flames swept Delaware earlier this season but followed that performance up by getting swept at No. 9 Oakland the next weekend. While those are Liberty's only two losses of the season, the two wins against Delaware back on Nov. 13-14 are the only wins the Flames have against any team in the top-15 right now.
One interesting note at this point in the season is that two teams have locked up their spot in the ACHA National Tournament -- Stony Brook and host Robert Morris (Ill.).
Stony Brook solidified its spot after clinching the regular season ECHA conference title, going 9-0-1 so far against the other ECHA teams (Lehigh, Towson, Villanova, Maryland and Scranton). The Seawolves don't seem to pose much of a threat, however, currently ranked No. 18 and posting an 0-7 record against teams currently ranked in the top-14.
Host Robert Morris has struggled against highly-ranked teams, as well, going just 2-15 against top-14 teams so far. Aside from a Jan. 15 upset victory against Illinois, Robert Morris' only other win against the top-14 came on opening day against now-No. 12 Adrian.
With those two teams clinching tournament bids, there are only 14 spots still open. No. 19 West Chester, who handed Penn State one of its two ACHA losses this season and took the Icers to a shootout before losing this past weekend, appears to be out of the playoff picture at this point. Another Penn State rival, Delaware, currently sits at No. 14, meaning any stumble at all in the next rankings could also keep the Fightin' Blue Hens out of the tournament.
An air ball from the Illini and that will do it for us here at the BJC. Penn State wins its sixth straight Big Ten game. Check back to Washington's Post later for out post game report card.
Penn State70 Illinois 66
Sloppy possession by the Illini somehow leads to Smith hitting a three. Penn State had good defense on the post,but Illinois kept getting the rebound and the ball was finally kicked out to Smith who was all alone on the perimeter.
Lions have a three point lead with 11.3 seconds left.
Full court pressure by Illini. Bentley inbounds to Trogele. Trogele hands it off the Bentley. She dribbles about four seconds off the clock and gets fouled. Bentley gets one-of-two free throws.
Timeout on the floor.
7.6 Second Half
Penn State 70 Illinois 66
Bentley hits a three to beat the shot clock. She started down on the block, then came off screens from Trogele and Greene and got an open look from deep. Ten point lead for the Lions.
Penn State opens a 12 point lead after Bentley cuts back door and receives the feed from Grant. Lydia McCully nails a three on the ensuing possession for the Illini. Another quick bucket from Jenna Smith brings the Lions' lead down to seven.
Lacey Simpson fouls out. Trogele misses the front end of a one-and-one. Illinois not going away quietly as Godbold connects on the lay-up. Lions lead by five with 1:25 remaining.
Grant hits a couple huge free throws, but Jenna Smith connects on the other end and draws the foul. Smith's good free throw makes it a four point game.
Grant drives from the right and hits a floater over Smith. Lions by six. Illinois takes a timeout. They'll have possession after the break.
30.9 Second Half
Penn State 69 Illinois 63
Trogele hits both freebies and the Lions lead sits at eight.
Good defense by the Wolves (that's Wolff and Wolfe). They double teamed Jenna Smith and then forced a bad shot. Bentley hustles for the rebound and the Lions get possession. Grant hits on the other end and the lead is back up to 11.
Grant checks out and that leaves the four freshmen (Greene, Studevent, Wolfe and Bentley) on the floor with Trogele. Coach Washington showing a lot of confidence in her younger players putting them on the floor together in such a tightly contested game.
Monroe and Grant check in for Wolfe and Studevent. No harm done while the freshman class was on the floor. The Lions' lead still at 10.
Whitney Toone picks up her fourth foul. She fouled Bentley before the ball was even in play. Some very sluggish play on the part of the Illini tonight. Bentley hits both free throws to give the Lions a nine point lead.
Penn State will be inbounding the ball with one second left on the shot clock after the final media timeout.
3:32 Second Half
Penn State 60 Illinois 53.
Trouble inbounding for the Lions again as Bentley throws the ball over the head of Studevent. Illinois gets out on the fast break and gets the lay-up.
Tyra Grant checks back in for the Lions. She replaces Studevent.
Grant rolls off the high screen and hits the finger roll. There appears to be no ill affects after her hard foul earlier in the half. Her speed looked good and she went to the basket under control.
Nice look down low by Grant. Janessa Wolff was once again left all alone under the basket. She hit the easy lay-up from the feed by Grant. Grant raises her arms in attempt to get the crowd into the game. Lions lead by 11.
Good hustle by Grant keeps the ball in play. Marisa Wolfe feeds Trogele cutting to the basket. Trogele draws the foul and she'll head to the line after the media timeout.
7:29 Second Half
Penn State 53 Illinois 46
Good ball pressure by Wolfe leads to another travel.
Grant drives, draws the defense then dishes off the Janessa Wolff. Wolff connects on the easy lay-up and the Lions have a nine point lead. Jenna Smith answers on the other her end to bring it back to seven.
Nice hustle play by Trogele. She chased down the rebound off of a Bentley miss, then gave it up to Grant. Grant quickly fed it back to Trogele who nailed a baseline jumper. After a defensive stop, Tyra Grant gets fouled by Karisma Penn. Grant hits both and its an 11 point lead for Penn State.
Subs for the Lions as Gizelle Studevent sees her first action of the game. She's joined on the floor by Grant, Wolfe, Phillips and Greene.
Trya Grant drives hard and is met at the basket by two defenders. Grant falls hard to the floor on her back. She comes off the floor and heads off with the trainers. Grant may have hit her head on the floor, but regardless, she hit the floor very hard.
We'll keep you posted on her status.
Grant comes back to bench. She appears to holding the back of her head but looks like she might return.
Jenna Smith starting to get it going now. She spins in the lane and connects on the up-and-under. Smith with 14 points now.
Smith picks up her third personal on the Lions' trip down the floor. Janessa Wolff checks back in for the Lions. They'll have possession after the media timeout.
11:47 Second Half
Penn State 45 Illinois 38
Greene gets going early with a quick bucket and a defensive rebound. Lacey Simpson picks up her third foul. Monroe goes to the line and hits both. Five point lead for the Lions.
Jenna Smith gets her first bucket of the half. She used a nice head fake to get her defender up, then drove to the bucket for two.
Not a smart play by Alex Bentley as she gets called for a five-second violation on an inbound. To her credit, though, her teammates weren't exactly hustling to find an open space on the floor.
Some more good defense by Greene as she gets in front of an Illinois player on a fast break and causes a travel. Nice hustle by Greene too to get back after an errant pass from Bentley was intercepted.
Another three for Marisa Wolfe. Apparently she can shoot the three with regularity if left open. This one was less contested than the first, but if the Illini are going to leave her open on the wing, she's shown that she can knock down those shots.
Illinois takes a timeout. Penn State has its largest lead of the afternoon.
16:11 Second Half
Penn State 37 Illinois 30
Some Halftime Thoughts:
Both teams shooting pretty poorly from the field. The Lions are shooting 33.3 percent while Illinois isn't much better at 34.5.
The Lions have done a nice job of neutralizing Jenna Smith. Smith has five rebounds, but she has been limited to six points and three of those came on a three point shot. Nikki Greene has done a nice job of facing Smith and using her body to screen her from the basket.
Alex Bentley has been the Lions' best player, maybe the best on the floor for both teams. She is 4-for-9 from the field, but she is also attacking the basket and is a big reason that Illinois had nine team fouls in the first half.
The Lions a a slight edge in rebounding at 28-27.
For the Lions to expand on their one point lead they need to shoot better. Greene needs to continue her solid defense against Smith. Smith will get her touches and she will certainly score a few more points, but Greene needs to continue to screen her away from the basket.
The Lions need to continue to attack the basket. Illinois has shown that it's foul-prone and the Lions can get come easy points by attacking the basket and getting fouled.
I'll be back with second half action.
Penn connects on a lay-in into make it a one-point game.
On the other end, Trogele fades away and gets fouled. She nearly hit as the ball bounced around the rim a couple times. Trogele misses the front end of a one-an-one.
Last chance jumper from the Illini clanks off the back of the rim and that will do it for the first half. Penn State clinging to a one-point lead.
Penn State 28 Illinois 27
Nikki Greene picks up her first foul. Jenna Smith went for a turnaround hook in the lane. It looked like Greene had good position and got the ball, but a foul nonetheless. Smith hits one-of-two. Trogele and Marisa Wolfe check in for the Lions.
Wolfe nails a three from the corner. A rare three ball for Wolfe, but she showed good form on the shot. Lions lead by four.
Good hustle by Nikki Greene to get her own miss. She gets tied-up on the put back, though, and the jump ball goes to Illinois.
Greene again gets her own miss, but this time draws the foul. The foul is on Jenna Smith, her second foul. Jenna Smith checks out for the time. Greene goes one-for-two from the line.
Nice position defense by Grant. She draws the charge on Adrienne Godbold. Eight team fouls now for Illinois, but both teams are in the bonus.
54.2 First Half
Penn State 28 Illinois 25.
Bentley connects on a long jumper. She leads all scorers with nine points.
Penn State forces another shot clock violation, but can't connect on the other end. Still, good defense by Lions. Especially Janessa Wolff. She did a nice job of staying in front of Jenna Smith and forcing an off-balance shot.
Zha Zha Gray picks up her second foul. Team fouls even now at six apiece. Illinois gets both free throws, but Emily Phillips scores on the other end to put the lead back at four.
Lions turn the ball over out of bounds. Illinois will have possession after the final media timeout.
3:29 First Half
Penn State 24 Illinois 22
Nikki Greene hits a turnaround shot in the lane. Greene got the shot off with ease. If the Illini defenders aren't going to guard her tougher, look for the Lions to feed the ball into Greene more often.
Trogele gets the ball on the wing. She drives from the left and draws the foul. The foul is on Lacey Simpson, her second. That's two Illini starters with two fouls. Simpson takes a seat as Trogele hits both free throws. Lions ahead by one.
Three consecutive misses by the Lions. Two by Grant and one by Greene. A couple of forced shots by Grant and Greene couldn't connect on the rebound. The Lions have made just four field goals to this point. They're going to need some better offensive production, they can't just rely on free throws.
Tyra Grants gets her first field goal to tie the game at 18. On the ensuing defensive possession, the Lions force a shot clock violation.
Penn State will have the ball after the media timeout.
7:39 First Half
Penn State 18 Illinois 18
Greene gets fouled again out of the timeout. Make that five team fouls for the Illini. Greene hits both free throws.
Bentley goes out on the fast break and pulls up right in front of Jenna Smith. She connects on the short-range jumper and brings the Lions within one.
Ty Grant will check back in for Emily Phillips after the media timeout.
11:28 First Half
Illinois 13 Penn State 12
Make that Tyra Grant shooting the free throws. She hits one-of-two ti give the Lions a two point lead. Penn State has made just three of its first six free throws. If Illinois is going to keep fouling, the Lions are going to need to capitalize.
Illinois takes its first lead of the game as Lana Rukavina hits a short jumper.
Lacey Simpson hits a three from the corner. Tyra Grant didn't slide down in the zone and challenged Simpson to take the jumper. Washington takes a timeout and will bring Greene, Bentley and Trogele back in.
13:36 First Half
Illinois 13 Penn State 8
Lions control the tip and get a quick layup from Bentley. After a couple sloppy possessions by the Lions, Karisma Penn gets a bucket for the Illini to and both teams are on the board.
Alex Bentley gets off to a hot start as she went to bucket twice for four points. The second of those being a three point play. Bentley is aggressively attacking the interior defense of the Illini and it's paying dividends.
Some nice ball movement by the Lions as Nikki Greene lays the ball of to Monroes who draws the foul. The foul is on Whitney Toone, that's her second. Two fouls already for a key Illinois player. Monrore hits both free throws and Toone takes a seat on the bench.
Nikki Greene gets fouled. Three team fouls on Illinois in less than three minutes. If Illinois doesn't start to play a little more disciplined, the Lions could get some easy points off of free throws.
Another foul on Illinois. Jenna Smith fouls Zha Zha Gray. Four team fouls now for the Illini. Gray will shoot free throws after the media timeout.
15:35 First Half
Penn State 7 Illinois 6
Penn State starters:
G Tyra Grant
G Alex Bentley
F Julia Trogele
F Meredith Monroe
C Nikki Greene
G Fabiola Josil
F Lacey Simpson
F Karisma Penn
F Whitney Toone
C Jenna Smith
The Lady Lions take on the Fighting Illini of Illinois this afternoon in another crucial Big Ten matchup.
Collegian Lady Lions reporter Bill Landis here to take you through all of the action.
The Lions (14-4, 6-2 Big Ten) are coming off 54-43 win at Wisconsin Thursday night. The Illini (11-7, 3-5 Big Ten) are looking to rebound from a loss at the hands of Iowa Thursday.
Penn State hopes a bit of revenge will be on the agenda tonight. The Lions lost to Illinois 69-60 back on Dec. 31 in Champaign.
Penn State is looking to stay in second place in the Big Ten with a win today.
It is the Pink Zone game today.The Lady Lions are wearing pink warm-ups and the entire crowd is covered in pink.
The No. 22 Nittany Lions' first home meet of the season and third meet overall is in the books, and, just like in the their previous two meets, the Lions had their ups and downs.
The highs were very high, but the lows, well, they were very low.
The positives are obvious. The Lions improved their season high by a full point, sweeping Cornell, Iowa and Yale with a score of 195.325.
Leading the charge was senior All-American Brandi Personett, who scored a perfect 10.000 as the anchor on vault. Personett's historic vault was the perfect ending to the Lions' vault event. As a team, the Lions set three personal career highs. Personett's previous high was 9.975.
Casey Rohrbaugh set a new career high with a 9.900, as did Rosie Smith.
As a team, the Lions scored a 49.500 on vault, tying their highest mark ever in the event, set in 2003 against West Virginia.
The Lions' fast start on vault was exactly what the team needed, getting the home crowd involved early and the good vibes flowing. The Lions struggled through their first two road meets of the season, and following a disastrous, 20-hour flight home from Denver, the Lions were ready to compete in the familiar confines of Rec Hall.
Using the momentum they built from vault, the Lions kept the crowd on their feet during the Lions' bar routines. The Lions didn't count a fall on bars, and four of their five scores were 9.800 or higher. The other score was a solid 9.700 from Rosie Smith.
Lion gymnasts swept the top three in all four events and the top two in the all-around. Brandi Personett won every event with the exception of bars, which Natalie Ettl won with 9.900; Personett was fifth.
Personett's all-around of 39.575 is the second highest of her career, just shy of her personal record of 39.600. Katie Rowland holds the career mark with a 39.775.
Then came the bad: beam. Bad would be an understatement to coach Steve Shephard, who referred to it as a "disaster."
The Lions counted four falls, struggling mightily as a team. Brandi anchored with a 9.875 to salvage the event for the Lions. With the exception of her and Whitney Bencsko's 9.750, no other Lion scored higher than a 9.275. As a team, they scored a 47.825. The Lions have yet to tally a 48.000 in the beam this year.
The Lions rebounded on floor, though, scoring a 48.900. Personett recorded a 9.900 as the anchor. Freshman Madison Merriam, who was a late scratch on floor last week after struggling in warm-ups, was second on the team with a 9.825.
Overall, the Lions can go home happy with their performance with the exception of beam, which can probably be said about all three of their meets this season. On this night, however, in front of the home crowd, the Lions were very strong in just about every event, using their fans to help propel them through their routines.
The Lions, who have improved on their score every meet this season, need to solve their beam woes if they plan on knocking sweeping next week's tri-meet in Rec Hall against conference opponent Minnesota and Alabama, No. 3 in the country and a national power from the SEC, considered the strongest gymnastics conference, with six of the current top 12 in average teams scores calling the SEC home.
The Crimson Tide defeated No. 7 Arkansas Friday with a score of 197.450.
Bencsko tallied a 9.8 and Personett scored a 9.9 as the night concludes. Penn State finished with its best score of the season at 195.325 and a first place finish.
The standings finished as follows:
Penn State: 195.325
We're going to head down to the floor to talk to the team. Check back with Beam Me Up later in the evening as we wrap up Penn State's home opener.
Southard scored a 9.625, which means she may have stepped out of bounds during her routine.
Bencsko goes next and stumbles a bit on one of her tumbling passes. Overall, she adds a solid routine to the Lions' score and posts a 9.800.
Personett finishes off the night for the Lions with another great performance to add to her standout meet.
Merriam didn't compete last week on the floor because according to coach Steve Shephard she wasn't completely ready. However, she definitely came ready tonight. Merriam sticks all of her landings in what was Penn State's best floor routine of the night thus far.
Rohrbaugh score just came in at a lowly 9.125 and Merriam tallied a 9.825.
Southard is up next for Penn State and performs another solid routine.
Konsevick starts off on the floor exercise for Penn State. If Penn State can net a solid score on the floor, it will most likely win this quad-meet.
Konsevick finishes a solid routine with a split in the middle of the mat.
Rohrbaugh is up next and starts off great getting applause from her teammates and some spectators. Rohrbaugh finishes off with only one shaky moment where she may have slipped a bit.
Konsevick's score of 9.750 was just announced with freshman Madison Merriam up next for her only event of the day.
After Personett's score of 9.875 on the beam is announced, the Lions total for the event is 47.825.
With just the floor exercise remaining for Penn State to perform, the Lions have total score of 146.425. Iowa stands behind Penn State with a score of 142.775 and Cornell and Yale are in third and fourth with scores of 139.225 and 138.925, respectively.
Personett anchors the beam for Penn State looking to salvage a decent score for the team on the event.
Personett continues her fantastic night as she closes the event with a smooth routine for the Lions.
Southard's score of 8.575 was just announced and will not count toward the team's score as it was the worst out of the six competing gymnasts for Penn State.
Hover's score was just announced at 9.275.
Bencsko performs next and unlike her two teammates prior, she does not fall in a solid routine.
Senior co-captain Allie Southard is up next. Southard placed first last week at the Denver Winterfest Classic on the beam and looks to pick up the Lions here on what has become a weak spot for the team.
Southard starts off good but then proceeds to fall twice, tallying the fourth fall for the Lions on the balance beam tonight.
Meanwhile, Bencsko's score was announced at 9.750.
Penn State now moves to the balance beam, which has been the team's worst event through the first two meets.
Rohrbaugh starts off on the beam and scores a solid score of 9.725. Sophomore Daryl Konsevick goes next and starts off smooth and then falls toward the end of her routine.
Junior Danielle Hover performs next and falls soon after the start of her routine. Hover recovers to finish her beam routine but the second consecutive fall for the Lions on the beam means they will have to count a low score. Five of the six best scores on each event make up the total score on that event.
Konsevick's score was just announced at 9.200, which might have to count for Penn State.
And now enjoy the soothing key strokes of my partner of Jake Kaplan, who will take over the live blog for the final two events.
I'll be back at the end of the meet to wrap up the Lions' first performance of the season in Rec Hall.
Two events down, the Lions stand at 98.600 and on pace to shatter their previous season-high of 194.150, set last week at the Denver Winterfest Classic.
To do it, though, the Lions will have to exorcise their early-season demons on beam. Beam has given the Lions the most trouble this season, failing to top 48.000 in either of their first two meets.
Penn State is finished on bars with a team score of 49.100.
Breakdown of Penn State's scores:
Rosie Smith: 9.700
Whitney Bencsko: 9.225*
Brandi Personett: 9.800
Sharaya Musser: 9.825
Alexandra Brockway: 9.875
Natalie Ettl: 9.900
*Score did not factor in team score.
Musser used Personett's advice to her advantage, one-upping the senior with a 9.825.
Senior Alexandra Brockway, still only competing on bars after a preseason ankle injury, scores a 9.875.
Natalie Ettl, brace and her right knee and all, wraps things up for Penn State on bars and does it in grand fashion, setting a personal career mark with a 9.900. Her previous high was a 9.850, which she scored on three separate occasions.
Bencsko scores a 9.225.
Up next is Personett, and she goes through her routine without fall, sticking the landing at the end, bringing the crowd of a few thousand to its feet.
Personett scores a 9.800 on bars, and before she heads off, gives a few words of encouragement to freshman Sharaya Musser, who also receives a loud ovation after her routine.
Rosie began bars for Penn State, scoring a 9.700.
Whitney is up next, and she falls early in her routine. The sophomore All-America shows her resiliency, though, and recovers to finish her routine without a hitch.
It looks like a little home cookin' was all the Lions needed to get back on the track to their first national championship since 1980.
All week the team said it wasn't ready to push the panic button after two shaky starts. This is why. Three career highs, a perfect 10.000 and tying a school mark on vault makes it clear that the Lions just needed to be back in a familiar environment.
Team scores through one event:
Penn State (vault): 49.500
Iowa (beam): 46.875
Cornell (floor): 45.475
Yale (bars): 46.475
Penn State's 49.500 ties its highest mark on the event in school history, last doing in against West Virginia in 2003.
Some more perspective on Personett's historic mark:
-She becomes only the second Nittany Lion gymnast to record a 10.000 on vault. Katie Rowland did it twice in 2003.
-It's the first 10.000 since Rowland earned a 10.000 three times in 2003.
-It's only the eighth 10.000 in Penn State history.
The highest all-around score in Penn State history is 39.775, set by Rowland in 2003.
Personett's perfect 10.000 is the first 10.000 of her career. Her previous career high in any event was 9.975, which she set in vault against West Virginia on Feb. 2, 2008.
She also scored a 9.950 on five separate occasions on floor exercise.
No other current Penn State gymnast has recorded a perfect 10.000 in collegiate competition.
The Lions were almost flawless to start off their home campaign.
The Lions ended vault with a team score of 49.500 and three new career highs from Rohrbaugh, Personett and Smith.
A breakdown of vault scores:
*Score not factored in team total
Rosie Smith also set a career high on vault with a 9.900, besting her previous high of 9.875, set in March 2007.
Rohrbaugh's score is in: 9.900.
That is a new career high for Rohrbaugh, whose previous career high was 9.875.
And Brandi Personett ends vault with a perfect 10.000, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd as she gets mobbed by her teammates halfway down the vault lane.
Rohrbaugh starts it off and hits her routine on vault, drawing a huge reaction from the crowd and hugs from her teammates and coach Steve Shephard.
The Lions needed Rohrbaugh to help set the tone early for them and get the good vibes flowing. The Lions were shaky through two road meets, and it's important to get things going in a positive direction and the crowd behind them early.
The Lions' lineup on vault: Casey Rohrbaugh, Danielle Hover, Rosie Smith, Whitney Bencsko, Sharaya Musser and Brandi Personett.
Yale will begin on the uneven bars; Iowa will start on the balance beam; and Cornell kicks off its meet on floor.
Introductions are finished and the crowd has settled into its seat. The Lions are ready to kick off their 2010 home campaign, starting with vault.
Welcome to Rec Hall, where the No. 22 Nittany Lions open their home schedule after consecutive road meets to start the season.
The Lions start their home schedule with a quad-meet against conference foe Iowa and Ivy League schools Cornell and Iowa.
It's about 20 minutes until the competition begins, and the teams have wrapped up their warm-ups.
Join us throughout the night's events as my partner, Jake Kaplan, and I take you through the action as it happens live.
With Penn State's victory over Wisconsin on Thursday, the Lady Lions control their own destiny sitting in second place in the Big Ten. Through games of Jan. 21, PSU is third in scoring offense and seventh in scoring defense among the conference. However, the team's most impressive stat is leading the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense as the team holds its opponents to only .338 percent shooting from the floor. And although Penn State is second to last in the conference in terms of giving up the most rebounds, they are second in rebounding themselves with 4.7 rebound differential. Here's a list of Lady Lions who are among the Big Ten's leaders.
1. Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said 197-pounder David Crowell will start against C.J. Magrum of Ohio State on Sunday. Sanderson said:
"Not because of what happened tonight, but [Crowell] is going to wrestle Ohio State regardless of the outcome tonight. We're going to give Crowell a chance. He deserves it. He has been wrestling well so it's his turn on Sunday."
2. No. 12 Dave Erwin took No. 2 John Dergo into sudden victory but lost on a takedown. As Erwin was in a sitting position, Dergo wrapped his arms around the Nittany Lions' waist. The crowd roared to signal its displeasure with the referee awarding Dergo two points, but afterward, Erwin only focused on going back to work. Erwin said:
"You can't argue with it. It is what it is."
3. Adam Lynch thought he could beat No. 11 Ryan Prater of Illinois going into the match, but did he truly believe he could pin Prater? Lynch said:
"I'm not going to say I didn't think I was going to pin him, but it wasn't like, 'Man, I'm going to pin this guy. I'm going to go out here and I'm going to wear him out. I'm going to beat him. I'm going to beat him up and tire him out.' That was my goal."
Smith chooses to begin neutral in the 3rd. Wade secures a takedown to go up 5-0. Wade is racking up riding time and just assured it as Smith escapes. Wade gets a takedown to go up 7-1. With the riding time added, Wade wins 8-1. FINAL SCORE: PENN STATE 24, ILLINOIS 11.
Wade escapes to begin the 2nd and goes up 1-0. Wade leads 3-0 after two periods.
The heavyweight bout features Cameron Wade taking on Marty Smith. The match remains scoreless after one period.
Steadman starts down to begin the 3rd. An escape cuts Bond's lead to 7-4. Bond counters Steadman's attack and secures a takedown. A Steadman escape makes it 9-5. That score holds and Bond takes the bout. Penn State leads 21-11.
Two straight Illinois victories seem to have taken the energy out of the crowd, though the Lions have secured the victory. After Bond opens up a 7-1 lead, he is penalized for stalling. Bond leads 7-3 after two periods.
Steadman gets the call at 197 to take on No. 10 Bond. After a Bond takedown, Steadman escapes to make it 2-1. With 13 seconds left, Bond secures a takedown to push his lead to 4-1.
Dergo gets a takedown to take the bout 6-4 in sudden victory. Penn State still leads 21-8.
Dergo starts down and cannot get out of Erwin's grasp. Erwin has 35 seconds of riding time and counting following a restart. Dergo escapes to tie the bout, 4-4. The crowd really begins to cheer Erwin on. The Lion senior counters a Dergo shot, avoiding a takedown. Its tied at 4 at the end of regulation.
Erwin begins down and ties the match at 2 after an escape. Erwin battles to get a takedown to go up 4-2. Dergo escapes after a restart to make it 4-3. That score holds until the end of the period. 4-3 after two periods.
A matchup of two ranked wrestlers at 184. No. 2 Dergo vs. No. 12 Erwin. Dergo goes up 2-0 after a takedown. Erwin escapes to cut Dergo's lead in half. Erwin can't land his shot before the end of the 1st. Dergo leads 2-1 heading to the 2nd period.
Ortega takes down to begin the 3rd. Blanton begins with riding time assured. After an Ortega escape, Blanton gets another takedown to make it 20-6. Blanton gets a Technical Fall with a takedown that pushes the score to 22-7. PSU 21, Illinois 5.
Blanton starts down and gets an escape point, followed by a takedown of Ortega. After another Ortega escape, Blanton scores another takedown before the two go out of bounds. 12-3 Blanton. Ortega escapes to make it 12-4. A takedown and 2 near fall points make it 16-4. Another Blanton takedown makes it 18-5 after the 2nd.
Justin Ortega takes on No. 14 Jordan Blanton at 174. Blanton gets a takedown to begin teh scoring. Ortega earns an escape point to cut the deficit to 2-1. Blanton comes back and scores another takedown to push his lead to 4-1. Blanton gets 3 near fall points before Ortega escapes. Blanton leads 7-2.
Barczak escapes after starting down in the 3rd. Vallimont comes back and takes his opponent down, going up 9-2. A Barczak escape makes it 9-3, but Vallimont has riding time assured. After a stalemate, Vallimont cannot get a takedown to force the major decision and settles for a 10-3 victory. Penn State 21, Illinois 0.
Vallimont starts down in the 2nd period and escapes to extend the lead to 5-1. Vallimont gets Barczak's leg in the air and scores a takedown near the edge of the mat. 7-1 Vallimont after the 2nd.
No. 8 Dan Vallimont takes on Joe Barczak at 165. Vallimont secures a takedown 1 minutes in, taking a 2-0 lead. Vallimont has Barczak on the mat and racks up 34 seconds of riding time before Barczak escapes to make it 2-1. Vallimont gets his second takedown of the period and goes up 4-1. Vallimont continues to ride Barczak to the period's end. 4-1 after the 1st.
Ryan Loy taking over for Monahan. The winning amount of pushups during the halftime show is 104. Monahan could do that in his sleep.
Sanderson wins 9-4 after riding time is assured. Penn State leads 18-0 at the midway point.
Sanderson allows Polz the escape after riding him for several seconds. Sanderson shoots for Polz legs and gains the takedwon. Sanderson builds his riding time to two minutes. Sanderson leads 6-2 after two.
No. 5 Cyler Sanderson wrestles Conrad Polz. A Sanderson takedown and Polz escape starts the first. An elusive Sanderson ankle grab has Polz reeling backwards. Sanderson gains control for two. Sanderson receives a caution. Sanderson rides Polz for 1:11. Sanderson leads 4-1 after one.
Terrazas with an escape. Molinaro quickly grabs Terrazas's legs, picks him up, takes a few steps and throws him down. 5-1 Molinaro win. 15-0 PSU lead.
Molinaro starts down and gets the escape. Terrazas picks up a stall warning. A lot of collar ties hear in the second. With about 30 seconds left, Molinaro gets a takedown. 3-0 Molinaro with 31 seconds of riding time after two.
No. 20 Eric Terrazas faces No. 5 Frank Molinaro of Penn State at 149 pounds. Molinaro grabs Terrazas down slowly, but the two fade off the mat. An uneventful first period. The score is 0-0. Terrazas calls a blood timeout after a bleeding nose.
Lynch grabs Prater to start the second, almost gets a takedown. Lynch finally gets hold and takes Prater down. As the crowd roars, Lynch turns Prater. As every second builds, Lynch turns him more and more and the crowd rings louder. Lynch gets the pin and runs off the mat. Lynch pin- 3:56. PSU leads 12-0.
No. 11 Ryan Prater faces Adam Lynch at 141. Prater holds Lynch's leg, trying not to lose control. Lynch can't scramble away, Prater gains control for two. A fan yells, "Stalemate ref" as the two struggle for riding position. After a stalemate, Prater rides Lynch. Lynch tries to push off Prater's hand as time runs out. 2-0 Prater after one.
Pearsall notches two escapes, but Thomas gains a reversal and a takedown. Pearsall escape, Thomas takedown, Pearsall escape. Crowd is buzzing with 30 seconds left. Thomas struggles for control, but Pearsall avoids him and rides Thomas for the rest of the period. Pearsall wins 13-12. PSU leads 6-0.
Pearsall chooses neutral to start the second, stares his opponent down and throws him down to the mat for an 8-4 lead. Thomas gets a reversal but lets Pearsall escape. As Thomas guns for the takedown, Pearsall rolls backward and avoids Thomas's control to the crowd's amazement. Pearsall leads 9-6 after two.
Daryl Thomas faces Bryan Pearsall at 133. Pearsall gets taken down but escapes. The crowd roars as Pearsall gains a takedown of his own and turns Thomas -- almost pinning him. Another turn gives Pearsall three near fall points, but Thomas gets a reversal. 6-4 Pearsall after one.
Deneen rides Brad for another period, gains over a minute of riding time and turns Pataky for two back points. Pataky wins 7-3. 3-0 PSU lead.
Deneen cuts riding time down to under a minute. After a technical violation, Pataky gains another point. Deneen rode Pataky for an uneventful period. 7-0 Pataky after two periods.
Pataky takes the aggressive approach early on, struggling for a grip. He takes hold and gets a takedown. Pataky attempts the pin, but Deneen gets free. Pataky turns him again, gaining two near fall points. Two more near fall points give Pataky the 6-0 lead after the first period. Pataky had multiple pin attempts early on.
The No. 19 Fighting Illini will start John Deneen at 125 pounds. Brad Pataky will start for the No. 13 Nittany Lions.
This is Daily Collegian writer Brendan Monahan bringing you the live blog for the Penn State-Illinois Big Ten dual. The Blue Band is here playing "Dance to the Music." It is the band's first appearance this season.
Following a sixth straight loss to start conference play, the mood in Friday's practice was understandably reserved. But according to several players, the Lions are focusing on putting the loss behind them before a trip to Wisconsin on Sunday.
Here are some of their comments:
Freshman swingman Bill Edwards:
"I think yesterday it was real down after the game -- we lost six straight. Everybody just wants to get their first win as a group. I think we'll keep going, and we'll be fine. Once we get that first win, we'll get going."
Junior forward DJ Jackson:
"As far as talking about yesterday's game, there's just nothing we can do about it. We've really got to move on to Wisconsin but everybody knows what kind of mistakes we made but we're gonna try and correct them and get a win up in Madison."
"It's hard for the coaches, it's hard for the fans its hard for the players, its hard for everybody. But at the end of the day, if we hang our heads it's not gonna do any good."
Sophomore guard Chris Babb:
"Not really much you can say, but you just gotta keep fighting. We have a big game Sunday, so we just gotta keep fighting and keep moving."
The sophomore shooting guard is 1-for-12 from deep in the last two games while playing with a broken finger in his shooting hand. The injury, Babb said, has affected his shot in more ways than one.
"You can tell it's had an effect in the past two games," Babb said as he gripped his visibly swollen right pinky finger. "I've had my fingers taped up and it's hard to shoot with it, it's hard to grip the ball, and trying to catch and shoot is real tough."
Babb injured the finger in a loss last week to Illinois and has seen a decrease in playing time since.
Head coach Ed DeChellis said both Babb, and freshman swingman Bill Edwards, who has a broken finger in each hand, will be available when the Lions head to Madison to face Wisconsin on Sunday.
Edwards said the injuries were unfortunate, but it is nothing new to a basketball player.
"It's tough, but it's stuff you gotta play through," Edwards said. "Guys get hurt all the time so I'm just trying to work through it right now."
Edwards said the toughest part of playing with hand injuries is catching the ball before the shot because the pain lingers until after he releases it.
"It's a lot of catching the ball," said Edwards, who went 0-for-3 from the floor (Thursday night?). "Before you even think about shooting you get that pain in your hand. It's also there a little bit on the follow through."
No rest for the weary as the Texas Longhorns' chance to avenge their first loss of the season comes in Connecticut against the Huskies.
Uconn looked very good against St. John's on Wednesday, and Stanley Robinson has emerged as one of the best athletic freaks in college hoops. The Huskies have four starters in double figures but have lost some close games late.
The only thing separating these Huskies from the '96, '99, '04 and '06 teams (the four best in UConn history) is their lack of a shooter. Yeah, an Allen, Hamilton, Gordon or Anderson would certainly help late in games.
For the Horns, it will be interesting to see how they respond to a very demoralizing loss in which they could not convert from the line or down the stretch. Their depth is one of the best in the nation. That said, Storrs is a tough place to play. It'll be a thriller.
Prediction: Uconn 75, Texas 74
Player to watch: Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
The Panthers are coming off a tough loss, playing against a team that plays very little defense in Seton Hall. Expect Gibbs, who already averages 17 points per game, to take over.
Given the importance of the game -- the Panthers need to win not only to avoid a losing streak, but to re-establish the credibility they earned with a win at Syracuse -- Gibbs and the Panthers won't disappoint.
With the second semester underway and Penn State heading into the thick of its schedule, I think it's time we take a look back and see who is leading the way for the Icers on the stat sheet.
We tweet and write about goals and assists but we rarely ever give you totals and such. Well...now you'll know. On to the stats...
Leading Goal Scorer: Tim O'Brien (14)
O'Brien, the highest returning goal scorer from last year, has picked up where he left off last year. The forward has been a consistent goal scoring presence for the Icers despite taking a large chunk of the summer to deal with a nagging wrist injury.
Behind O'Brien is three players (Marek Polidor, Dominic Morrone (Casella's freshman to watch for) and Eric Steinour) with 12 goals a piece. Two other players (Chris Cerutti and Nick Seravalli) have 11 goals and Paul Daley is right on the verge of double digits with nine goals.
What makes this most impressive, and was touched upon by Casella in Paradis' player review, it's that Paradis has been moved around from line-to-line throughout the season but has still found ways to get his teammates in positions to put the puck in the back of the net.
Behind Paradis, 12 other Icers have at least 10 assists. Only four Icers have not notched assists. Those players have played a combined 24 games. Odds are, if you're a Penn State Icer and you're on the ice, you're making plays to help win hockey games.
Leading Points Scorer: Tim O'Brien and Marek Polidor (29)
No shock here. O'Brien and Polidor are right atop the goals leaders and both have 15 and 17 assists a piece. Both have made big plays for Penn State all season and will be key down the stretch if the Icers are going to make a run at a national title.
Behind the duo is another pair (Morrone and Paradis) with 28 points a piece.
Penalty Minutes Leader: Marek Polidor and Steve Thurston (59)
While I'm a little stunned at Thurston, a captain, having so many penalty minutes, when you see some of the penalties for each, it's not shocking to see how it got so high.
Here's the breakdown:
- Roughing (4)
- Boarding (2)
- Delay of Game (2)
- Hooking (2)
- Fighting: (1)
- Game DQ (1)
- Slashing (1)
- Roughing - Head Contact (1)
- 10 Minute Misconduct (1)
- Cross Checking (1)
- Checking From Behind (1)
- Holding (3)
- Cross Checking (3)
- Interference (2)
- Roughing (4)
- Tripping (1)
- Unsportsmanlike Conduct (1)
- 10 Minute Misconduct (1)
- Hooking (2)
- Checking From Behind (2)
- Fighting (1)
- Game Misconduct (1)
Plus/Minus Leader: Defensemen - Steve Thurston (+33), Forwards - Ryan Paradis/ Nick Seravalli (+21)
Not really shocking that Paradis, the team's assist leader is atop this list, nor is Seravalli, a person who is very active on the offensive end and makes a lot of things happen for Penn State.
Thurston is also a key cog for Penn State, especially on the power play and his slapshots from the point, which usually either find the back of the net or cause trouble on the rebound.
Well that'll wrap it up for this statistical analysis, we'll try to be back more often with this type of segment to keep you up to date on how the statsheet looks for the Icers.
The first home meet comes at a perfect time for the Nittany Lions as not only do they get to enjoy the comfort of performing in front of their home crowd at Rec Hall, but all three of Penn State's opponents appear inferior to the Lions, at least after looking at the numbers.
Two Ivy League schools, Cornell and Yale, as well as one conference foe in Iowa will travel to Rec Hall for Saturday night's quad-meet. Though Penn State's average score through the first two meets is just 194.025, the Lions are higher in the standings at No. 22 than all three of this weekend's opponents. Here is a brief scouting report of each the visiting teams.
No. 55 Cornell: Last Feb. 7, the Lions defeated Cornell at Rec Hall in a quad-meet 196.150 to 189.675. So far this season, Cornell has not placed first in either of its two meets as the Big Red finished second in a quad-meet at the University of Maryland on Jan. 15 and fourth out of six schools at a competition at George Washington on Jan. 17. Through those two meets, Cornell has an average score of 188.087 with its high score standing at 189.375.
No. 59 Yale: Penn State and Yale met last year on Mar. 14 in a quad-meet in College Park, Md., resulting in a first place finish for the Lions after posting 196.125. Yale finished fourth posting a lowly score of 165.625. The Bulldogs have only had one meet so far this season, which took place last weekend at New Hampshire. Yale finished in fourth in the quad-meet posting a score of 186.525 and now enters Saturday's meet facing its first Top 25 team of the season in Penn State.
No. 30 Iowa: The lone matchup with Iowa last season didn't come until the Big Ten Championship when Penn State placed third (196.525) and Iowa placed last (195.450). This season, Iowa has an average of 192.712 after two second place finishes in the Hawkeyes' two opening meets. Similar to Penn State in its opening meet in East Lansing, Mich., Iowa finished second to the Spartans on Jan. 15.
Check back with Beam Me Up for a live blog of the action at 7 p.m. on Saturday from Rec Hall as the Lions look to notch their first win of the 2010 season.
The rundown: The No. 6 Nittany Lions take their 3-1 record to Springfield, Mass. Saturday night when they face EIVA foe Springfield College. The Pride -- ranked No. 2 in the latest DIII Coaches Poll -- have struggled in their first two matches of 2010, falling to 0-2 after losses to UC Santa Cruz and Cal Baptist. The Lions, meanwhile, returned from the Outrigger Invitational last week and opened up their conference slate with a convincing sweep over St. Francis (Pa.) -- ranked second in the EIVA.
Not exactly a rivalry: Penn State has played Springfield 28 times since 1977 -- and the Lions have won every match, including two sweeps last season.
Nally tallies: Senior AJ Nally has lead Springfield's offense so far this season, recording 25 kills in the first two matches (3.57 kills per set). Nally, a senior outside hitter from Rochester, N.Y., also excels defensively for the Pride. In 2007, he recorded 236 digs, ranking him third on Springfield's single-season all-time list.
Difference maker: Eric Shoemaker is another player the Lions will need to watch out for. The senior setter -- who hails from Mount Wolf -- has already notched 85 assists and a team-high four aces. Shoemaker was a EIVA Second Team All-East selection last season.
Double feature: Penn State's game against the Pride is slated for a 5 p.m. start, following the Springfield men's basketball team match with Worcester Polytechnic Institute at 1 p.m.. Both games are at Blake Arena. At practice on Wednesday, coach Mark Pavlik warned his team that they would be facing a rowdy crowd, as the student body will be riled up for the latter half of a Saturday double feature.
Key to victory: Penn State will need to keep the ball away from the Pride's Cal Palumbo. The 6-foot-5 middle blocker is undoubtedly Springfield's best player. He's a two-time AVCA First Team All-American and sat among the NCAA Division III leaders in hitting percentage and blocks per game in 2009. Edgardo Goas will need to have a strong game orchestrating the offense, choosing the right hitters at the right times to hit the lanes, and keep the ball far from Palumbo's reach.
Prediction: Penn State has never lost to the Pride, and I don't see that trend changing this year. The Lions are just too talented for Charlie Sullivan's squad. Penn State's effort against St. Francis last week was a little lackluster, and after a week of energetic practice they should find a steady groove against the Pride. Expect a big night from the reigning EIVA Player of the Week Will Price. PSU 3 Springfield 0
The Lady Lions are in uncharted territory. Wins in nine of their last 10 games have this team sitting at second place in the conference and, for the first time under third-year coach Coquese Washington, the Lady Lions have 14 wins.
While the conference season is still young and the Lions haven't played Ohio State, which boasts a 7-0 record in the Big Ten, there's no denying the validity of the team's win over Wisconsin.
After the Lions were in a very similar position two years ago, the Kohl Center was where the downslide began. Tonight, the Kohl Center was the place where the Lions' improbable season took another upward turn.
Tyra Grant told reporters after the Lions upset Michigan State that Washington said she didn't have a play that could draw up heart. Tonight, Washington told Wisconsin reporters she didn't draw up anything special to get the ball in Grant's hands during the second half.
It's the senior's will to succeed that has allowed her to put this team on her back time and time again. And so far she's helped lead them to a place that few people (including us here at Washington's Post) thought they'd go.
Tonight's win proved the Lions' offense is strong enough to overcome one of the conference's best defenses. The win showed that, even if Grant is having an off night, there are enough players around her that can keep it close.
Julia Trogele has been coming on strong during the team's five-game win streak as she's scored 50 points during this span. Her ability to stay out of foul trouble has given the Lions a very versatile player who has proven her worth in the post and is now showing off her shooting skills.
After the Michigan State game, Grant dubbed Trogele as the "best shooter on the entire team." After she hit three of five 3-pointers against Wisconsin, we're witnessing another element of Trogele's play. Having a third scorer who can step up when Grant or freshman Alex Bentley falters is something that makes this team very tough to match up against.
But just three months ago the season wasn't supposed to be going this way. This was a team that was supposed to be suffering from growing pains. They were picked to be in the bottom half of the conference and somehow they are finding ways to win these close games. Often the margin between a good team and a bad team can be the difference between a few bad breaks here and there. But so far, the Lions have capitalized on these opportunities.
The Wisconsin win was one of those games where, if the Lions would've lost, it would've been easy to point to an extremely slow start on the offensive end of the court that could've doomed this team. But the Lions found a way to get the job done. The defense held its own and when Grant finally started hitting, her teammates were free to get some cleaner looks at the basket.
Tonight's game fit the mold of a typical conference matchup and, like Penn State's done several times before, it eked by the competition. The Lions aren't blowing teams out as their average margin of victory is just 13 points. If you take away the nonconference games, Penn State is beating its opponents by an average of just eight points per game.
These close wins are what's allowing the team to stay in the thick of the conference race.
This season's two overtime wins against Iowa and Indiana were games that Penn State wouldn't have been able to close out last year. Hanging with a team like Pittsburgh, which was ranked 15th in the country at the time, would've been viewed as a moral victory last year. But beating Pitt and now ringing in the new year with a perfect 5-0 record shows what kind of potential this team has.
While the Lions had the experience last season, they didn't have the mentality that this team brings to the court.
The youth of this team was supposed to be exposed. We were supposed to see flashes of what this team could do in the coming years with top recruits Nikki Greene and Alex Bentley, but what we're seeing is the complete opposite. We're witnessing a group of confident, young players who make it clear that they want to be playing meaningful basketball come mid-March.
This team stood by and watched as the men's basketball team marched its way to an NIT championship last season. When Grant spoke of her season's goals on media day she said that being invited to a tournament of the magnitude would be a great way to end her Penn State career.
If the Lions keep playing the way they are, they just might find themselves competing in the most meaningful basketball tournament in the country.
Sources are telling Phillies insider Jayson Stark the team came to terms on a three-year deal with centerfielder Shane Victorino.
So Phillies fans exhale. Your Flyin' Hawaiian is here to stay.
Victorino is an all-star caliber centerfielder who comes relatively cheap.
You can't measure the impact of a guy who can steal bases any time Davey Lopes tells him to. Or who can ball hawk the outfield with such ease. Or who can keep a locker room loose with his smart-aleck demeanor -- even if Charlie Manuel isn't too fond of it.
I was in the Phils' clubhouse a few times last summer, including the game against the Marlins when he was ejected from centerfield.
A hot-headed Victorino dismissed reporters after the game, explaining he did not mock the umpire, then stormed out of the clubhouse after threatening a local reporter not to quote his expletive-laden explanation.
Everyone looked at each other stunned. Time to find somebody else to talk.
Moments later, with a grin spanning ear-to-ear, Shane returned and hopped up onto a counter and told reporters to gather 'round.
He delivered a 10-minute interview with plenty of one-liners, and afterward jokingly put the reporter he threatened into a headlock like he was messing with him all along.
At least he's having fun playing a kid's game.
* * * * *
The Phillies looked to lock up a trip to their third-straight World Series by re-signing centerfielder Shane Victorino to a three-year deal.
They aimed to notch up their fourth-consecutive NL East title by signing right-handed starter Joe Blanton to a three-year deal.
Um, all right. That's cool.
But if the Phightins really want to make a run at their second championship in three years, they need to bring back the little-known man behind the plate.
It looks like Philly management intends on signing catcher Carlos Ruiz to a new contract, and for the team's sake it'd better. Chooch's numbers don't seem too imperitive to the club: a .255 batting average, nine home run and 43 RBIs never won an MVP award.
But how about Ruiz's postseason numbers? The dude hit .341 in 15 games in the '09 playoffs with a .491 on-base percentage and a .591 slugging percentage. He tied for the fewest postseason strikeouts among regular starters. He came up clutch for the Phils in each of the last two postseasons, with his monstrous Game 3 of the 2008 World Series serving as the biggest.
Senor Octubre must return to the Bank if the Phillies want to keep this string of success going. After all, who's going to do the catching if he's gone? Paul Bako? One of the Phils' nonexistent catching prospects? I think not.
It's not everyday you get a chance to talk with an NBA head coach.
In light of that, Hen and I were pretty hyped to get a chance to talk to Boston Celtics coach, and 2008 champ, Doc Rivers. Rivers was in town to watch his son Jeremiah, a guard on Indiana, take on Penn State and was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
Q: Impressions of Talor Battle
A: He's going to be a terrific player. It's funny, one of my scouts said, "Hey since you're going, take a look at him." He's going to be fantastic. He's smooth, he can shoot. I like him a lot.
Q: How about your son? He's having a good game.
A: Yeah he is, I don't ever critique him. I'm his parent. I let everybody else handle that, but I love to watch him any chance I get.
Q: Thoughts on Iverson making the All-Star team?
A: I just saw that, yeah. It's the fans, I think the fans have a right to pick whoever they want and obviously they like him, so that's good.
Q: Thoughts on what Tom Crean has been able to do at Indiana?
A; He's been terrific. I mean, I don't know if a college coach has come into the extreme circumstances that he's come under, but he's going to turn it around. You can see it slowly happening right now.
Q: Changes after [Indiana freshman] Maurice Creek went down?
A: It's tough. Being an NBA coach, I know about injuries. They happen and somebody else has to step forward, and that's what the other guys are doing. Nobody's going to replace one guy so it's going to have to be a team effort.
Q: Any thoughts on Thursday's Lebron-Kobe matchup?
A: No. Who cares about those guys? (Laughs) If they don't wear green, I don't like them. (Laughs again)
Head coach Ed DeChellis and junior guard Talor Battle finally responded to accusations in an Altoona Mirror story that DeChellis asked future Nittany Lion Taran Buie to move to State College to improve the State College High School basketball team.
After Buie's mother commented Wednesday, DeChellis and Battle, Buie's half-brother, each denied those accusations following Thursday's game, calling them ridiculous and saying they wouldn't waste any time worrying about them.
"It was just ridiculous. My family moved down here to be closer to me," Battle said. "It was with no one's help, and I'm happy they're down here. I don't know who that guy is, but I heard about it, and my family isn't even worried about it because we know why they moved down here. I'm just happy my brother is close so I can go see his games, and I'm sure my mother is as well."
DeChellis agreed, calling the comments "spilled water over the dam."
"I just think it's unfortunate," DeChellis said. "I've got a lot of problems, and that ain't one of them right now. Talor and his mom are a great family and they came for the right reasons, and it's just unfortunate."
A player-by-player breakdown of Penn State's loss to Indiana on Thursday night.
Andrew Ott: A-
Ott had one of his best games of the season and has emerged as the Lions' most reliable low-post threat. He was three rebounds shy of a double-double in just 24 minutes, and it was his dunk that helped spark a late first-half run by the Lions (a run that was cut short by a pair of Hoosier threes).
Chris Babb: D+
The inconsistency continued on Thursday for the sophomore shooting guard. It's tough to tell whether Babb's 1-for-8 performance from the floor was a result of the broken pinky on his shooting hand or if he is just struggling. Before the Iowa game, Babb had emerged as a legitimate No. 2 scoring option. After just four points in 33 minutes Thursday, it looks like he's fallen into another slump.
DJ Jackson: B+
Jackson had another DJ Jackson-like performance: nothing flashy, but he put up solid numbers and made some big buckets. Jackson finished with nine points, six boards and two assists on the night.
Bill Edwards: D
Despite getting the first start of his collegiate career, Edwards played just 13 minutes. The reason: He gave head coach Ed DeChellis no reason to keep him in the ball game. Edwards picked up an early foul by knocking over an IU 3-point shooter and had four turnovers. After a very promising start to conference play, the freshman took a step back on Thursday.
Talor Battle: A-
Battle scored 22 points on a very bad ankle, so he gets the A. He gets the minus because the Lions lost yet another close game, though it's tough to blame him. He hardly touched the ball in the final minute of play.
Drew Jones: C
Six boards from Jones were very big as the Lions finally had a game in which they controlled the low post. They out-rebounded the Hoosiers 41-35 and pulled down 18 offensive boards. Jones also managed to get open on the offensive end, but the guards had trouble getting the ball inside to him, and the junior forward managed just four points.
Tim Frazier: C-
Frazier hit a very clutch 3-pointer to keep the Lions in the game with just under 10 minutes to play. Aside from that shot, the freshman was very passive. That may become a concern for the Lions, especially with a guy DeChellis wants to run the offense. Frazier was benched in favor of Edwards tonight and only got 12 minutes.
Cammeron Woodyard: C-
It's refreshing to see somebody other than Talor Battle who's willing to step up late in the game to take a shot. Now if only those shots would start falling. Woodyard took three crucial corner 3-pointers as the Hoosiers doubled Battle and missed all three of them. He finished the night scoreless.
Jeff Brooks: B
Brooks could be doing more on the offensive end, but he has certainly picked it up on the glass. The junior forward had eight boards in just 18 minutes, including three on the offensive end. He also had the play of the night, swatting a ball into the backboard that was at least a foot over the rim. But despite the progress on defense and on the glass, the Lions are very desperate for another scorer and Brooks only had four points.
On Tuesday, I wrote a column talking about how Penn State's team mentality helped defeat the No. 2 Ohio Bobcats last weekend.
I outlined how no player scored more than one goal, no player had more than one assist against the Bobcats and how the Icers spread out their scoring distribution.
That hasn't been lost on Penn State's leadership, which believes those statistics are representative of the Icers taking a step towards becoming a great team.
"Everybody comes to work," senior captain and defenseman John Conte said. "There's no showboating, there's no guy that's better than the group. Right now, we've got a good group that's heading in the right direction and is doing the right things and that's the most important thing. Get on a winning attitude and make sure we're doing what works every day."
With Penn State having such a young team, such praise and confidence from a senior leader is quite telling of how close this team is and how much faith the players have in each other.
Make sure to check BTP tomorrow where I will go deeper into the Icers' statistics and offer my insights on what I believe are some surprises on the stat sheet.
The NCAA Division I Wrestling Coaches' Panel Rankings were released for the first time today. The rankings are the first of three installments presented by the NCAA. Along with the ratings percentage index (RPI) and winning percentage, the final installment of the Coaches' Panel Rankings will determine the at-large bids in each weight class for the NCAA Tournament. Here are the Nittany Lions' rankings:
A flurry of threes by Woodyard and Babb fall short of going in and Woodyard is called for a foul.
AJ's insightful comment of the night: "And let the mass exodus begin."
That's it for tonight, the Lions fall 67-61 for their sixth straight Big Ten loss.
And with that, we are heading down to the press room.
Jackson gets the second shot to fall.
Battle called for a foul, intentionally and it puts Daniel Moore at the line. Moore sinks the first FT and PSU takes a timeout.
Gotta love close games in basketball
37.9 seconds 2nd half. Ind 66 - PSU 61
Final minute of play and Verdell Jones travels. Lions inbound and Jackson gets fouled going up for a shot. Two shots for Jackson with 39.9 left on the clock.
Jackson hits the first and Brooks is on for Ott as Indiana takes a timeout.
39.9 seconds 2nd half. Ind 65 - PSU 60
Pretty funny sequence on that last possession. A ref was standing in Crean's usual spot and the Hoosier coach had no problem sliding in and screaming as usual. Have to wonder if any of it was directed at the man in the striped shirt.
Teams back out on the floor for the final stretch. Indiana inbounds with Babb, Battle, Woodyard, Jackson and Ott on the floor for Penn State.
Verdell Jones hits another basket with one tick on the shot clock.
Ott answers back and we have another timeout.
1:30 2nd half. Ind 65 - PSU 59
Just behind Penn State's basket, in the front row of the stands, a group of students has painted PSU <3s ESPN 2 on their stomachs, and are accompanied by a blue clad knockoff of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Greenman.
I appreciate the effort, but does anyone really love ESPN2?
Jeremiah Rivers is back in for the Hoosiers as Jordan Hulls puts up a rushed, contested three.
Ott called for a foul and the crowd is not happy. Derek Elston makes both foul shots and the Hoosiers are up nine.
And there it is folks, Jeremiah Rivers is done for the night. My favorite crowd chant of "left, right, left, right....SIT DOWN!" in full effect, and it is quite funny. Battle makes the first as Woodyard comes in for Frazier. Battle short on the second shot and Indiana gets the board.
Ott with a good box out and the board, which he feeds to Battle. The junior turns the following possession into a basket and the foul. Battle misses on the FT however, and it stays a six-point game.
Battle causes a steal, which he converts into a bucket while getting fouled by Tom Pritchard. Number 12 hits the FT and it gets Nittany Nation back into the game. Watford answers for Indiana, but Ott goes up strong and finishes what Battle gave him.
Crean takes another stroll down his bench, and as far as I can tell, Dwyane Wade is still in the NBA and unable to enter this game. Indiana gets the offensive rebound and Verdell Jones nails a three with one second on the shot clock.
Jackson called for a foul as the buzzer sounded, not a good play by the forward on that one. Timeout on the floor.
2:16 2nd half. Ind 63 - PSU 57
Verdell Jones hits the first foul shot, misses the second. Seems to be a recurring theme tonight at the line.
Drew Jones from Jackson for two.
Tim Frazier looks to be off tonight, as the freshman guard is having trouble getting into any kind of rhythm on the floor.
And just because I typed that, Frazier hits a three.
Battle tries to find Jones underneath but the pass sails just enough that the center can't haul it in. Ott comes back in for Jones and he gets a nice ovation from the crowd.
Capobianco (there's that name again) called for his third foul, which puts Battle at the stripe. Battle sinks his first attempt, and replicates on the second. Jeff Brooks comes on for Jackson and Indiana gets whistled for a travel.
Penn State in a full-court man zone defense and it leads to a blocked shot by Ott, which gets translated into a Frazier bucket off a Battle pass. The crowd is into it now as Dumes silences them with an NBA-range three.
Jeff Brooks with an athletic block, but the ball goes back to the Hoosiers and we have a timeout.
7:03 2nd half. Ind 56 - PSU 49
If I can, I'd like to gloat for a second here. Normally all I leave these games with are a bunch of quotes and a scoresheet, but tonight I get to take home a small foam basketball. Baller.
The scoreboard just graced us with what may have been the least fulfilling kiss cam ever, but fortunately basketball comes to the rescue.
Jackson whistled for a foul, Penn State's first of the half.
AJ: "Ott's a beast tonight." My beat partner is right, the center just muscled down his sixth rebound and has been making hustle plays all game.
Watford nails a triple for Indiana, but Brooks responds with an and-1 on the other end. Brooks scored on a put back of a Battle miss. Jones comes on for Ott before the foul shot, which Brooks misses.
Battle with a sweet shot in traffic. Indiana misses a three and Babb hauls in the ball and gets fouled. Penn State is already in the bonus and the sophomore hits the front end of a one-and-one but bricks the second shot.
Verdel Jones III scores for the Hoosiers as Crean takes a walk down the lentgh of his bench. I hope Crean isn't looking for Dwyane Wade down there.
Bad defensive possesion for Penn State as Derek Eston gets wide open and sinks a three-ball. A Lions miss on the other end leads to Drew Jones fouling Verdell Jones.
Timeout on the floor.
11:30 2nd half. Ind 45 - PSU 40
Out of the timeout, Bobby Capobianco (that's quite the name) fouls Babb fighting for a loose ball and the Lions take over.
Battle misses a three and while Ott can't convert the first attempt, Jeff Brooks makes a nice save to Ott who gets fouled.
The big man hits the first FT but front-rims the second. Ball goes out of bounds, but stays with Indiana and we have a timeout.
15:58 2nd half Ind 37 - PSU 35
Hen has just informed me that last basket was Jackson's 500th career point. The forward has been the Lions most consistent player this season behind Battle and it's nice to see him get to this milestone.
Hoosiers start the half with the rock and convert it into two points.
Starters are back out for Penn State as Christian Watford fouls Edwards away from the basket. On the ensuing play, Edwards takes the inbounds and finds Jackson down low for a bucket.
Good trap by Ott and Edwards results in a travel call and Penn State is back on offense, but the ball gets turned over. Jeremiah Rivers misses a shot and Battle tries to take it coast to coast, but a nice chase down by Rivers results in a block.
Battle hits a transition layup and on the other end, Babb draws an offensive foul on Rivers. That makes four fouls and seat on the bench for Rivers and the Lions take the ball again.
Jackson scores and Tom Crean takes a timeout.
16:51 2nd Ind 37-PSU 34
A-Rob in the house to take you guys through the second half of action.
Few notes before we get back to action.
1. Some of you may have noticed AJ take a shot at me earlier. All I'm going to say is I went 5-0 and shut down a guy six inches taller than me in two of the games.
2. Hen and I just talked to Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. As an admitted Sixers fan, I don't like the Celtics, but Rivers definitely earned "good guy" status in my book. I'll try and get some quotes from Doc up after the game.
Second half is about to begin so get ready.
Penn State's keys to the second half:
1. Contain the deep ball: Indiana's gotten open-look after open-look. Especially considering they will have to come from behind, the Lions can't afford a back-breaking string of 3-pointers.
2. Keep feeding the post: As strange as it seems for a guard-oriented team all season, the Lions have had success in the post thus far -- specifically Andrew Ott. Ott has eight points and four boards through the first 20 minutes.
3. Get to the line (oh, and make the shots, too): Despite putting IU in early foul trouble, the Lions only managed five free throws. Of those, they only made three. More points from the stripe will be essential not only on the scoreboard, but for Penn State to try and assert itself in the second stanza.
End first half: Indiana 35, Penn State 28
Probably shouldn't have posted that last one, considering Robinson will be taking you through the second half of play with plenty of access to say what he wants about me.
Regardless, here's how the half closed out:
Since falling behind early the Lions have looked like the better team, but IU has hit some deep-balls to keep Penn State at arm's length.
With just over a minute to play, Babb took an NBA-range 3-pointer only to airball. The ball hit Jackson in the thigh, right to a cutting Ott for a two-handed jam.
Trailing by nine on the next possession, Ott banked home a five footer in the post to cut the lead just before the break.
I'll be back shortly with some keys for the second half. Again it's Indiana by seven.
During the break ARob caught a foam mini-basketball that one of the cheerleaders threw into the stands. I played basketball with him last night, and trust me, it's the most athletic thing he's done in the last 48 hours.
2:55 to go first half: Indiana 31, Penn State 24
Since Hulls and Battle traded threes with about six minutes to go in the first half, the Hoosiers have struggled from deep, missing three on the same possession. Of course that means the Lions gave up two offensive boards.
The big story of the last four minutes: Rivers' third foul. Tom Crean will likely send Rivers to the bench for the remainder of the half, and with the Lions playing much better than they did in the first 10 minutes, we'll see how the Hoosiers fare without their floor general on the court.
Despite a low percentage since early in the contest, the Hoosiers have made a few 3-pointers to give them a seven-point lead.
7:27 to go first half: Indiana 23, Penn State 14
The Lions aren't attacking the basket at all despite early Indiana foul trouble. As a result, Indiana has extended its zone, leaving the middle completely exposed, but the Lions still aren't throwing the ball inside to their big man -- presently Andrew Jones. When Jones did shoot the ball it was 16 feet from the basket and missed all rim.
Rivers has six for Indiana, but even more impressively, he is running the point and controlling the game. The Lions could use some of that right now as their guards seem hesitant to pass the ball into their big men, but at the same time aren't getting to the hoop to free up shooters.
When they finally do so, 11 minutes into the game, Battle finds a wide-open Jones for two. After two stalled possessions on the perimeter, Battle gives it to Brooks on the block who spins out of the double-team and hits a turnaround 10-footer. Because of some shaky defense, however, the Lions trail by nine.
11:53 to go first half: Indiana 15, Penn State 10
DeChellis inserted Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones just five minutes into the game for Edwards and Ott. While Edwards was struggling a little, Ott had two points and came up with an offensive board, drawing a foul.
After Ott's tip-in tied the game at eight, the Hoosiers used a free throw and a Devan Dumes 3-pointer to give Indiana a four-point lead. After a Penn State bucket, Jordan Hulls hit a corner three. Guarding the long ball has been a struggle for the Lions all season, and if Indiana gets hot from deep, it could be a long night.
The Hoosiers have five fouls early in the contest. Penn State should start getting to the bucket instead of settling for long-range jumpers if the refs keep calling the game this loosely. They are two fouls away from the bonus.
15:29 to go first half: Indiana 8, Penn State 6
According to sports information director Brian Siegrist's Twitter account, Talor Battle is playing today on a severely twisted left ankle that he suffered during Tuesday's practice. Coaches thought he may have broken it -- which would have been catastrophic to an already struggling Lion squad -- but he underwent an MRI and it wasn't as serious as originally thought. He seems to be moving on it fine, with three points already.
Indiana opened the game on a 4-0 run, but Battle answered back immediately with a wing 3-pointer. The Lions have made a pair of treys (the other coming from Babb). Jeremiah Rivers has four points for the Hoosiers and appears to be running the show pretty fluidly.
Rivers' father, Doc, is in the stands behind the Hoosier bench. Doc is the head coach of the Boston Celtics and has an NBA ring from the '08 season. No word yet on whether that ring is on his finger tonight.
Bill Edwards gets the start tonight as coach Ed DeChellis keeps the changes coming. Here is the lineup in full:
SG: Chris Babb
SF: Bill Edwards
PF: DJ Jackson
C: Andrew Ott
Interesting lineup choice by DeChellis. Instead of changing up the frontcourt, which has struggled throughout conference play, he inserts Bill Edwards into the backcourt.
Edwards was battling a broken pinky on his non-shooting hand, so this move clearly means he is feeling fine. It will be Edwards' first collegiate start, and it comes at the expense of fellow freshman Tim Frazier, who -- while talented -- has looked very jittery at times thus far in the Big Ten season.
Here is the starting five for the Crean-coached Hoosiers:
G: Jordan Hulls
G: Jeremiah Rivers
G: Verdell Jones III
F: Tom Pritchard
F: Christian Watford
Tip-time. Check back for updates after every break.
We finally are back at the Bryce Jordan Center, and its a bit of an odd scene here. Indiana is warming up while rocking their candy cane warm-up pants and the seats rather barren.
Anyway, here are three things to watch for in tonight's game.
1. Big man play. If the Nittany Lions want to end their Big Ten slide, they need one or both of their big guys to man up and produce.
2. Chris Babb and Bill Edwards. The sophomore guard is dealing with a broken pinky finger on his right hand while Edwards also has a break on his right hand. Both are playing with their fingers taped together, so it will be interesting to see how their shooting and time on the court are affected.
3. Tom Crean. The Hoosiers head coach has done a admirable job rebuilding Indiana in a year and a half. However, without a Dwyane Wade-level superstar, he still has some work to do, but the Hooisers are playing hard and have some solid wins this year.
At last night's Pistons/Celtics game (a Pistons win for the record!), Detroit fan Scott Zack, who evidently was already warned about his loose lips earlier in the night, decided to make the Boston forward his target of choice.
He called Davis "fat boy" and the always popular "chubs" throughout the game, getting under his skin. During a break in the play, Davis told the fan to perform a certain act that I can not repeat but would not be appropriate around your mother.
"We've been taught you have to take it and you have to keep playing," Rivers said on a morning talk show. "I don't think it's a huge step backward [in Davis' maturity], but it is a step backward, and Glen Davis (notes) has to grow up."
Step one would to be stop referring to him as "Big Baby." Just a thought.
But you know what grown men don't do? Cry when they're yelled at by Kevin Garnett.
They also don't shove children either.
So Doc, I don't know when Glen took this major step forward. Maybe it was when he got in that off-the-court altercation this offseason that ended with a broken finger and missed playing time to start the season.
I'm not saying the fan was right because Pistons fans certainly have the rep of starting minor incidents at games (and by minor I mean near riots in stadiums) but Davis has to be a bigger man, as Mr. Zach clearly believed Big Baby was by his jokes. Sadly, he did not see it that way.
Block of the Night: Jason Maxiell on Rasheed Wallace:
So Jason Maxiell does have a pulse? Well what do you know! It's a shame that he had to do it to a washed-up old man like Rasheed Wallace, but sometimes you just have to let these geezers know when it's time to let go. C'mon Sheed, c'mon son. Get out of here with that garbage.
Play of the Night: Nenad Krstic is coming to a poster near you:
Well, that's gotta hurt, and hurt bad. First off, Nenad Krstic is garbage. The former first-round pick (sorry Nets fans) is averaging eight points and five boards a game. To add to this indignity, he gets schooled by Damien Wilkens, nephew of the all-time great Dominique Wilkins. Clearly dunking runs in the family.
The Lady Lions are having their best season in recent memory, but that doesn't mean they're still not open to a little help.
Especially when it comes from a three-time defending national champion.
This past Tuesday, the Lady Lions played host to the Penn State women's volleyball team for dinner. Afterwards, members of the volleyball team addressed the Lady Lions' players and coaches and talked about the difficulties of maintaining a winning attitude.
"It's not often you're in the company of greatness," Lady Lions' coach Coquese Washington said. "Make no mistake about it, this kind of team and program doesn't come around every day."
In fact, this type of program has never come around. The women's volleyball team has won three consecutive national championships. During that three-year span, the Lions have also won 102 consecutive matches.
Obviously, coach Washington wasn't trying to send the message that the Lady Lions need to pull off the same feat, but the coach wanted her players to learn what it takes to be a champion.
"You don't get those opportunities everyday to sit down and look someone in the eye whose at the top of their game, whose doing something no one else has ever done in the history of college sports and get their feedback on how they did it," Washington said."
It remains to be seen if the lessons learned from the women's volleyball team will have a lasting effect on the Lady Lions. But for the time being, the Lady Lions players are taking what the volleyball team has said to heart.
"They inspire us," forward Julia Trogele said about the volleyball team. "They played with a target on their back. For us, people maybe think we're playing with a target on our backs now, but we're just playing to get better."
The No. 13 Penn State wrestling team hosts No. 19 Illinois at 7p.m. Friday in Rec Hall.
I got an opportunity to talk with Illinois head coach Jim Heffernan over the phone. Here is a little of what Heffernan had to say about the matchup.
"We're going to take the same approach we always do wrestling any Big Ten team. It's going to be a very difficult dual meet. Guys are gonna wrestle hard, they'll be in shape, and it will be physical. I think it's always important to try and get yourself established that you're one of the teams that's going to be competitive."
Here's Heffernan's response to how competing against No. 2 Iowa State helped prepare his team for Penn State.
"I don't think we competed anywhere near as hard as we need to. In the postseason, you have to wrestle teams like Iowa State, Penn State, Minnesota and other Big Ten teams."
It will be a matchup of two head coaches looking for their first conference win, but Heffernan isn't putting much importance into that fact.
"This is my 18th season at Illinois. Just because my title changed, doesn't mean my expectations or my goals changed. I want to be competitive as possible and try to win every meet. To me, the first dual meet win, non-conference or conference, is about the team. It's not about me or my stats. It's about the team and the program. That's the way I've always approached coaching and the way I'll continue to approach it. It has nothing to do with my records."
Finally, here's a little of what he had to say about the Penn State crowd.
"Every time we've been out there, there have always been great crowds. They're very knowledgeable. They appreciate wrestling. It's a great place to go to compete."
The Hall is a favorite against tournament-worthy Louisville tonight in a matchup of middle-of-the pack Big East squads. But while the Cards are no doubt loaded with talent, they remain a bubble team simply because of their inability to finish. They blew a large lead against VIllanova and lost a last-minute lead to Pitt -- both games that could potentially be bubble bursters down the stretch. With games coming up against Cincinnati, UConn and West Virginia, a win tonight over Seton Hall could be vital in avoiding a possible free fall.
To do so, Louisville will have to shut down Jeremy Hazell, who is averaging 23 points per game and is doing so in every way imaginable. Hazell may be the best pure scorer in a Big East Conference loaded with them. That said, expect Louisville's depth and their sense of urgency to propel them tonight.
Prediction: Louisville 84, Seton Hall 70
Player to watch: Talor Battle
Talor Battle has heard all week about the Lions' inability to win close games down the stretch. Expect that to be weighing on him when the Lions meet Indiana. Battle will be playing in front of the student section for the first time since late December.
Despite averaging 18 points, six boards and four assists, most of the talk about Battle this season has focused on the Lions 0-5 conference record and their inability to convert down the stretch. That could change tonight (at least for a day or two) with a solid performance in a very winnable game.
John Harbaugh, who I consider one of the top five coaches in college football, apparently does not want anything to do with the Oakland Raiders, which reportedly inquired about the Stanford coach jumping to the NFL.
Harbaugh isn't exactly running a dynasty in Palo Alto, Calif., so it's pretty embarrassing a prestigious NFL franchise can't lure a young, enthusiastic coach to coach the big boys.
Oh, that's right. The wrinkly old man in the jumpsuit runs the show for the silver and black.
At some point, Raiders' owner Al Davis went from being known as a guy willing to throw money around like it's nothing to being the cancer of the Black Hole.
Recently, Davis scoffed at former MVP QB Rich Gannon when he offered his services to mentor JaMarcus Russell, the disastrous top pick in the 2007 draft.
Hire after hire won't fix the Raiders. Anyone not named Al Davis running the show will.
* * * * *
The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, and the Lord sometimes sustaineth desire to play pro football in aging quarterbacks.
That's kind of the way Kurt Warner put it to ESPN columnist Rick Reilly: "It means I pray that God takes away the desire in me to play this game," [Warner] says. "I've loved it for so long. I need Him to take that away from me, so that I can be comfortable with this decision."
Not unlike retirement flipflopper and fellow aging star Brett Favre, Warner is juggling the acknowledgment that he's aging and his desire to throw the pigskin. (I know some might take issue with such a juxtaposition, but consider Warner's two MVPs, his Super Bowl ring and the passing numbers he's stacked up taller than those of some of your favorite quarterbacks, and just let it go.)
Throw in worries about the long-term sustainability of his body after three ("probably more like five") concussions and the spectacle of a vicious 2008 hit on teammate Anquan Boldin, and Warner's faith (in his playing football, not in God) is waivering.
But that's OK -- even if Warner's still got some gas in the tank. It's better to head to the garage than to sputter to a stop on the highway because you wanted to stretch out the last drops of fuel. And In Warner's case, maybe the car stays in the garage for a while, retired, but like Reilly expresses in his column, at least Kurt will be able to go out for a spin later on to play some pickup hoops or chase some grandchildren around.
No shame, Kurt. You've got your ring; you've earned some individual accolades. Reilly says you're a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Sure, Favre's making good on his fourth wind, but if you don't still see a gunslinger when you look in the mirror, don't fake it. Nobody can say Kurt Warner has anything left to prove.
* * * * *
The All-American Basketball Alliance plans to start a 12-team professional league made up entirely of white players.
Hold on, let me repeat that.
The All-American Basketball Alliance plans to start a 12-team professional league made up entirely of white players.
It's OK. I thought it was a typo when I read it the first time as well.
"Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league," the AABA's statement said.
Here's the rest of what the Augusta Chronicle managed to eke out of the, ahem, "nonracist," league:
"There's nothing hatred about what we're doing," he said. "I don't hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here's a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like."
Lewis said he wants to emphasize fundamental basketball instead of "street-ball" played by "people of color." He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas' indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans' dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run.
"Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" he said. "That's the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction."
I guess the name "WNBA" was already taken. For what it's worth, only 33 current NBA players would be eligible.
So what do they do about the Jason Williamses and Chris Andersens, you know, the type of "natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race?"
Here is a list of the top games of this coming season:
5. Maryland (Feb. 21 University Park) In only its third game of the season, Penn State hosts a Maryland team that beat Penn State 20-12 last year in Maryland. The trip will be the first road game for the Terps and an early opportunity for the Lions to gain national attention and respect.
4. Ohio State (April 18 Columbus) The Buckeyes came to State College twice last year and were upset both times, losing by four goals each game. This is Penn State's final and most challenging road game. Less than a month later, the Lions will retun to Columbus for the American Lacrosse Conference championship.
3. Virginia (March 7 University Park) The Lions blew a six goal lead with just over 15 minutes left in the game before the No. 2 Cavaliers came back and forced overtime. UVA won it 12-11, dealing the Penn State its first loss. Look for a heated rematch in Happy Valley.
2. Florida (April 3 Gainesville) Though this will be the inaugural season for the Gators, Amanda O'Leary has been recruiting for a few years now and hopes her team will hit the ground running. Penn State won't overlook its trip to Gainesville as it begins a series with a team poised to become a division rival.
1. Northwestern (April 11 University Park) This will be the game of the year for the Nittany Lions as they try to knock off a Northwestern team that has won five straight national titles. Last season, the teams met in the regular season in Evanston and in the ALC championsip game in State College. The Wildcats won both games by a combined score of 30-9. Already the preseason No. 1, Northwestern looks to keep its winning streak and dominance over the conference in tact. The Lions pose the biggest threat to a sixth straight title for Northwestern, and more fuel will be added to this fire as the season gets underway.
Off the mat, Justin Ortega is the carefree YouTube and "Cops" spoof video creator, the guy who picks others up with a quick joke and, as teammate Dan Vallimont said, someone his teammates get along with.
"Justin is a very outgoing person," Ortega's stepfather Harry Griswold said. "He's always liked by everybody that runs into him. He doesn't have any enemies."
Griswold said the 174-pounder likes to be the comedian. Although Griswold said some of his stepson's YouTube videos were taken down from the site because of copyright laws, Ortega still has multiple comedies to show for.
"He has a very good imagination," Griswold said, "and he uses it to his best ability."
The redshirt freshman said he enjoys fashion and vows he always wears jeans to classes. He also likes skateboarding, but "it's not really a good idea to do during season," he said.
Penn State President Graham Spanier denied rumors Wednesday that he will assume the position of NCAA president.
On Tuesday, Spanier's name was linked to a report citing him as a potential candidate for the position.
Myles Brand, the former NCAA president, died in September after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 67, according to the report.
It has been reported that a university president will likely succeed Brand in the position, but it appears that Spanier will not be vacating his Old Main office any time soon.
In an e-mail, Spanier wrote, "I am aware that my name has been mentioned, and I have been approached about the possibility by a number of people, but I am not a candidate for the position."
Spanier denied the rumors in 2009 when he was first named as a possible candidate for the position last year.
Other names listed as potential candidates included University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, and NCAA executive Bernard Franklin, a former college president, according to the Associated Press.
1. Cael Sanderson was pleased with Nick Fischer and Ed Ruth's Hitchcock Memorial Open wins. He said Fischer is progressing and thought it was an important tournament for the redshirt freshman. As for Ruth?
"He just has a gas tank that never ends," Sanderson said. "He has a tremendous feel for the sport."
2. Sanderson talked about noticing whether a wrestler is giving his all or not. He said a wrestler can't go through the motions for long before the coaching staff will notice.
3. Sanderson said the recent departures aren't a negative thing for the program or the departing wrestlers. Sanderson said Tyler Saltsman's departure surprised him more than the others because the 133-pounder was set to wrestle last weekend. He said wrestling is a big commitment for Saltsman because he is in ROTC.
4. Sanderson said David Crowell has potential but is not as consistent as fellow 197-pounder Clay Steadman. But as for who is going to compete?
"David Crowell has shown he deserves a shot at that position," Sanderson said.
5. Sanderson said Jared Platt isn't in wrestling shape but is attempting to become academically eligible by trying to get into a major.
"The ball is in his court right now," Sanderson said.
With the Icers preparing to take on the No. 18 West Chester Golden Rams this weekend, we take a look at the history between these two teams. Though Penn State has dominated the overall series, going 37-4-1-1 against West Chester, the Golden Rams have taken three of the last five from the Icers including the most recent meeting earlier this season.
The series dates all the way back to March 10, 1973 when the teams met for the first time and the Icers won 7-3. Every other game in this series that has spanned 37 years is listed below with the date, location and result. Enjoy.
I gave Denise Murphy, the mother of Talor Battle and Buie, a call to give her a chance to respond to the comments in the paper.
"I think that guy maybe has a little bit of hard feelings," Murphy said. "As far as Taran maybe making his team playing better, that's motivation, but I don't think that was fair to the community of Boalsburg or State College because it's carrying into the community and all we did was come down here for a better life, better cost of living and to be able to see both my kids play."
Hollidaysburg Area High School coach Mick Pentoney, whose team beat Buie's State College Little Lions 53-49 Tuesday, told the Mirror that he believed the timing of Buie's move to State College was a little too convenient.
Petoney said in the article: "I just recognized what's going on. It's powers in America that's job is to justify things. I'm just a high school basketball coach that says two plus two equals four. It doesn't equal five. I just look at the timeline. He picks Penn State, and they move to State College. If it looks like a fish and smells like a fish, I think it's a fish. Somebody's trying to tell me it's chicken."
Petoney accused Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis of some under-handed operations that have gone undetected by the NCAA and the PIAA.
Nittany Lion team spokesman Brian Siegrist said the team has no comment about the article.
Murphy, however, was adamant in her own defense. She pointed out that she is a Harrisburg native, and the move was a homecoming of sorts for the family. Her parents and sisters still live in the state's capital, she said.
And the move was a necessary for Murphy -- she hasn't missed one of her sons' games since the third grade.
"When Taran made the decision to commit to Penn State, that finalized where I was going to be," Murphy said. "As far as [Petoney's] false accusations, which they really are and it's really unfair to the school, to the community and Coach DeChellis, I have not gotten one ounce of movement help -- no patient help, no job placement. I had nothing. It was absolutely nothing, it was done on my own."
Murphy pointed out the move took place because the cost of living in State College is a lot less than Albany's, the family's prior home.
While Petoney's comments might have been more pointed at the high school and collegiate athletic administration, they certainly had Murphy disappointed. For a mother who visited many schools on recruiting trips with both of her sons, she said Penn State's basketball program does not carry any filth on it.
"That's probably the cleanest program that I've ever seen, and I visited a lot of schools between the two boys," Murphy said. "I would say it's the most up-and-up, and I swear it has nothing to do with my boys going to the school."
So taking a look at the early results for voting for the NBA All Star teams, you may see a couple names you wouldn't expect.
Those names would be Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady.
Who doesn't want to see the Tracy McGrady who averaged 3.2 points per game for all six games he played? I remember my friends and I couldn't stop talking about the 10 points he dropped against the Clippers in December. It was all over ESPN too, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.
Now on to my favorite punching bag, Allen Iverson.
Iverson has played in 18 games this season out of a possible 40. How can you play less than half of your team's games and be considered an All Star?
Because people (not you guys, you're alright) are morons.
If there's one thing that All Star Games have proven over the years, it's that giving the fans complete control over the rosters is a huge mistake.
It happens in baseball and it happens in basketball and Ray Allen is not happy about it.
Allen spoke out recently about the power the fans (mainly cause Iverson took his spot) have over voting and offered a solution.
The Celtics guard told reporters the voting system should be changed so that the fans have 50 percent of the vote and the media and players make up the other half, balancing it out and making rosters more fair.
The NBA disagrees.
"We look at it as a great way to engage the fans," NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said to reporters. "We think it's a good system."
Yeah, it's great. Really great. I can't wait to flip the game on and watch Tracy McGrady's rotting corpse of a career take starters' minutes. If I were Phil Jackson (the likely Western Conference head coach) I'd call a timeout right after the tip and drag him right next to the water boy.
But if you talk to some around the league, these nominations are more about career achievement, noting the All Star appearances of Julius Erving and Michael Jordan later in their careers.
What has Tracy McGrady EVER done to warrant a career achievement award? He never even played on a team that won a playoff series in his entire career and we're going to celebrate this era of abject failure by giving him a starting spot in the All Star game?
Of course, Allen Iverson fan club president Larry Brown rushed to the Canswer's defense.
"I've seen Willie Mays and those older guys start based on what they've done in their career in baseball, and we've had that happen in basketball for years, guys that have made a contribution," Brown said to reporters about the system. "That's why the fans are involved, and I think it's kind of neat that they are involved. They support the league, they vote for their favorite players. I always look at a guy's body of work."
Shut up. Please. Just shut up.
It's terrible. There's nothing good about this. Whoever voted for these two scrubs should be ashamed of themselves. Something needs to be done about these travesties in the starting lineups if they indeed come to pass on Thursday.
I guess all we can do until that day happens is just sit back and enjoy the train wreck.
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is a jolly fellow. And just like a more famous jolly fellow, Ryan is also really rotund. So is it any surprise that he claims to consume 7,000 calories a day. Yeah, you read that correctly. Ryan eats more than some third-world countries. I didn't even know it was possible to eat 7,000 calories a day. The Yahoo! Sports blog Shutdown Corner takes from the McDonald's menu and maps out a 7,000 calorie day. It's almost unfathomable that you don't suffer a massive heart attack from that. Ryan could lead his Jets to a Super Bowl this year, but he should probably cut back a little if he wants to coach playoff-bound teams in the future. Guys who eat that much don't live very long lives.
Some other things important and not so important:
- Current Raiders and former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell was named the King of Mardi Gras this year. Russell planned to give a speech to commemorate the honor, but it was intercepted.
- Chan Gailey was hired as the new head coach of the Bills. Bills fans everywhere find new teams to root for.
- Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden are being inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame. Per rules, though, the two must submit to a random drug test. Which means they may not actually get in.
Video of the week: Mark McGwire speaks out the other day at a press conference. If you look closely, you can see a syringe pulling the strings in the background.
Don't fret Penn State fans. Head coach Ed DeChellis says it's not as bad as it sounds. What it is, are the broken pinky fingers on both Bill Edwards' and Chris Babb's right hands.
Babb suffered his during last week's loss to Illinois, before popping it back into place during the contest. He tied a career-high with 15 points and pulled in a double-double by adding 10 boards. But the sophomore guard wasn't quite as sharp on Sunday, going 0-for-5 (all on 3-pointers) in a loss to Iowa.
"It may have affected it somewhat, but we go back to the consistency thing again," DeChellis said of his players' (aside from Talor Battle's) inability to string together quality performances. "We haven't had guys be consistent for several games in a row where we could count on certain things."
The injury won't affect Edwards quite as much, DeChellis said, because he shoots the ball left-handed. Instead, DeChellis pointed to both the freshman swingman's and Babb's pass-catching ability as the area most likely to be affected.
"They really have a hard time catching it," DeChellis said. "You catch a crisp pass on that thing and all of a sudden it hurts. All of a sudden you go to shoot it and you have the feeling."
Babb is tied for second on the team with 7.9 points per game. He is shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, Edwards has 5.8 points per contest on 9-for-31 shooting from deep.
The Hoyas head to the Oakland Zoo to face a very, very overlooked Panthers team. Pitt is the only team to beat Syracuse and its resume also includes victories over UConn, Cincinnati and Louisville in conference. I have the Panthers at a No. 2 seed in my bracket projections and although their ranking may not support that claim, they are in first place in the deepest league in the nation.
Ashton Gibbs is making an early run at first-team all-conference with his 17.5 points per game and his 20-a-game in Big East games. Keep in mind, this is a young Pitt team that lost Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields. The Panthers will only get better.
As for the John Thompson III-led Hoyas, who are no slouch of an opponent, it isn't quite a must win game. But after slumping in the first half against Villanova on Sunday, the Hoyas need to respond to stay above the line separating the "elite" teams and the "good" ones.
Prediction: Pitt 75, Georgetown 62
Player to watch: Mark Jackson
So what if he graduated St. John's 23 years ago? Jackson returns to the college game tonight in ESPN's announcer swap where Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman will announce the following NBA game. Jackson will be joined by fellow color guy Jeff Van Gundy and play-by-play man Mike Breen.
As a die-hard Nets fan (yes, we still exist), Jackson was by far my favorite color commentator growing up. Here's a look at his finest:
The Penn State women's gymnastics team will have its first home meet of the season when it hosts Cornell, Iowa and Yale on Saturday.
But for Sharaya Musser, it will already be her second home meet. That's because she competed in front of her home crowd last weekend.
Musser performed in front of friends and family Saturday when the Nittany Lions traveled to their tri-meet at Denver, about an hour drive from her home in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"I just remember when I was in club I came and watched Penn State the last time they were there at regionals, and I just couldn't wait for it to be me on the team," Musser said. "So it was a lot more fun being on the floor than in the stands watching."
Musser finished fifth in the all-around with a 37.900. She finished in the top three on both vault and bars.
The freshman thought she would catch a little break before performing on vault, but she was forced into the lineup at the last second for the floor exercise event after fellow freshman Madison Merriam struggled during warmups.
"I had to tell myself that I know how to do a floor routine," said Musser. "I had to get mentally tough about it and not worry about any extra things, and just go out there and hit a routine as best as I could."
The best Musser had that evening wasn't 100 percent, as she continues to regain her endurance and form after she injured the joint on her pinky toe on her right foot in late November. The extra energy provided from family and friends helped her fight through the fatigue and finish the routine.
"My friends and family are so supportive of everything I do, if it was my best meet or my worst meet," she said.
Coach Steve Shephard even joked that Musser's support outweighed that of the two home-state teams, Denver and Air Force.
"She had a big contingent there," Shephard said. "I think she got as big an ovation as the Denver Pioneers got when they announced her name."
Unnamed sources and no actual sources are reporting that Tiger Woods is receiving treatment at a sex rehab clinic.
Yeah, that's exactly what he needs.
I'm not going to say what it will take for Tiger to win back those he hurt personally and privately. That's for them to decide.
But for Tiger Woods to win back his fans and his public image -- which, judging from the lack of so much as an on-camera apology, is something that greatly concerns him -- he needs to come back when his mind is ready and get back to being the best golfer in the world.
Michael Jordan once thought he could play baseball. Kobe Bryant was dealt much harsher accusations than Woods. Even Alex Rodriguez, less than a month from his steroid saga, went away with a hip injury before this season.
You all know how their stories played out:
Jordan is the benchmark by which all athletes' competitiveness is measured!
Bryant's case is a figment of the media's imagination!
It's OK that A-Rod used steroids, because he certainly wasn't the only one and, wait, look just how great he was this postseason without them anyway!
No, Tiger Woods doesn't need some kind of rehab. Tiger Woods just needs to win like he always does. No matter how many scandals or heartbreaks there are in sports, it always remains that black and white.
* * * * *
As if Buffalo wasn't already suffering enough, the Bills decided to replace sham-of-a-coach Dick Jauron with sham-of-a-coach Chan Gailey.
You may remember Gailey as head coach of the Cowboys from 1998 to '99, a truly prosperous time for Dallas that featured two playoff appearances -- and two first-round exits.
How will he handle the crazed Buffalo fanbase? How will we handle a team that's suffered through five straight losing seasons and a 10-year-long playoff drought?
More important, how will he handle a certain Mr. Terrell Owens?
"I can't say anything to change anybody's mind. All I can do is go try to help us win football games," Gailey said at his introductory news conference. "We win football games, everybody's minds will be changed, right?"
Uh, technically yes, Chan. But that's quite a gamble you're taking on that whole "win football games" thing, right?
The truly sad news is that, with a career record of 18-14, Gailey is actually an upgrade over Jauron, who was 24-33 in three-plus years coaching the Bills.
Oh, how Bills fans must yearn for the good old '90s, when the team's problem was that it only made the Super Bowl four years in a row.
At least they must be yearning for Bill Cowher.
* * * * *
One Cleveland sports icon is telling another to stay put.
Browns' Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown is urging LeBron James to re-up with the Cavs FOR-EV-ER.
And we couldn't agree more.
LeBron has so much right in own backyard -- contender, competent management, family -- that leaving for, say, The Big Apple, sets back his championship window at least three years until the Knicks can surround James with a cast similar to the one he has in Cleveland.
Our advice for LeBron: Never listen to Jim when it comes to retirement talk.
This is the first edition of a weekly post I will be doing on Above the Net.
My last name is Book and I like Statistics, so I am going to analyze the Nittany Lions statistics every Tuesday and call it the "Stat Book."
Clever, I know.
Each week I will try to analyze a different stat, and be a little creative with it if I can.
This week I am breaking down the Lions' 3-0 (30-22, 30-20, 30-20) victory over St. Francis in the EIVA opener for PSU.
So here goes the first Stat Book...
The Lions are clearly better than the Red Flash, but if Penn State were playing a better opponent the outcome might have been different.
The score I'm looking at you want to have a low score, and in my stat game St. Francis defeated Penn State 28-35.
My stat game for this week is to add hitting errors and service errors. SFU committed 19 hitting errors and 9 service errors, compared to PSU's 14 hitting errors and 21 service errors.
SFU directly handed the Lions 28/90 or 31.1 percent of their points, and PSU directly handed the Red Flash 35/62 or 56.5 percent of their points.
Just a note that in PSU's 3-1 win over Ohio State, the Lions not only won the match but also this stat game. The Lions scored 36 of the 98 (36.7 percent) total points for the Buckeyes, and OSU scored 49 out of PSU's 114 points (43 percent).
I don't think scoring over half of the other team's points is what the Lions have in mind. As they mature their way away from "January volleyball" look for them to score a far less percentage for the other team.
The Nittany Lions may be struggling this year, but their only signed recruit is thriving at State College Area High School.
Taran Buie, a senior guard who committed to Penn State in November, scored 39 points Monday night in a game against Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic. Buie scored 20 points in the second quarter alone. When BG threatened the State College's lead in the final quarter, Buie responded with nine points in the final minute and a half.
"I consider myself a scorer, but I also consider myself an all-around player," Buie told the Altoona Mirror after the game. "We wanted to get some touches inside and create foul trouble for their big guys in the third quarter, but [BG] did a good job of limiting my shots and making me take some bad shots."
I watched Buie play against Altoona Area H.S. last week and Buie was equally as impressive. He put up 32 points in that contest against a pretty stout defense.
One area of emphasis that Buie may be able to improve is his shooting. If Buie could knock down shots, that would help Penn State out the most. Buie can create off the dribble like his brother, but he's a polished finisher like Talor Battle.
Check back with us for updates on Buie's senior season as a Little Lion.
What do you know; we're back with another week of thoughts! This week may be shorter, but our minds are deep and our thoughts are pure. As we watch Roger Federer fight his way through the third set of Round 1 at the Aussie Open, here is what we're wondering about MLK Day in sports.
When the Chinese Basketball Association's Shangxi club announced it signed Stephon Marbury, team boss Wang Xingjiang had an interesting reason for why the former NBA star would be a good fit in China.
"The aim of signing Marbury is to pay back our fans and try to win more games in the rest of the season," the boss said, according to ESPN.com.
Look at Bloomington, Ind., home of the five-time national champion Hoosiers. Yes, Indiana is recovering from some rough times and yes, it is on the rebound, but since when did beating an unranked Minnesota team warrant a celebration that mimicked a sixth national title? That's what happened at Assembly Hall Sunday, when Indiana students stormed the court after their school beat the unranked Golden Gophers.
As important as any Big Ten win would be for Penn State right now, let's hope Nittany Nation doesn't follow in its opposing fans' footsteps Thursday should the Lions beat Indiana.
* * * * *
It's hard to tell if it's just too easy to glorify the past or if the NBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest is truly losing its luster. Looking back, most seem to recall with ease the now-legendary images of Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins soaring over the hardwood in contests gone by.
Those memories might come flanked by recollection of Kobe's 1997 victory or Vince Carter's awe-inspiring 2000 performance dunk clinic (along side Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis).
The all-too-close reality of more recent, less memorable contests, however, might chafe against such hagiography.
Enter LeBron James, the sensational throwback to the era of the NBA demi-god. After last season's contest, LeBron indicated he would "preliminarily" enter the 2010 contest. According to ESPN.com, James said he was about 50-50 a month ago, and has now opted to pass on the competition altogether.
For a minute there, it seemed that LeBron was going to attempt to revitalize the dunk contest much the way he's been helping make the NBA relevant again.
He would inject the contest with unbelievable talent and superstar charisma without sacrificing its trademark youthful exuberance. Indeed, the dunk contest winners of NBA lore were in the early stages of their careers: Jordan, an '84 rookie, won in '87 and '88; Carter was drafted in '98 and won in 2000.
Unfortunately, however, the contest's main storyline in 2010 will be Nate Robinson's defense of his 2009 title and his attempt to be the first-ever three-time contest winner. It's not a bad story line by any means -- Nate Robinson is a good ball player and an even better entertainer (gotta love the kryptonite gimmick from last year) -- but even he seems to recognize that there's something a little Busch-League about these modern contests. He said it best, himself, telling reporters, "It'd be good for the fans, for the NBA. It'd be pretty cool to get [James] and some other big names in it, but them guys are All-Stars. They don't got to waste their time doing dunks and stuff like that."
Waste their time, huh? Glad MJ and Vinsanity never saw it that way.
Well, there was no way both conference championship games would pit the one seed against the two seed. After the Vikings demolished the riding-high Cowboys, San Diego dropped yet another playoff opener after a week off. What do we make of this one?
One thing we can say for sure is LaDainian Tomlinson is in worse shape than Emmitt Smith even was near the end of his career. The Chargers force-fed the other LT throughout the game, giving the one-time MVP 12 of the team's 18 overall rushing attempts (Philip Rivers took off three times and Darren Sproles received the other three handoffs). With those 12 attempts, Tomlinson gained 24 yards. That's a catatonic two yards per carry. It was only a matter of time before LDT's body wore down from the abuse he's taken in nine years of NFL service, and his stats this season (730 yards and 3.3 yards per carry) have offered glaring signs that his time is drawing nigh. But two yards per carry in a home playoff game after a week off? He may not be the featured back next season.
On to the Jets, who looked mighty impressive in the second half of that playoff win. It wasn't because Marc Sanchez got it together recently, as many commentators might say (for goodness sakes, he only threw for 100 yards Sunday). It's definitely thanks in part to New York's stellar defensive schemes and playmakers, who clamped down on the vaunted Chargers offense when it got down near the red zone (thus forcing Nate Kaeding to keep trotting out there and shanking field goals). But how about some love for the Big Ten's own Shonn Greene? The rookie was a monster Sunday, torching San Diego for 128 yards and effectively twisting the knife in the opponent's back with his 53-yard fourth-quarter scamper to the end zone. Thomas Jones, who rushed for only 41 yards while receiving nine fewer carries than his counterpart, may join Tomlinson as veterans coming off the bench next season.
Now for the Vikings, whose defense did what Philly's could not: get to Tony Romo. Jared Allen and company sacked Romo six times Sunday, with three coming from Ray Edwards, who plays on the opposite side of the defensive line as the much-heralded Allen. If every single player on that dangerous line can be that active next week against New Orleans, Drew Brees is going to have to rely on his rushing game to punch a ticket to the Super Bowl. And that may not go well for the Saints, since they make a living airing it out.
Regardless, next weekend's NFC championship ought to be one for the ages. Two superstar quarterbacks slinging it all over the field, with some dynamic players in each backfield waiting to make their marks as well. The defenses they see won't be slouches either, as the Vikings' big-hitting run defense will be more than happy to match up against the Saints' ball-hocking pass defense. The Colts-Jets game will be entertaining as well, mostly for the rematch value Week 16's debacle had to offer, but for out-and-out fun, nothing can top a Minnesota-New Orleans showdown for a Super Bowl berth.
The Lady Lions had the tough task of facing the 6-foot-9 Allyssa DeHaan when Michigan State came to Happy Valley on Sunday. Led by freshman Nikki Greene, Penn State answered the call and shut the Spartan senior down. Coach Coquese Washington's squad didn't just shut down one of the tallest players in the Big Ten but one of the best. Here is a laundry list of DeHaan's accomplishments:
Three-time All-Big Ten selection
Fifth-fastest MSU player to 1,000 points
Big Ten all-time leader in blocked shots
Gatorade Player of the Year in high school
Big Ten Freshman of the Year
Fifteen double-doubles her first three years
Holds the Big Ten single-season record for blocks
A career average of 12.6 ppg, 7 rpg, 3.8 bpg and a .487 field goal percentage
While Allyssa DeHaan's list of awards and statistics is impressive, it is still growing. The Spartan should end her career as the women's all-time leader in blocks and should nab her fourth All-Big Ten selection this season. She is on pace to etch her name in the Michigan State record books, but on Sunday it was an unproven and raw freshman who had the upper hand. Check Tuesday's Collegian for full coverage of how Penn State shut down DeHaan.
Alyssa Naeher may have a new head coach, but one she knows quite well. Boston Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco was Naeher's coach in Chile when the senior goalkeeper played for the United States U-20 Women's National Team in the U-20 World Cup. DiCicco said the Breakers targeted Naeher with the 11th pick in the draft, their second in the first round with confidence they could snare the Nittany Lion All-American. During the U-20 World Cup, Naeher gave up only one goal, which came in stoppage time during the final against South Korea when the game was decided, and won the Golden Glove for the tournament's best keeper. Having coached Naeher, DiCicco pointed to a moment during the tournament where Naeher showed her entire range of skills. The US led France 2-0 when a French player ripped a shot from about 20 yards, and DiCicco said Naeher was able to get across the goal and make the save. "The French player just smoked a shot from outside the penalty area," DiCicco said. "Alyssa flew, and didn't pin it against the crossbar, but was as close as pinning it as you can. It came out and one of our defenders cleared it." Ten minutes passed when France mounted another attack. DiCicco said from his vantage point the ball looked unsavable when Naeher made another highlight reel save. "Alyssa just flew across the goal and saved it," DiCicco said. "I looked to my left where the French bench was and the coach looked at me. I just gave him a shrug and he just gave me a thumbs up. It was a great salute to alyss, basically just saluted her like 'I don't know what we have to do to beat this kid'." Despite the prior experience, DiCicco isn't going to hand the starting role over to Naeher yet. The coach said Naeher will enter camp as the second keeper, but will have a chance to move up and take starters minutes. Naeher hails from Seymour, Conn., and said playing close to home is an exciting prospect as is playing under a familiar leader. Aside from the support she will get from her friends and family, Naeher has a coach that knows her strentghs and will help her grow in the professional game. "That's definitley going to help a lot with adjusting to a new team and a different level," Naeher said. "To have that comfort level with the coach already is something that I'm looking forward to. I really enjoyed working with him in the past."
Hello gymnastics fans. Welcome to Beam Me Up where I, along with my beat partner, Jared Shanker, will have the privilege of keeping you up to date on what's going on with the Penn State women's gymnastics team.
We will be bringing you up to date information about the team as well as going more in depth about upcoming matchups and individual gymnasts. Come to us to read questionnaires with the gymnasts and the coaches and learn the ins and outs of the sport, including explanations of some of the different moves that can be seen during a gymnastics meet.
The Nittany Lions opened the season last Friday placing second behind Michigan State in a quad-meet in East Lansing, Michigan. They scored 193.900, a score they surpassed in every meet but one last season. The loss dropped the Lions from No. 11 in the rankings down to No. 18.
Saturday, the team will travel to Denver to take on the University of Denver. The Pioneers posted a score of 195.575 against Minnesota, who at the time was ranked No. 22. The win boosted Denver's ranking up to No. 6 from No. 17.
This will be the first time the two team's will face since Denver scored 0.075 better than Penn State in the 2008 regionals at Rec Hall, ending Penn State's season.
After what Denver coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart described as an off year for the team last year, the Pioneers have fielded a very competitive squad this season.
"I think that's one of the beauties of our team," Kutcher-Rinehart said. "There isn't one person to watch out for. This is a complete team effort so I don't even know that I can single out one particular person. We don't have that one superstar like we had maybe in the past with other athletes. It's really just a genuine team effort."
Denver's top performer in its opening meet was senior Kelley Hennigan. Hennigan is ranked No. 21 in the all-around in the nation and competed at Nationals last year as an individual.
After matching up the two team's opening meet scores in each of the four events and in the all-around, it is evident Penn State will be in for a tough competition on Saturday. The matchups look like this:
Penn State: 48.900
Penn State: 48.550
Penn State: 47.950
Penn State: 48.500
Penn State: 193.900
If the Lions are to win this meet, they will have to limit the falls and mistakes that plagued them in the season opener.
Welcome to the inaugural post on the Collegian's Crosse Fire blog. CF is dedicated to everything Penn State women's lacrosse. We will keep you up to date on all the offseason and preseason happenings, including key losses and additions, games to watch out for, preseason awards watch and more. Once the season kicks off on Feb. 14, check back here daily for injury reports, ranking analysis, previews, key matchups, ALC news, player questionnaires, podcasts and much more.
Key Additions and Losses:
Penn State lost nine seniors from last season's team, bringing a much different lineup and roster for the 2010 campaign. Let's examine the top three losses and gains the Lions had in the offseason:
1. Kerry Shea - The midfielder was second on the team with goals (24) and groundballs (34) and third with points (27), but the intangibles she brought may be even more valuable.
2. Marisa Lozano - Lozano returned for her fifth year after leading the team in points (44) and assists (24). Unfortunately for Penn State, Lozano tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in mid-November, sidelining her for the season. She will still play a critical role for the Lions, but her presence on the field will be missed.
3. Megan McGuire - Though her offensive numbers weren't extraordinary, McGuire's departure leaves the Lions with a severe loss of fire. I wrote a story about her last spring, and each person I talked with told me she was the most "fiery" and "passionate" player on the team, and it was evident in her all-out play.
1. Margo Josephs - After starting the first 13 games at defense for the Lions, Josephs suffered a torn ACL to end her junior campaign. She still finished with a team-high 23 caused turnovers and an impressive 26 groundballs. Now a senior, Josephs will be a valuable asset to Penn State's defense this season.
2. Hayley Sofarnos and Katie Guy - Both Sofarnos (freshman attacker from Australia) and Guy (freshman defender from Canada) bring something new Penn State isn't used to: international experience. The duo has experience in World Cup events, giving them insight American lacrosse players lack.
3. Molly Fernandez - The team jokes that Fernandez is the only freshman All-American because she is the only American in the new class. But Isidor told us last fall that the freshman attacker's enthusiasm about lacrosse is contagious, and we here at CF wouldn't be surprised if she eventually fills the void left behind by McGuire. *** Note to reader: Isidor said though they will get playing time, none of the freshmen are guaranteed to start.
Not quite as many upsets this week, but the middle-of-the pack teams got a whole lot more cluttered. There is one thing we do know, though: The Pac 10 is dreadful. It may be the worst BCS conference in college hoops history. We have two Pac 10 teams in the tournament, but don't be surprised if the league gets only one. Here are our brackets in full:
AJC's Bracket Projections
East Region (Syracuse)
3. West Virginia
5. Mississippi St.
9. New Mexico
10. Texas A&M
11. Rhode Island
14. Murray St.
15. Robert Morris
16. Morgan St.
The team to note in this bracket is UConn. If the Huskies keep losing close games they could find themselves on the outside looking in, in a very difficult Big East conference. Rhode Island continues to turn heads and gets in as one of the last teams in. A&M could be lower, but its near-upset of Texas is worth something, right?
Midwest Region (St. Louis)
3. Kansas St.
5. Georgia Tech
6. Northern Iowa
7. Florida St.
9. Notre Dame
12. St. Mary's
14. Coastal Carolina
Fortunately for Villanova (the odd team out in a field that has five No. 1 seeds but only four spots), it gets a chance to go to Syracuse later in the season to take that No. 1 ranking. Unfortunately, the Cats play in the Big East and will probably lose a game before that. We give St. Mary's the nod over Washington because, frankly, the West Coast Conference may be better than the Pac 10 this season. It certainly is at the top.
South Region (Houston)
6. Ohio St.
9. Wake Forest
13. Louisiana Tech
14. Western Kentucky
15. Weber St.
16. Campbell/Prairie View A&M
The three Big East teams in this region would make it the first bracket ever with three teams from the same conference. The Big East is just that deep (of course it also helps to have 16 teams). Texas has earned the right to a No. 1 seed and a first-round game in Houston, but we'll see just how good the Horns are after a week which includes games at Connecticut and Kansas State.
Midwest Region (Salt Lake)
2. Michigan St.
10. Arizona St.
16. UT-San Antonio
Syracuse cemented its No. 1 seed with a road win against a quality West Virginia team. The Orange are followed by Michigan St., Georgetown, Gonzaga and Clemson. It's tough to decide just how much value to put on Clemson's win over North Carolina, with the Heels struggling so badly. An up-and-down Florida team squeaks its way in with a 12 seed.
Where Penn State fits in: It's quite simple. The Lions don't fit in and likely won't fit in unless they make a run in March to win the Big Ten tournament. At this point, the Lions need to keep winning just to get a chance at a return trip to the NIT.
Penn State prediction: No postseason
Final Four predictions: Syracuse, Texas, Villanova, Kansas
Steve's Bracket Projections
3. Georgia Tech
7. Northern Iowa
9. Notre Dame
10. Rhode Island
13. Wichita State
14. Coastal Carolina
16. Play-in Game Winner (Jackson St. vs. Texas A&M Corpus-Christi)
Texas will be tested tonight on the road against Kansas State, but I don't think a loss would necessarily drop it as a No. 1 seed. It will probably lose two games maximum in the Big 12 (only playing Kansas once is nice). This region also sports two of the nation's hottest teams -- Pitt and Georgia Tech. Who would have thought they'd be ranked as high as they are at this point in the season?
West (Salt Lake City)
3. Kansas State
5. Ohio State
6. New Mexico
8. Texas A&M
9. Mississippi State
10. Wake Forest
12. Arizona State
'Cuse fans won't be happy having to travel out to Utah, but they have to love the fact that they have a No. 1 seed. Mississippi State or Texas A&M would challenge them in the second round -- and Zaga and Ohio State won't be easy matchups in the Sweet 16, either. UCONN needs to stop losing games, or it'll find itself out of the tournament.
Midwest (St. Louis)
8. Florida State
11. William & Mary
13. Louisiana Tech
14. Western Kentucky
15. Murray State
16. Morgan State
Kentucky fans would salivate over the chances of facing Duke in the Elite Eight for a shot at revenge. I don't think they would have too much trouble early on -- Purdue could not keep up with the Wildcats' talent with the way they're playing defense lately. Three schools from the state of Kentucky would create tremendous excitement in the Bluegrass state, too.
3. Michigan State
4. West Virginia
7. North Carolina
11. Miami (FL)
13. Coll. of Charleston
Villanova would face a difficult No. 7 seed in North Carolina, but it'd have no trouble getting by them if the Tar Heels don't sure up their early season woes. Kansas is the conventional favorite to win the national title and it'll have two of chances to knock Texas off the top of the world.
Where Penn State fits in: See A.J.'s explanation
Penn State prediction: No postseason
Final Four predictions: Texas, Ohio State, Kentucky, Kansas
We're introducing a new segment on Above the Net. Each week we'll spend a minute with a member of the Penn State men's volleyball team to get to know them a little better off the court (very much like Between the Pipe's Ten Question Tuesday).
In our innaugural post, we pulled aside freshman Ian Hendries. The 6-foot-8 middle from Cardiff, Calif. is making a splash in his collegiate debut -- starting in the last two games for the Nittany Lions. If you've never met Hendries, he's a pretty laid back guy. He has the 'SoCal' attitude, and even has the blonde, surfer locks.
So, without further adieu, here's your Monday Minute:
What's your favorite band right now?
I'd probably say Ratatat.
Yeah, it's kind of like instrumental.
What was the last movie you saw?
Frequency. It was pretty good.
Who's the funniest guy on the team?
I'm gonna have to go with my roommate, Tom [Comfort].
Anything in particular he does that's funny?
No, (laughs) he's just a pretty funny guy.
Favorite sports team?
The San Diego Chargers
Sorry about their loss yesterday..
(Shrugs and laughs) Yeah, you know, it happens.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
Oh man, I just want to be hanging out. Definitely by a beach. Working, who knows?.
If you had to write a fan letter to anyone, who would it be?
I was actually thinking about this the other day.
Yeah, I'd pick Tayshaun Prince from the Detroit Pistons.
Finish this sentence: [Assistant Coach] Colin McMillan is...
Both true freshman Ed Ruth and redshirt freshman Nick Fischer won titles at the Hitchcock Memorial Open in Millersville on Sunday. Fischer won the 157-pound title with a 5-0 record while Ruth was victorious at 184 pounds and finished 4-0. Both wrestlers finished with two pins. Redshirt sophomore David Crowell posted a 3-1 record for a second-place finish at 197 pounds. Redshirt freshman Jack Chidester placed third with a 7-1 record at 133 pounds. Eight other wrestlers competed for the Nittany Lions but none of them placed.
In other news, Eastern Regional's Hank Stinson has verbally committed to Penn State. Penn State coach Cael Sanderson scouted Stinson this past weekend at the Eastern-Camden Catholic meet. On Sunday, The Philadelphia Inquirer confirmed Stinson's commitment. Stinson ranks No. 18 at the high-school level's 140-pound weight class.
Game of the Night: No. 1 Texas @ No. 12 Kansas State, 9 p.m. ESPN
The Longhorns put their unblemished record on the line tonight against a dangerous Wildcat team. Las Vegas is giving Kansas State credit, favoring it by 1.5 points at home. This Kansas State team isn't the most talented its put on the court in recent memory, but it's an efficient squad. K-State dropped its first Big 12 game to Missouri but blew out Texas A&M, who gave Texas fits last night (wasn't this Saturday?) (an overtime loss). Texas was probably playing its best basketball early this season in wins against North Carolina and Michigan State. The Longhorns have a chance tonight to prove they're still firing on all cylinders.
Prediction: Texas 82 - Kansas State 76
Player to Watch: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Harangody is one of the nation's most prolific scorers. It'll be interesting if he can figure out how to break down Syracuse's matchup zone defense that has locked down opponents this season. The senior forward is averaging 24.3 points a game and leading a Fighting Irish team that analysts did not project to be in the top half of the conference standings. In their last game in South Bend, the Fighting Irish posted a two-point victory against West Virginia. We'll see if Harangody can deliver another upset.
Penn State freshman point guard Alex Bentley was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the week Monday by conference officials.
Bentley shares this week's honor with Wisconsin guard Taylor Wurtz.
She is the second Lady Lion to win the award this season, joining center Nikki Greene, who won the award back in December.
In Penn State's two victories this week over Iowa and then-No. 20 Michigan State, Bentley averaged 14.5 points, 4 assists and 1.5 steals.
More importantly for the Lions, Bentley is becoming a floor general. She has already shown the ability to take over a game, as she did against Iowa with 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting, and is seventh in the Big Ten in assists with 3.8 per game.
Bentley has quickly cemented herself as the team's secondary scorer behind senior guard Tyra Grant.
With the Lions in second place in the Big Ten and just two games behind Ohio State for the top spot, the Lions will need Bentley to continue the play that garnered her recognition this week.
For the sixth time in his career, Will Price has been named the conference's top player of the week. The senior captain earns the first distinction of 2010 for his outstanding performance in No. 6 Penn State's sweep over St. Francis Friday. The opposite hitter, from Gaithersburg, Md., had a match-high 16 kills on .560 hitting percentage.
Whatever New Year's resolutions Penn State made, they seem to be keeping them. The Lady Lions haven't lost a game since New Years Eve and have won eight of their last 10 games. This young team is starting to answer many of the questions about it entering the season and after the upset over No. 20 Michigan State, here are today's grades.
Offensive Balance: A-
Today's win helped solidify the belief that there are more offensive weapons to this team than Tyra Grant. Even though Grant scored her team's first nine points, freshmen Alex Bentley and Nikki Greene ended up with 14 and 12 points. The Spartans' defense looked confused at times as they focused their game plan around shutting down Grant. With her team down by eight points midway through the first half, Alex Bentley came down the court and hit a clutch 3 pointer. She then recorded a steal and turned it into two more points, cutting the Spartan's lead to three points. Bentley's 10 first-half points during 13 minutes of play gave the Spartans another person to worry about guarding, which created more opportunities for Greene. It took a while for the Lions to get everyone involved offensively, but once they did, it changed the course of the game.
Any time a team plays against 6-foot-9 Allyssa DeHaan, it has to be able to shut her down. The Lions may have caught a bit of a break as Spartans coach Suzy Merchant said after the game that DeHaan was feeling a bit under the weather, but either way the Lions had their way with her. One of the top shot blockers in the country only had one snuff each half, and the Lions took her out of Michigan State's offense. DeHaan was limited to five points and only attempted five shots during her 20 minutes of play. The Lady Lions executed their zone defense fairly well and notched seven steals. Coquese Washington said her team can always do better defensively and said the 'D' will remain a point of emphasis in practice.
Not a single Lady Lion fouled out. Julia Trogele came close when she picked up her fourth foul with about four and a half minutes left in the game, but she was able to avoid the long walk to the bench. Greene played one of her smartest defensive games this season as she only was called for two fouls. Washington said she spoke to Greene about not trying to block every single shot the Spartans took and the approach seemed to work. While Greene didn't have any blocks, she was able to play 27 minutes and also had seven rebounds.
The Lady Lions didn't work the ball inside much during the first half, but they made up for their lack of a post game by hitting five 3 pointers within the first 20 minutes. The Lions were able to get the ball into the hands of Greene and Trogele in the second half as they only attempted three 3 pointers. The team shot just 36 percent from the floor, but did convert 21 of 27 free throws. Grant missed two free throws within the final minute that could've hurt the team had it been a bit closer, but she did get to the line eleven times.
With 7,000 plus people in attendance, the Lions did their best to try and put on a show. Even after trailing by as many as nine points, this team found a way to come back and beat a ranked opponent for the second time this season. Penn State didn't close out games like this last year and similar to Thursday night's come-from-behind victory at Iowa, the Lions put themselves in a position to make just enough plays to get the job done. Even the bench players were into this one as they sat with their arms locked waiting for the game to end. Emily Phillips had to be held back by one of her teammates after the Lions regained the lead in the fourth quarter because the sophomore was so excited. Washington said her young players have played without fear. It showed during today's win.
The team as a whole gets an F for its performance against Iowa. The Lions and Hawkeyes entered Saturday's contest as the only teams with no conference wins. Following a 67-64 loss, the Lions now sit alone at the bottom of the Big Ten, having squandered their best opportunity at a conference victory.
But, seeing as we don't grade the whole team, here's a look at the individual performances of the players:
Chris Babb: D-
In recent weeks it looked like Babb was the player emerging as the Lions' No. 2 scoring option. After yesterday's game it looks like the Lions should start searching again. Babb was held scoreless in 14 minutes of play on 0-for-6 shooting from the field. Since Big Ten play began, Babb had improved on driving to the basket and taking higher percentage shots, but all six of Babb's shots on Saturday were 3-pointers.
Talor Battle: B+
Maybe Battle should get an A, but I took it away from him simply because he was the leader of a team that lost to Iowa. Sure, he had a great game - 31 points on 9-for-18 shooting - and he took over for Penn State as the only scoring option down the stretch, but the Lions should never have lost to this Iowa team and as the team's go-to-guy, I just can't give him anything higher than a B+.
Tim Frazier: C-
We'll start with the good: Frazier did a very good job on the glass and using his rebounding ability to get the Lions out in transition. Now, the bad: Frazier really struggled down the stretch and looked a little too timid at times. He also missed a crucial free throw at the end of the game, that may have given the Lions a chance to get back in the game.
DJ Jackson: B+
Very serviceable game by Jackson. He scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and didn't take any dumb shots or make any mistakes. The only problem is that Jackson is clearly not a good enough No. 2 option, so on nights when he is that guy, the Lions are generally in for a struggle.
Andrew Ott: D
Ott had an opportunity to win some playing time, but got in early foul trouble, and, as a result, he only played seven minutes. Ott scored just three points and gave way to coach Ed DeChellis' choice of either Drew Jones or a center-less offense toward the end of the game.
Jeff Brooks: B
Brooks scored nine points and used his athleticism to both get to the line crash the boards - two things he hasn't done in the last two months. Brooks may be the most talented player on the Penn State roster, but he has struggled to apply that to his game. We'll see if Brooks continues to get there or if Saturday's game was an aberration.
Bill Edwards: C-
Edwards took some bad shots with a lot of time left on the shot clock and made some freshman mistakes down the stretch. He scored two points on 1-for-5 shooting, but he also grabbed three boards and had four assists. Aside from his youth which led to a couple key mental lapses in his shooting judgment, Edwards looked promising - as he has for most of the conference season.
Drew Jones: C
No one is stepping up to take the Center position. Jones had his chance on Saturday, and while he grabbed five boards, he only scored two points. If the Lions expect to compete in Big Ten play they will need someone to step up in the paint. Right now, no one is.
Cammeron Woodyard: C
Not much too look at for Woodyard - he only played 15 minutes. But Woodyard was in the game at a crucial juncture. That is perhaps more of a testament to the rest of the Lions' struggles, however. Woodyard had one 3-pointer for all of his points. He also grabbed two boards and had an assist.
Today's match up with the Spartans should be a great test for the young Lady Lions. The BJC is pretty full and it's Audrey here delivering all the action as it unfolds.
The Spartans are off to a hot start as Washington drained a three, followed by a Johnson jumper to go up 5-0.
the Lions haven't penetrated the lane yet as Grant air balled a three pointer but was able to rebound, hitting the three the next time down the floor.
DeHaan is one of the elite centers in the conference and at 6-9 she will try and post up 6-4 Nikki Greene all afternoon. DeHaan is having her way in the paint right now as she just hit two baskets down low on back-to-back possessions
Grant will continue to do whatever it takes to keep her team in this game as the senior drained another 3 pointer, this time from the left corner.
11-6 Spartans, 15:40 remaining
Junior forward Kalisha Kean is going on a little spurt here as she just hit her last two attempts, taking the Spartans to a 13-7 lead.
Emily Phillips and Marisa Wolfe check in for Penn State
The Lions will need to stay out of foul trouble in this one because the Spartans are capable of putting up a lot of points in a short amount of time, which is something I believe PSU is quickly figuring out.
Grant hits both of her free throws to make it a 13-9 game.
Grant has all of Penn State's points right now and the team seems content taking the long jumper as Janessa Wolff comes up short on the left elbow.
Michigan State is finding ways to penetrate Penn State's zone defense, but when they aren't looking inside to DeHaan they are hitting the long ball.
3 pointer is good for Taylor Alton
Nikki Greene shows signs of having a presence in the post as she gets the basket and the foul. Hits the free throw as well.
Nikki Greene just lost a contact so as we wait for her to put it back in her eye Marisa Wolfe will take her place. Greene is struggling to get the contact in her eye, just like how the PSU team is struggling in the post.
We just had a humorous moment here on press row as the radio announcer was giving a play-by-play of Greene's struggles with her contact. The announcer emphatically said it just goes to prove that basketball is a "contact" sport. Yeah, we're pretty amused by a lot of things around here. Enterprise reporter Jocelyn Syrstad was cracking up at the contact joke so I hope you all like it too.
Sorry, we're having some technical difficulties here, but were back underway as Jefferson hit both her free throws after being fouled by Janessa Wolff. Wolff's second foul of the game.
Greene checks back in
As we've seen several times this year, freshman Alex Bentley comes down the court and hits a 3-pointer, followed by a steal that she converts for a layup.
After DeHaan hits her first free throw, there's a MSU lane violation nullifying the second point.
Grant comes down and now hits a long two from the right side of the court. The team's leading scorer threw her hands up in the air as the crowd kept clapping for her, Bentley hits a two the next time down the floor to put the Lions within two
The two point lead is short lived as Jasmine Thomas hits from down low to give the Spartans a four-point lead.
We've got another Tv timeout as the dance cam pans through the crowd. This just may be the biggest crowd of the year for the Lady Lions as the majority of the seats, especially behind the bench are full.
Marisa Wolfe enters for the Lions.
Bentley pulls up for a three right at the top of the arc and buries it. the freshman certainly has a sense of poise about her that's rare for a player her age and she's doing everything Penn State asks of her right now as she already has 10 points.
MSU hits a quick jumper in the lane but once again Penn State responds with a Grant jump shot.
30-29 MSU, 5:21 remaining
Alex Bentley shows her youth by picking up the foul on Brittany Thomas' drive through the lane. Thomas at the line shooting two and she hits them both, making it a three-point game.
It's been the Grant and Bentley show for the Lions as the two now combine for 23 of the team's 29 points.
Zhaque Gray checks in for Penn State
Bentley picks up another foul, her second of the game as she goes to the bench. Jefferson hits both free throws as PSU now has seven team fouls.
Phillips enters the game for Bentley, who will probably sit the rest of the half with two fouls.
Grant is fouled by Johnson, her first and the Spartans' seventh.
With another timeout here comes an observation...where's DeHaan been?
Clearly she's been on the court, but the Penn State zone has kept her quiet so far as she only has five points. It will be interesting to see how the Spartans attack the zone in the second half.
Grant hits the first and the second to give her 15 points.
34-31 MSU leads
2:58 remaining in the half
Phillips with the fast break after and missed layup, but the 5-4 sophomore gets her own rebound and puts it in, making it a one-point game.
DeHaan checks out for the Spartans
Monroe comes back in for the Lions as Marisa Wolfe leaves
Phillips misses the 18 foot jump shot as the team isn't working the ball in the post. The Lions have their smaller lineup on the court as Gray misses the 3 pointer and the Spartans charge down the floor.
Kean picks up the foul sending Monroe to the line. She hits the first and the second giving PSU its first lead of the game with 40 seconds left in the half.
Out of bounds on the Spartans as Penn State will play for the last shot. There's a two second difference between the shot clock and game clock, but it won't matter as Grant forces the jumper and misses it.
The Spartans can't make the shot in the paint as time expires.
At the half it's Penn State with the lead, 35-34
Just had a quick pause in the action for a quick song to remember Martin Luther King Jr., so here come my first-half thoughts.
1. DeHaan has played a small role in the Spartans' offense so far
With five points, Michigan State is having trouble working the ball in to her and it's forcing Michigan State to rely on the outside shots as well. DeHaan only had four shot attempts during the first half and more surprisingly has zero rebounds.
2. Penn State needs balance
Bentley and Grant have been doing it all for Penn State and the other players need to step up. Nikki Greene only has two shot attempts and the Lady Lions aren't looking inside either. Grant had 10 attempts and Bentley nine, while Trogele has been playing more out on the wing, taking away another post presence.
3. Both teams are living and dying by the 3-pointer
Penn State shot a surprising 55 percent from beyond the arc in the first half, while the Spartans shot 33 percent. Both teams had nine attempts while Bentley and Grant combined for six of Penn State's nine attempts.
Should be interesting to see how both teams adjust as we're ready for the second half.
Lions start the half with the ball and a travel by Nikki Greene. Penn State has returned to the same lineup it started the game with.
Greene redeems herself after the Spartans missed a layup and hits a jumper up by the foul line. Rarely do we see her take a shot from that far away and she put a nice touch on that one.
Spartans tie the game up with a three pointer from the right corner.
Trogele attempts a wide-open 3 pointer and misses. As DeHaan got the rebound she fell to the floor and was called with the travel.
The Lions switched out of their 2-3 zone that they used in the first half and are now playing man on the Spartans. With DeHaan out of the game the Spartans are using their quicker lineup and it's resulted in four unanswered points.
41-37 Michigan State leads with 16:12 remaining in the game
Zhaque Gray notches the layup off of a pass the Trogele broke up. It's Gray's first basket of the game, but she still doesn't have the same speed and agility she had before she injured that left knee about a month and a half ago.
42-39 Michigan State leads. 14:46 remaining
Gray with the foul on Lauren Aitch, she hits both shots to give the Spartans a five-point lead.
Spartans man defense is making it even harder for Penn State to look inside as Grant was fouled attempting the 3 pointer. Grant with an unusual miss on the second attempt, but made the first and last shots. To make it once again a 3-point game.
Spartans with a quick basket as Grant converts the left handed layup.
Gray with the take to the basket after keeping it herself with the three to two person advantage. Grant picks up the steal and is fouled by Johnson.
Trogele and Bentley enter for Penn State
Penn State now has three guards on the floor.
DeHaan back in for the Spartans.
Bentley doesn't wast any time as she hits an 18-foot jumper so give the Lady Lions a one point lead.
47-46 Penn State leads. 12:09 left in the game
Bentley has the shot blocked as Greene is there to get the ball, but throws the pass across the lane and has it picked off by Michigan State. Grant reaches in to pick up her second foul of the game.
DeHaan was playing up at the top of the key and just unloaded on Grant as the 6-9 center was called for the moving screen.
Greene air balls the shot, not sure if MSU got a hand on that one.
Jefferson posts up Trogele and converts the basket and gets the foul as well.
Spartans take the lead 48-47. 10: 30 remaining in the game.
Trogele makes up for the foul by hitting a jumper from the right corner.
Jasmine Thomas with a nice take to the hoop as she drove past two defenders and got the layup giving her team a one-point lead.
The crowd has really been into the game today as there have been some boos at the referees, heckling of Spartans players and the usual group of supporters with their chests painted.
Back to the action...
Janessa Wolff hits two free throws to tie the game back up.
Jasmine Thomas with another 3 pointer. She leads Michigan State with 13 points.
Grant doesn't waste much time hitting a base-line jumper to close the gap.
54-53 Michigan State leads. 7:40 left in the game.
The Spartans switch it up to a zone defense as Greene goes over the top of the center for a bucket.
Trogele picks up the foul on Aitch, who misses both shots. It's Trogele's third foul of the game as Washington took her glasses off and mementarily put her hands over her eyes.
Grant with a nifty pass to Greene who puts it in, giving the Lions their biggest lead of the game.
Penn State up 57-54. 5:59 remaining in the game.
Monroe with a pass across the lane that is taken by the Spartans for what should've been an easy layup. Penn State can't get the rebound as Monroe fouls in the process. Brittney Thomas makes both free throws.
Tyra Grant with a hard cut to the lane and scoops under the defender for the layup to give the Lions a three-point lead. Grant now has 23 points.
The Lions are playing the 2-3 zone and Trogele ws getting beat by Jasmine Thomas and committed a foul, her fourth.
Thomas makes both shots to cut the Lions' lead to one point.
Greene was fouled hard as she went up with her drive to the basket. DeHaan charged with the foul. The Spartans still haven't found a way to get DeHaan involved as she still has just five points.
Greene at the line for the one and one...makes both to give PSU a three-point lead.
61-58 Penn State leads. 2:47 remaining.
The Spartans tried to get something going offensively with their last posesion, but DeHaan missed a jumper near the foul line and was out rebounded by Greene.
Greene is fouled on the following possession. Made the first, missed the second as it hit the front of the rim.
Off the Spartans' miss, the Lions work the shot clock down to one second as Monroe is fouled. She hits both giving the Lions a six-point lead.
The crowd is on its feet with 54 seconds left as the Lions have a six-point lead on the No. 20 Spartans.
Michigan State timeout
64-58 Penn State leads with 54 seconds left
With chants of "stand up" echoing through the BJC, the fans are getting excited as the Lady Lions sit with their arms interlocked, waiting for this one to end.
Kean fouls Grant, who is shooting two. Grant misses both, which would've basically ended the game.
Phillips checks back in and picks up the foul on Jefferson. Jefferson is the Spartans top scorer right now and after she made both free throws, took her total to 19 points for the game.
64-60 PSU leads with 39 seconds remaining in the game
The Spartans are bringing the full-court press to try and get the ball but, but Kean fouls Trogele. As Trogele hits both free throws to extend the lead to six points, the pep band was shouting at Kean to take a seat on the bench after fouling out. the heckling lasted for at least 30 seconds until Kean finally was ready to sit down and then quick got back up.
Bentley hits two free throws to ice it.
This one's over as the Lions pull off the upset over No. 20 Michigan State.
Final score PSU 68 vs. MSU 60.
We're heading down to the media room check back in a bit.
Thanks for following the live blog--Audrey
A few quick thoughts on Saturday's NFL playoff games:
Well, so much for cold finishes to the regular season derailing Indy's and New Orleans' Super Bowl chances. Both top seeds looked pretty good both offensively and defensively throughout their victories Saturday. (Well, except for Arizona's first play of the game. But we'll get to that later.)
The Colts sat their starters for the last game and a half, losing both after starting the season 14-0. In previous years, Indy had been 0-3 after receiving a first-round bye. So what changed this year? Methinks it was the Colts' dramatically improved defense combined with lucking into playing No. 6 Baltimore and their anemic offense. The only thing the Ravens could do well was run with Ray Rice, and by limiting the sophomore's effectiveness (holding him to just 67 yards on 13 carries), Indy forced Joe Flacco to win the game -- something he clearly wasn't capable of doing. Flacco only completed four passes against New England in Round 1, and when he had to throw more Saturday, he gained just 189 yards through the air while throwing a pair of picks.
Meanwhile, in the NFC, could it be that the league was wrong in naming the defensive player of the year? Green Bay's Charles Woodson won the award and then had to face probably the best receiver in football, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, in the Wild Card round. Fitzgerald caught six balls for 82 yards. Not bad -- except that two of those six catches were touchdowns, and the Cardinals scored 51 points. In Saturday's contest in the Superdome, however, Fitzgerald grabbed six passes for 77 yards with no touchdowns. He didn't make a completion until the first half was almost over. Props go to Saints safety Darren Sharper, who finished the year tied for the league lead in interceptions and was all over the field Saturday, making an incredibly athletic interception that was called back because a teammate roughed Kurt Warner. Maybe Sharper should have won that award instead of Woodson.
Against Sharper and the Saints, Arizona could only muster 14 points, with both touchdowns coming on the ground. On the first play from scrimmage, Cardinals running back Tim Hightower broke through the New Orleans line on a simple run through the middle, sprinting off to the end zone to give the visitors a quick 7-0 lead. In New England not even a week ago, Ray Rice did pretty much the same thing on the Ravens' first play of the game, setting the pace for what would become a blowout win for Baltimore. The Ravens won by continually rushing the ball down the Patriots' collective throat; why didn't the Cardinals follow suit in New Orleans? Sure, Arizona has made its mark the last few years with a vaunted pass attack. But when the first play you run goes 70 yards for a touchdown and promptly hushes up the home crowd, shouldn't you keep coming back to that? Alas, Arizona called only 15 rushes (two of which netted the team's only points of the day) as opposed to 36 passes, and now the defending NFC champs are sitting at home, watching the rest of the playoffs.
Redshirting freshman Jake Kemerer said his appeal process with Oklahoma has remained stagnant the past month.
Kemerer, who had received a scholarship from the Sooners, was never released by the program when he decided to attend Penn State instead. Kemerer said he has worked with lawyers in an attempt to find Oklahoma recruiting violations, which would help with the appeal. The true freshman said his first appeal was unsuccessful, and so he will send a second.
If Kemerer isn't released by the Sooners or his appeal is again unsuccessful, he will lose a year of eligibility.
"I'm frustrated," Kemerer said. "I'm glad I came here. I think it's worth it. It's frustrating that I might lose a year."
Kemerer said he had heard rumors of coaching changes at Oklahoma, and when Kemerer asked Sooners coach Jack Spates if the rumors were true, the Oklahoma coach said they weren't.
The true freshman was most likely referring to the departure of Robbie Waller, a former Oklahoma assistant coach and Kemerer's friend, who left the Sooners and received the head coaching position at Lock Haven.
"All of a sudden those things happened," Kemerer said. "He lied. I saw a different side of him."
At the beginning of the season, one glance at the Lady Lions schedule and most people would probably chalk up this Sunday's game against No. 20 Michigan State as a loss for Penn State.
Six games into the Big Ten season, that's not the case and despite what the rankings might say, this looks like a game that could go either way.
While the Lady Lions are coming off of three-straight wins after last night's come-from-behind victory against Iowa, Michigan State is coming off of back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin. With that said, this game is not simply a gimme for the Lions.
The Spartans are undoubtedly the best Big Ten conference competition Penn State will see thus far. Michigan State is only 2-4 in conference, but the team played No. 5 Ohio State tough and ended up losing by three points.
On the same token, the Spartans lost their Big Ten opener to an Indiana team that Penn State beat just last week. Michigan State has also dropped a pair of games to Wisconsin, including a 48-45 loss at home Thursday night.
While coach Coquese Washington said during Wednesday's press conference that she was more concerned with the impending Iowa game, she was quick to add that she knows how good the Spartans are.
"They're a very strong defensive team," the coach said. "They've got good size at every position. They're a physical, tough defensive team. They crash the boards hard and they play with a swagger, a confidence."
Part of that physical presence stems from 6-foot-9 center Alyssa DeHaan. But while DeHaan is certainly an imposing physical presence, statistically she does not have as big of an impact as would appear at first glance. She does average over 12 points per game, but she is third on the team in rebounds per game with 6.6.
However, because of DeHaan's size, opponents need to key in on her on the glass. This has led to more rebounding opportunities for her teammates and is a key factor in Michigan State being the second best rebounding team in the conference.
That could be the key for the Lions in this game. They are currently fourth in the conference in rebounding and will need to control the glass to neutralize the second-chance scoring opportunities for Michigan State.
A key for the Lions will be for Nikki Greene to stay in the game. The freshman is still having trouble with her fouls, but she needs to stay in the game to guard DeHaan. The Lions will also need all players crashing the boards to combat the Spartans balanced rebounding threat.
This game features two of the top three rebounding and shot blocking teams in the conference and also the top two teams in terms of field goal percentage defense. Expect a low scoring affair, but if the Lions can get out on a couple fast breaks and turn them into points, they could come away with their fifth conference win.
In this reporter's humble opinion, Saturday's matchup is between the two best teams in the best conference - so why shouldn't it be the game of the weekend.
The No. 5 Orange need to secure a win against the Mountaineers to lock up their first real quality win (Victories over UNC, Cal and Florida aren't looking so great anymore with their respective struggles in the last two weeks). To do so, they will have to match up against West Virginia's size, at least defensively. Arinze Onuaku, Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson have to contain the Mountaineers' front three and let Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins take over on offense.
That is easier said than done. Only Purdue contained Kevin Jones, Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, who collectively average 43 points per game.
Don't be surprised if these two teams meet again in the Big East Championship.
Prediction: West Virginia 78, Syracuse 77
Player to watch: Demetri McCamey, Illinois
McCamey single-handedly led the Illini to a victory against Penn State earlier in the week. If he can help the Illini do the same on the road against Michigan State, expect to see Illinois in the tournament when my bracket projections come out Saturday.
McCamey shot 5-for-6 from three and scored a season-high 25 points against Penn State after a 19-point performance against Indiana. Now, if McCamey can get it done against the conference's elite, the Illini, in all likelihood, take themselves off the bubble and into a spot in the field of 65.
They're like boys with toys, these armed athletes. The major distinction in such an analogy, of course, is that the "boys" are grown (rich) men and their "toys" can kill someone with the twitch of an index finger.
The Washington Wizards' Gilbert Arenas just copped a plea on his felony charge stemming from a gun-related confrontation with a teammate; it appears he'll serve little to no jail time.
New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress is in jail after a gun in his possession went off in a nightclub, hitting him in the leg.
Now, a years-long saga involving multiple shootings is streaming through media outlets -- with Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison's name attached.
Not to preach from a high horse, but it's unfortunate. While details are still emerging with Harrison's situation, the matters involving Burress and Arenas are downright immature -- boys with toys.
Why Plaxico felt the need to arm himself for a night out to the club, who knows? Why Arenas thought the locker room was a suitable place to store a firearm is equally perplexing. All the same, they must find the situations they're now in to be regrettable and unnecessary.
Let's hope other high profile athletes (and the general public) take a lesson from the situations their peers are facing. Maybe then ESPN can get back to rolling highlights.
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The New York Mets need to chill out.
Centerfield Carlos Beltran underwent surgery on his right knee Wednesday, and the Mets are upset because they wanted him to delay surgery until their medical staff evaluated him.
Beltran said he was aware of the Mets' request only after he was in surgery.
If Beltran got surgery, doesn't that mean he needed it?
If he needed it, why wouldn't you want the operation done ASAP so he can start his rehab and work his way back into playing shape?
And the Mets, fresh off a dismal year in their brand new ballpark, need every bit of Beltran's bat and glove to stay in the hunt for October.
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If there's one thing worse than an obnoxious continuous storyline, it's when two obnoxious storylines collide.
Unfortunately, that's the predicament NFL audiences will find themselves in Sunday when grizzled sage Brett Favre's Vikings face off against attention-loving Jerry Jones' Cowboys.
Who will be the winner of this sure-to-be-classic showdown? Not the public, that's for sure. Because of all the attention these two teams have gotten all year long (and in Dallas' case, the last few years), there will be a lot of hyperbole no matter who wins and loses.
Just imagine it. "Minnesota took care of business, and look how much fun Favre is having back there!"
"The Vikings choked at home again; Favre's just way too old to win in the playoffs anymore."
Or how about this: "Man, the Cowboys are just rolling through teams! Looks like Tony Romo's a winner after all!"
"Well, it took an extra week, but Dallas showed why the media's been doubting it all season."
It really doesn't matter which team comes up on top, because chances are it'll be the loser that gets the most talk next week. All the world can hope for is the Saints or Cardinals can cut all that hype off before it gets to the Super Bowl.
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Momentum is a funny thing in sports, often caused by the most unlikely of events.
Two years ago the already playoff-bound Giants almost ended the Patriots' quest for perfection in their final regular season game. The Giants lost but rode the momentum from a near-win all the way to the Super Bowl, where they actually did end the Pats' quest for perfection.
Now here are the Jets -- who themselves didn't know four weeks ago they could still be playing -- in the second round of the postseason after making it past Week 17 by default, having run into two teams with nothing to play for at the end of the season. The Steelers and the Texans are just as worthy of the playoffs, maybe even more so than Gang Green, but they're watching from home.
The Jets don't care.
The Jets are in, and that means they still have a shot at a ring and 24 other teams don't. The Jets are in, and rookie coach Rex Ryan is taking on all challengers like he's Lombardi. The Jets are in, and they've got a rookie quarterback naive enough to think he can win them a title.
The Giants' Super Bowl run started because they didn't lie down. The Jets' run is starting because other teams did.
Mr. Momentum has a funny way of changing addresses.
Lipsitz, a senior captain, is the most decorated of the current crop of Lions. He's a two-time First Team All-EIVA selection, 2008 AVCA Second Team All-American, 2009 AVCA First Team All-American, and has international experience, including 23 games for the United States Junior National Team in 2007 at the World Championships in Rabat, Morocco.
What they'll need for him:
Leadership. After Lipsitz went off for 13 kills and a team-best nine blocks in Penn State's 3-1 victory over Ohio State in the Outrigger Invitational last weekend, Buckeyes' coach Pete Hanson had nothing but praise to sing about Penn State's 6-foot-7 middle hitter. "He plays every bit like a returning All-American," Hanson said. The Lions will need him to keep up the production and also to use his experience in a mentor role, helping out some of the younger guys as they make the transition to DI Volleyball. He will need to be vocal and assertive on the court, directing freshmen Ian Hendries and Tom Comfort in high-stake situations.
Freshman opposite hitter Tom Comfort
What he's done so far:
The Second Team AVCA High School All-American is no stranger to winning. In his senior year, Comfort lead Orchard Park High School to a New York State Championship after a perfect 34-0 season. He shined in the Outrigger Invitational, starting the last two matches.
What they'll need for him: Intensity. Comfort has already received accolade for his phenomenal performance in the Outrigger Invitational -- Hawaii coach Charlie Wade called Comfort's 21 kills on .548 hitting "spectacular" -- but the freshman can't become complacent. One big tournament isn't going to solidify his starting position. He shows composure on the court -- a key to his early success -- but he needs to up the intensity or his fiery start will quickly fall flat.
Redshirt junior Alan Mars
What he's done so far:
In his two seasons at Penn State, Mars has appeared in 27 games, posting steady but unspectacular numbers. He started in the Lions' first match of 2009 -- the sweep by USC -- yet didn't see any action in the next two games after his replacement, Comfort, had a breakout performance against Hawaii.
What they'll need for him:
Patience. Comfort earned the starting job after his stellar play in the Outrigger Invitational, but Mars can't be discouraged. He needs to keep working hard in the practice gym. Coach Mark Pavlik could call on Mars at any given point-- especially as the rookie Comfort works to find a steady groove -- and the redshirt junior will have to be ready.
Freshman middle hitter Nick Turko
What he's done so far:
The four-year letterwinner at Red Land High School was the Divisional MVP and Carlisle Sentinel Player of the Year in his senior campaign after guiding Red Land to the 2009 Mid-Penn Championship. He was also a First Team AVCA High School All-American and listed in Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50 High School Seniors. Turko started and was steady in the Lions' opener against USC in the Outrigger Invitational, but an ankle injury early in the Hawaii match sidelined him for the rest of the weekend.
What they'll need for him:
To stay healthy. Now that he's hurt his ankle once, he's more susceptible to another injury. Turko is primed for four successful years at Penn State -- including some valuable playing time in his rookie season -- so the Lions will need him to stay healthy.
Senior opposite hitter Will Price
What he's done so far:
Price has only one season at Penn State under his belt -- a transfer from George Mason, he had to sit out the 2008 season because of NCAA rules -- but he definitely made the most of it. In 2009 he was AVCA First Team All-American, First Team All-EIVA, member of the NCAA All-Tournament team and the EIVA Championship's Most Outstanding Player. He also has international experience, including a stint this summer training with the U.S. Men's A-2 Team, which competed in the Pan Am Cup in Chiapas, Mexico.
What they'll need from him:
Clutch performances. When Price is hot, he has the potential to completely dominate a game. See his five ace, 17 kill, .640 hitting performance versus Southern California in the 2009 NCAA Semifinals, or his 16 kill, 10 dig outbreak against BYU last March. He'll need to maintain his reputation as a big game performer in Penn State's big out-of-conference games -- specifically in the two California road trips -- for the Lions to have a successful run in the NCAA's.
Freshman middle hitter Ian Hendries
What he's done so far:
Hendreis was a senior captain for the 2009 La Coasta Canyon High School team that finished third in the California State Championship. He's from volleyball hotbed Southern California, so he's accustomed to playing against top competition. After Turko's injury, Henries stepped in and contributed to Penn State's wins over Hawaii and Ohio State.
What they'll need for him: Energy. Talk about seizing the opportunity. After Turko was out, Hendries -- with no collegiate volleyball experience -- was thrust into a thrilling five set match against Hawaii and more than held his own. The 6-foot-8 freshman brings zeal to the court and can keep the vets honest. If he keeps up the energy, Pavlik will have no choice but to keep him in.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Joe Sunder
What he's done so far:
In his first collegiate season, Sunder was Second Team All-EIVA -- despite a late-season slump. The 6-foot-7 outside hitter appeared in all 31 matches last year finishing with 251 kills, 23 aces, 120 digs and 52 total blocks. He started this summer for the U.S. Men's Junior National Team at the World Championships in Prune, India.
What they'll need for him:
Production. Sunder has all the makings to become the next great Penn State outside hitter: he has great power, natural game sense, and a strong work ethic that has him on a fast track to success. Now he just needs to produce. The Lions will look to him for scoring this season -- like they did in Hawaii, where he posted double digit kills in all three matches. He can't -- or rather, the Lions can't -- afford another late-season slump.
Junior libero Dennis Del Valle
What he's done so far:
Del Valle, the starting libero for the Puerto Rican Junior Men's National Team, is perhaps the best defensive specialist to ever wear a Penn State uniform. He's a two-time First Team All-EIVA selection and a 2009 AVCA Second Team All-American.
What they'll need for him:
Consistency. The junior can be flashy, producing highlight reel digs that has the crowd at the edge of their seats. But he needs to buckle down. The Lions will need his spectacular defense, but they also need him to be a little more dependable, and not all over the court. Del Valle has a tendency to try to do too much -- like the Lions' first match of the season against USC-- and in turn, often becomes invisible --he finished the match against the Trojans with only three digs.
Redshirt sophomore setter Edgardo Goas
What he's done so far: Goas has been the starting setter for the Puerto Rican Youth National Team for three years -- since he was still in high school. In his first season with the Lions, the 6-foot-5 Goas excelled, garnering First Team All-EIVA and Second Team AVCA All-American distinctions.
What they'll need for him: Composure. As a first year starter, there was no pressure on him. But after a strong rookie campaign, the spotlight will be on Goas, and the redshirt sophomore will feel stress to compete at a higher level. He'll need to stay calm and be confident in his abilities.
For the second season in a row, a Penn State women's volleyball player was chosen as the best athlete in the sport. Last year the honor went to Nicole Fawcett, this year it goes to Megan Hodge.
Hodge was awarded the 2010 Honda Sports Award in volleyball, and was chosen over other standout athletes including Texas' Destinee Hooker, California's Hana Cutura and even teammate Alisha Glass.
The senior outside hitter finished the season with 560 kills and averaged 4.67 kills per set, leading the Big Ten in both categories. Hodge also had a hitting percentage of .371 and tallied up 83 blocks.
Hodge was also named the AVCA Division I National Player of the Year and is a four-time AVCA All-American. She will finish her final semester here at Penn State to receive her degree in business management before moving to California to compete with the U.S. National team.
"I feel incredibly honored and blessed to have been chosen to receive the Honda Sports Award," Hodge said in a press release issued by Penn State Thursday. "It was not only a privilege to be nominated along with three other amazing athletes, but also to join the many women who were selected in previous years. This caps off an amazing year, not only for me but also for the Penn State program."
Game of the Night: No. 11 Georgetown vs. Seton Hall, 7 p.m.
Last season, Georgetown fell apart at this point in the season, losing 10 of its last 14 games after a 12-3 start. The losing streak also included a loss to Seton Hall. Here's the Hoyas' opportunity to erase that loss from their memory. Thing is, it won't be easy. The Pirates can score in bunches, particularly Jeremy Hazell. He's averaging 23.3 points a game and has put up 41 against West Virginia, 38 against Syracuse and 33 in a win against Cincinnati in their last game. This is a more talented Seton Hall team than last year, so the Hoyas will definitely have a tough task tonight.
Prediction: Georgetown 78 - Seton Hall 74
Player of the Night: Greg Monroe, Georgetown
Tonight can be the Greg Monroe show. Monroe needs to have a dominant game. He's yet to break out this year the way analysts thought he would. His 9.8 rebounds a game are nice, but he should be getting more than 14.4 points a game. Even though the Hoyas don't score a lot of points, I think they could if Monroe established himself as a big threat in the low post early in a game. It would open up the outside shots for Austin Freeman and Co. Consider this a prediction for a breakout game for Mr. Monroe
Junior forward Taylor Cera is closer to returning to action, but coach Scott Balboni said Cera will not be ready this weekend against No. 2 Ohio.
"He's skating now, he's still not ready to go," Balboni said at practice Tuesday. "He's got that high ankle sprain situation. So he's still not ready to go, but he's skating now. I'll say he's day to day at this point, but he's not gonna be ready this weekend."
The Ohio native has been out since Oct. 23 when he suffered the injury in a 6-3 win over Drexel. Cera has one goal and one assist in five games this season.
Senior Tyra Grant's 27 points on Sunday moved her up to sixth place on Penn State's all-time scoring list as she now has 1,739 points on her career. Her 34th career 20-point game in the overtime victory against Indiana moved Grant past Angie Pothoff on the list. Pothoff played from 1993 to 1997 and totaled 1,725 points in 111 games.
To move into sole possession of fifth place on the list, Grant needs to score 159 points to pass Suzie McConnell. Grant is currently averaging 19.5 points per game this season, and with 13 games remaining, it appears the senior will pass McConnell within the next few weeks.
While the senior has averaged just below 20 points on the season, her scoring has increased during conference play to 23 points per game. If she stays at that pace for the rest of the season, Grant will pass Tanisha Wright for fourth place on the list and become only the fourth Lady Lion ever to reach 2000 points to join the elite company of Kelly Mazzante, Susan Robinson and Kahadeejah Herbert. If she continues to average the 23 points per game that she has during Big Ten play, Grant would wind up with 2,038 points and finish her career as the third highest scoring Lady Lion in Penn State history.
(For those of you curious if Grant has a shot at topping Mazzante for first place all-time, think again. The senior would need to average 90.7 points per game to finish out the season to tie the Lady Lion all-time leading scorer.)
Be sure to keep checking Washington's Post and the Daily Collegian as Tyra Grant continues to etch her name into the Lady Lions record books.
The Chiefs are giving me a weird sense of deja vu.
First they brought in Scott Pioli as general manager. Then they traded for Matt Cassel. Just a few days ago, they hired Charlie Weis to be their offensive coordinator.
Now K.C. has swooped up Romeo Crennel to run its defense, thus further creating the exact image the Patriots used on their run to three Super Bowls in the first half of the '00s.
Does anyone else find this creepy? For some reason, whenever people in head positions in the NFL change teams, they always seem to bring along a handful of assistants or favorite players. Just look at what happened with Bill Parcells in the last few decades.
But what the Chiefs are doing feels especially odd. What's next for them? Draft Michigan's Tate Forcier in a few years? Have coach Todd Haley wear cut-off sweatshirts on Sundays? Start playing the Dropkick Murphys throughout games at Arrowhead?
When Kansas City changes its famed logo to an arrow with trails of red shooting out the back, well, at least you've been warned.
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Pitt won at UConn Wednesday night to improve to 4-0 in Big East play. Big deal, you say. That's the Panthers' fourth 4-0 conference start in the last five years.
But things are different this year for Jamie Dixon's squad. At least they were supposed to be.
Pitt lost four starters from its Elite 8 team of a year ago and the Big East, as usual, looked to be the top conference in the country. Through two months, it may very well be -- and Pitt may be the cream of the crop.
The Panthers' double-digit win at UConn came less than two weeks after handing No. 5 Syracuse its only loss of the season. That one came on the road, too, and Wednesday's win shows this team is for real.
Regardless, if Dixon keeps this year's Pitt team on its current path, he will become hard to ignore.
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It sucks to be punished on a technicality. Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers is reportedly $25,000 lighter in the pockets after his arguing with referees resulted in two quick technical fouls and, ultimately, ejection from Monday's matchup with the Atlanta Hawks.
Doc told the Associated Press that while he didn't swear, he was told he stayed out on the floor for too long.
The NBA doesn't take kindly to anyone going out onto the court in anger and has been known to fine those who test those waters. In that respect, Doc's case is pretty understandable.
However, Rivers said the NBA did contact him to say the officiating call in question was indeed the wrong call. Rivers was in the right to disagree with the official's call, but he received technicals, treaded on sensitive ground and got fined for it. Technically, he broke some rules, but he was punished -- two T's and an ejection. The fine is unnecessary, especially if his argument was correct.
Cases like this might recall Cincinnati Bengal Chad Ochocinco's $20,000 fine for facetiously bribing a referee with a dollar bill on the field.
Sure, The Chad broke a rule and made a joke of a sensitive subject, but it's no 20 grand matter. Likewise, Rivers might have lingered a bit long on the hardwood or held on to his case too tenaciously, but $25,000 is excessive.
It'd be nice to see major sports leagues make an effort to be a bit more realistic in their discipline tactics.
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Thursday is decision day for underclassmen declaring for April's NFL draft, and it's time to evaluate which guys made the right call and who could use another year in Drill 6.
We'll just come out and say it.
Abe Koroma -- former Penn State defensive tackle -- you're projected as an undrafted free agent. You have a history of off-field issues. You better kill it on the Wonderlic, kid. Just sayin'.
We're not too high on Notre Dame's Golden Tate, either. Those 93 catches, 1,496 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns are fine and well, but wideout is the toughest position to transition into in the NFL, and Tate's 5-foot-11, 195-pound frame is not convincing enough. Unless you have world-class speed, most defensive backs in the NFL can stick you.
Speaking of defensive backs, Tennessee's Eric Berry gets our vote for "Underclassmen Most Likely to Make an Impact Rookie Year."
Berry is a ball hawk at safety in the mold of Ed Reed, except he doesn't have a history of injuries.
About three weeks ago, sophomore Renee Womack had herself a career day against Iowa. In the Lady Lions overtime victory over the Hawkeyes, Womack filled up the box score with seven points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two steals and four assists. With the Lady Lions traveling to Iowa on Thursday to play Iowa again, coach Coquese Washington will be at a disadvantage with her defensive specialist Womack out for the season. If recent showdowns against the Hawkeyes are any indication of what to expect Thursday night, Womack's defensive presence will be greatly missed. As Penn State looks to pick up its first victory in Carver-Hawkeye Arena since 2005, here is a look at the past few exciting Penn State-Iowa showdowns.
PSU 77, Iowa 73
Dec. 28, 2009
With the Lady Lions non-conference season in the books and questions remaining if Penn State was ready to contend in the Big Ten, Washington guided her squad to a huge overtime victory to kick off Big Ten season (PSU had faced Minnesota a month earlier during non-conference play). Senior Tyra Grant led the charge with 28 points as she got to the free-throw line 14 times and Penn State shot 87.5 percent from the stripe as a whole. PSU held the young Iowa squad to under 34 percent shooting from the floor and were able to overcome 11 made three point baskets by the Hawkeyes.
Iowa 63, PSU 57
Feb. 15, 2009
Nine thousand five hundred and thirty-six fans came to the BJC to watch the Lady Lions take on Iowa in the third annual Pink Zone game. Nine thousand five hundred and thirty-six fans sat and watched the Lady Lions blow a 20 point lead en route to a humiliating, catastrophic loss to the Hawkeyes. In front of the largest crowd in Lady Lions history. Grant had 26 points for Penn State but she was shut down in the second half as Iowa took control of the game. Closing out games, like this one, was a major problem area for Washington's team last year but it appears this year's team has turned the corner.
Iowa 97, PSU 89
Feb. 1, 2009
Yet another Iowa-Penn State thriller, this time the game went into triple overtime. The first time a Lady Lions game ever lasted that long, Penn State lost a heartbreaker as Iowa pulled away in the third overtime period to send Penn State home with the loss. The Lady Lions had three players score at least 19 points, including a 33-point outburst by Grant. Washington's team nailed eight three point baskets but only managed to get to the free-throw line 12 times. To put that in perspective, Grant went to the line two more times in the Lady Lions first matchup against Iowa this season as stated earlier. Just as PSU is learning how to close out games unlike last year, the team has managed to fight its way to the charity stripe in recent weeks, further highlighting the difference in this year's team compared to previous seasons.
Clay Steadman said he felt ready to wrestle No. 6 Eric Lapotsky of Oklahoma during the Virginia Duals third-place match.
Despite Steadman's readiness, the result was a Lapotsky pin.
"I can't really explain what happened," Steadman said.
Steadman said he trains with assistant coach Casey Cunningham and admitted he hadn't been "going all-out all the time" in the fear of getting injured. With that in mind, Cunningham gave him advice.
"He said I just need to go all-out at practice, and then when hurt, I'll take it off," Steadman said. "I can't be relaxed in practice because that is what is going to happen on the mat."
Steadman sat to make room for David Crowell in the semifinal meet against Oklahoma State only hours before. Steadman said he wanted a rematch against No. 7 Alan Gelogaev after the Oklahoma State 197-pounder beat him 5-2 at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
But, head coach Cael Sanderson started Crowell because, Steadman said, Sanderson wanted Steadman to avoid injury and be rejuvenated for the next match.
"Dave Crowell is a really good wrestler, and it was fine for him to step in," Steadman said. "I don't question what the coaches have to say about things like that."
Here are eight points to take away from Cael Sanderson's weekly radio show:
1. Sanderson said he is not surprised with the drop-off of wrestlers. He said he will recruit based on a wrestler's attitude and not the numbers. He also acknowledged Penn State is going through a transitional period.
2. Sanderson spoke about how to approach collegiate wrestlers. He said kids don't respond to criticism as much as they respond to success. He said the coaching staff must do all they can to ensure that success. He also said not many collegiate wrestlers improve at their current age.
3. Sanderson said, "We need to get better in the weight classes where we're giving up bonus points." Sanderson acknowledged the team can't allow bonus points and compete with higher-ranked opponents. Sanderson also said the more-talented Nittany Lions need to gain bonus points; they need to approach with the attitude of, "I don't care who my opponent is."
4. Sanderson said the coaching staff will give the team a couple days off this weekend. "We're not running marathons," Sanderson said. He acknowledged the team is pushing the pace although it's not as much as he would like.
5. Sanderson spoke about No. 5 Frank Molinaro's 5-2 loss to No. 4 Kyle Terry. "He learned a lot about himself," Sanderson said. "He can't be respecting people. He has to stick to his game plan."
6. Sanderson said he'd be surprised if, during the summer, someone told him Justin Ortega would be in national tournament contention in January. Concerning Ortega's tiebreaker overtime loss against No. 19 Jeff James of Oklahoma, Sanderson said: "He did a good job with his baseline defense. He needs to go in and say, 'I'm going to win this match.' "
7. Sanderson said Bryan Pearsall is making progress. "We just need more attitude especially in the first period," Sanderson said. Concerning the 133-pound starter, Sanderson said, "Things are still sorting themselves out." Both Pearsall and Tyler Saltsman will compete in open tournaments this weekend, Sanderson said.
8. Sanderson said No. 12 Cameron Wade needs consistency. "He's shown that he can compete," Sanderson said. "He has every reason to believe in himself."
Secondly, the Detroit Pistons actually won a basketball game. Seriously? For real? Against a real NBA team? I'm not sure what to say.
Yes, I am a Pistons fan and I'm not ashamed to admit it...yet. Detroit lost 13 straight games, a streak that started on December 15 against Houston and didn't end until last night's win against the Wizards.
Don't let this one brief moment of glory fool you -- the Pistons are a bad team.
At first excuses could have been made -- a rookie head coach, injuries to Will Bynum, Ben Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Charlie Villanueva forced all of them to miss extended time.
Then all of them returned.
And nothing changed.
This past summer, Joe Dumars realized that the Pistons would be on the outside looking in of the shrinking salary cap and made his play signing the aforementioned Gordon and Villanueva.
Gordon was supposed to be the shot creator and maker that the Pistons never had while Villanueva was supposed to replace the departing Rasheed Wallace.
While Gordon has played well at times, he is averaging 17.2 points per game, down from his lowest average since 2005-06.
Where do I start on Villanueva? He can't play defense, something Wallace did. He's inconsistent and he hangs around the three point arc (no different than 'Sheed). I know his deal wasn't super hefty (five years, $35 million) but I'd still like to see more from Charlie.
There are a lot of issues surrounding the Pistons and it begins and ends with Rodney Stuckey, the man Dumars was so confident in that he shipped Chauncey Billups out of town in a move that most Pistons fans still haven't forgiven him for.
Stuckey shows promise, but I'm not sure it's at the point guard position. Stuckey is a Gordon-esque player at times, crashing into the lane and flinging it towards the basket (something that draws the ire of many Pistons fans). His scoring is fine (18.2 points per game), it's his assist numbers (4.4 per game) that is the major thing.
Sadly, that leads the Pistons and even worse, makes Stuckey tied for 21st among all point guards in assists. That's just completely unacceptable.
Dumars put all of his chips on the back of the young guard and I'm not sure it's a move that's going to pay off.
The Pistons have no dominant big man, they're saddled by the contracts of Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince and have almost no cap room for next year.
Right now Detroit is tied for the fourth worst record in the league and maybe a few ping pong balls could fall Detroit's way and the Pistons could land phenom point guard John Wall from Kentucky.
With that in place, the Pistons could look to move Hamilton, move Stuckey to the two guard and Gordon to the sixth man.
Hey, a fan can dream can't he?
Until then, the Pistons only have one road game for the rest of the month and if Detroit is going to make any sort of stand, it has to happen now, with eight of its next nine games at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
This is the stretch where the Pistons will either try and scrap for the bottom seed and a first round sweep in the playoffs or drift closer towards John Wall territory.
Unlike Dumars, I'm going to put my money on the smart play and say that we'll see the once-admired general manager sitting pretty at the NBA Lottery Drawing this summer.
Game of the night: No. 20 Pitt @ No. 15 UConn 7 p.m. ESPN
After getting off to a rocky start, the Pitt Panthers are rolling as they head to Storrs, CN for a showdown with the Huskies. Jim Calhoun's team started out well despite setbacks to Kentucky and Duke, but have lost two of their last four. These two powerhouses will resume one of the Big East's best rivalries. UConn's athletic combo of Stanley Robinson and Jerome Dyson matchup well with Pitt's potent backcourt of Brad Wannamaker and Ashton Gibbs, but the sting of a blown lead against Georgetown coupled with Pitt's hot streak will cost the Huskies.
Pitt 78 - UConn 74
Player of the night: Elliot Willams, Memphis Guard\
After playing 34 games for the Duke Blue Devils last year, Williams has made a mark on the Tigers. The sophomore guard leads Memphis at 19.9 ppg and is second with 3.8 assists per contest. After a big 6-of-18, 21 point, six rebound performance against Kansas, Williams looks to make the Josh Pastner era at Memphis start off right.
Despite dropping its final two meets at the Virginia Duals, the Penn State wrestling team moved up one spot to No. 13 in the most recent NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll.
David Erwin and Cameron Wade each rose to No. 12 among their respective weight classes in the latest Intermat Polls. Erwin had previously been No. 14 at 184-pounds, while Wade moved up six spots from No. 18 at heavyweight. Brad Pataky is also No. 12 amongst 125-pounders.
Cyler Sanderson remains the Nittany Lions' highest ranked individual, as he continues to hold the No. 2 ranking at 157. Dan Vallimont also remained idle at No. 8 at 165.
Frank Molinaro held onto his No. 5 ranking at 149 despite dropping his first bout of the season to Kyle Terry of Oklahoma, who remains No. 4.
Molinaro said he expects to see Terry again at nationals, and the Lion sophomore isn't lacking any confidence for the possible rematch.
"I'm gonna beat him next time I wrestle him," Molinaro said of Terry. "I'm just gonna let it all hang out. I'm not gonna lose the match and know that I could have done a little more. With that attitude, I think I'll beat him."
What he's done so far: Provided quality ice time when he's healthy. Though Carey Bell has played in only eight games so far this year, he has managed to stay out of the penalty box and on the ice, which has been a problem for many Icers this season. Bell has only six penalty minutes in his eight games, which is consistent with the amount of time he has spent in the box over the last two season. Two years ago, Bell had 20 penalty minutes in 23 games and last year he spent just 12 minutes in the box in the 21 games he played. While Bell has not scored a goal yet this season and has recorded only one assist, he still boasts a plus-minus rating of 11 during his time on the ice.
What they'll need from him: The Icers don't need Bell to do anything differently on the ice, they just need him to actually be on the ice. Bell has proved over the last three seasons he can be a consistent defender while staying out of the penalty box. For a team that plays physical and spends quite a bit of time in the box, having a defender like Bell can be a huge asset if he is healthy. On a team that started the season with five new defensemen on the roster, having any veteran defender protecting the net will be helpful come time for nationals. If Bell can continue to build on his plus-minus rating, whether it's by setting up his teammates for some goals down the stretch or simply keeping the other team from scoring, he could end up playing a key role in the Icers' run for a national title.
I'm not sure why everyone's up in arms about Lane Kiffin returning to Southern California.
He certainly fits the part.
Golden locks flowing from his scalp, youthful, energetic recruiter who can relate to kids, public enemy No. 1 to the NCAA.
Kiffin was the best quick-fix candidate out there for USC, someone familiar with the program who has some connection to current players and isn't making any drastic changes schematically.
Shun Rocky Top after one season? How dare thee.
But after a laundry list of embarrassing run-ins with the NCAA and players facing legal trouble, exactly how sad are you to see Kiffin go, Vol fans?
* * * * *
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is there to commemorate extraordinary careers and accomplishments of extraordinary players. Some stars of the steroids era most certainly fit that standard, and should be included in the Hall of Fame (along with Pete Rose, but that's another matter).
Unfortunately, no one can be completely sure of just how much the juice really added to particular players' abilities -- McGwire, interestingly, has been cut some slack in that department, keeping some supporters who maintain that he was naturally talented enough to make his marks cleanly. Unfortunately, we'll never know, but pretending he never did anything at will does not adequately address the situation, either.
Perhaps most appropriate, then, is to commemorate the careers of steroids era stars in Cooperstown (if their careers reasonable merit) with simple historical accuracy. A steroids-era star's Cooperstown commemoration must include not a snarky asterisk, but a simple telling of fact: This player has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs during his career.
* * * * *
OK, Jose Canseco, we get it. You were right about another supposed steroid user. Congratulations.
Now please, go away.
We really didn't need your help in figuring out Mark McGwire was on the juice during the Summer of '98. We've put the puzzle pieces together fairly well on our own, but still you've graced us with that knowledge in your tell-all book on steroids. Thank you.
Now please, leave it be.
Turns out we don't care how many players you personally know used performance enhancers. Turns out we hate it every time another one of these stories pops up in the news, mostly because that means we have about 15 minutes before we see you pop up saying, "I told you so."
Frankly, we're spent. We all just assume now that every major player from that era was running on something more than just sweat and tears. And we really don't care where you may or may not have injected any of those players.
So please, Jose, focus on getting your life back together and leave the national audience alone. If not for us, at least do it for you.
* * * * *
If you told me Evan Turner would be so much as playing basketball 38 days after taking this spill, I would have laughed in your face.
Turner -- who actually came back in 32 days, more than three weeks ahead of schedule -- is not just playing basketball. He's playing basketball at the same elite status he was before his back injury.
For Ohio State, that means it has (with apologies to John Wall) the best player in the country back on the floor. (It also has the funniest player in the country.) That was evident Tuesday, as Turner scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half of the Buckeyes' 70-66 win at No. 6 Purdue.
Ohio State looked doomed when its leader went down. Turner had a pair of triple-doubles in the seven games before his injury. The Bucks lost just once with him before dropping three without him.
Now Turner is back, and as evidenced by its win Tuesday, so is Ohio State. Just as it does in the fall, that means bad news for the rest of the Big Ten.
Penn State blew its second-consecutive late-game lead to lose its fourth Big Ten match in a row to start the season. The 54-53 road defeat featured several bright spots, but the result that mattered, was yet another loss to drop the Lions to .500.
Here are the players' grades from Champaign:
Talor Battle: B-
Battle played a solid first 30 minutes, but again fell short down the stretch. The real question, though: Can you blame him? Everyone in Assembly Hall knew Battle was getting the ball, and Illinois coach Bruce Weber adjusted accordingly. But while the last play may not have been Battle's fault, he still managed just 4-for-19 from the field and 1-for-7 from downtown. It was the second-straight game Battle couldn't manage double figures.
Chris Babb: A
Babb was the Lions best player against Illinois. The sophomore shot 5-for-13, with 4-of-11 from three, tying a career-high with 15 points. Babb hit big shot after big shot to keep his team in the game and pulled down 10 rebounds, five on the offensive end. In the second half, Babb showed toughness after dislocating the pinky finger on his shooting hand. He was able to pop it back in and return to the floor.
Tim Frazier: B-
Frazier returned to the starting lineup and had an up-and-down game. The freshman had a nice one-handed jam in transition for his only basket and filled the box score with three rebounds, three assists and two steals but looked hesitant at times on the offensive end.
DJ Jackson: C
Jackson didn't shoot the ball well, but the Lions shouldn't be relying on Jackson to put up three 3-pointers. Jackson finished the night with only two points, but he did pull in four boards. Jackson has been consistent as a smart, versatile player and a glue guy. That said, he doesn't stand out in any specific area, nor should he be relied on to do so. This C is more on the Lions' offense than Jackson.
Andrew Ott: A-
For a guy making his first collegiate start, Penn State's other big man from Philly looked like an established starter. Ott isn't a big-time scorer, but he did drop seven points, going 2-of-4 from the field and 3-of-4 from the foul line. The junior made his mark on both ends, with four offensive boards (six total) and with two steals and a blocked shot.
Drew Jones: F
With Ott starting, Jones was relegated to a reserve role and was again absent in the stat sheet. For the second game in a row, the junior failed to pull down a rebound, missed his only shot and both FT attempts and was pulled in crunch time after coach Ed DeChellis noticed Illinois was not guarding him.
Jeff Brooks: C-
Brooks posted five points in 14 minutes, but again struggled to be physical, pulling down only two rebounds. Bill Edwards took most of Brooks' minutes in the second half. When Brooks was in, however, he knocked down a big second-half three.
Cam Woodyard: B
Woodyard played just 10 minutes, but made the most of his chances. Hitting 2-of-3 from deep, Woodyard also stepped up when Babb left after dislocating his finger. Despite the limited minutes, Woodyard tallied two rebounds and brought energy on defense, recording a steal.
Bill Edwards: B
Edwards played a solid game but struggled with the deep ball, going 0-for-3 from beyond the arc -- one a bad miss near the end of the game. But despite some struggles late, Edwards emerged as a legitimate scoring option and a bright spot for the future in a conference season that hasn't seen many of them.
A brawl between two teams Saturday cleared the benches. While that doesn't sound too unusual, the brawl actually resulted in a world record 840 penalty minutes. For reference, the NHL record for most penalty minutes in a single game is 419, set in 2004 between the Senators and Flyers. The brawl occurred only 3:39 into the first period, and the game had to be ended because there were no available players left on either team.
Two words: simply amazing.
I love hockey brawls, and this has to be the top brawl ever.
The Nittany Lions head to Illinois tonight to face the Illini -- a team that sits squarely on the bubble (so what if it's way too early for that).
While it's a huge game tournament-wise for Illinois, Penn State needs to win its next three games to even begin to mention the word "bubble." The Lions are off to an 0-3 conference start and squandered their chance at a quality nonconference win in losses to Temple and Virginia Tech.
1. Get out in transition: The Lions dominated Michigan in the first half on Thursday when they scored 11 fast-break points. When they were held scoreless on the break in the second half, they allowed the Wolverines to rally from a 16-point deficit. If Penn State runs like it did in the first half of that game they can hang with anyone in the Big Ten.
2. Play 40 minutes of defense: Chris Babb and DJ Jackson have emerged as defensive stoppers, keying a team that could be strong defensively. Unfortunately, the Lions have struggled to keep that intensity up for an entire game. They let up with 12 minutes to go against Michigan and with five minutes to go against Minnesota.
3. Score more than 38 points: Last season's 38-33 win over Illinois at Assembly Hall will not repeat itself. Mike Tisdale and Demetri McCamey are too good. That means the Lions will have to score, too, and Babb will have to continue to step up as a second scoring option from the perimeter. Some help down low from Drew Jones wouldn't hurt either.
Steve Weatherford has entered tough guy territory. For a punter, that's a big deal. The Jets' punter will need offseason heart surgery to correct a problem he has had since he was 16. However, he has passed all the stress tests and will play in this weekend's game. There are players with minor injuries who can't play. Then there's a punter with a heart condition and will tough it out for the playoffs. He missed last weekend's game with a rapid heartbeat. This time will be different for the punter. You gotta give him credit. He's got heart, when it's working.
Some other things important and not so important:
- It's scary to see that the Reds signed coveted Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman to a $30 million deal. Not because he'll be good teamed with Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, but because it's another promising arm for Dusty Baker to pass off to Dr. James Andrews.
- Men's basketball reporter Andrew Robinson wants me to blog about Avalanche budding star Matt Duchene. So there, I did.
- So the Knicks blamed a loss on their hotel being haunted. And I blamed my D in psychology two years ago on the Abominable Snowman.
Video of the week: NBC news anchor Brian Williams had a bone to pick. Obviously disgruntled, he felt the need to take a shot at Mark McGwire on air. Can you blame him?
The Wildcats get their first SEC test of the season in a conference that is proving to be tougher than many critics originally believed. Kentucky recently moved up to No. 2 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll with Kansas' loss on Sunday and in all likelihood now control their own destiny at a possible 1-seed in the St. Louis regional.
Meanwhile, it's been a very up-and-down season for the Florida Gators, who sit at 11-4 following a loss to Vanderbilt. The Gators (projected as a 6-seed in my bracket projections) got off to an 8-0 start -- which included a win over No. 7 Michigan State -- but have since lost four of seven. The worst of those losses: a 67-66 defeat at the hands of South Alabama.
A win tonight would go a long way toward minimalizing such a resume-crushing defeat. The key to that may be Gator guard Kenny Boynton. John Wall has received most of the accolades in the SEC -- and deservedly so -- but, Boynton, who is averaging 15 points and four assists per game, has been overshadowed in a guard-heavy conference.
Prediction: Kentucky 77, Florida 71
Player to watch: Evan Turner, Ohio State guard
The Purdue Boilermakers are coming off their first loss of the season, but they will get no rest tonight when they host Turner and the Buckeyes.
Turner, who recently returned from injury, played 38 minutes against Minnesota on Saturday and will be going up against an extremely physical Purdue team. How he fares tonight could be telling of how the Buckeyes' season will play out in a physical Big Ten.
It's a huge game for Turner and the Bucks, who are quickly turning into a bubble team with losses in three of their last four games.
The Associated Press' preview for the game points out that Turner will likely be guarded by former roommate at the World University Games, Robbie Hummel.
With Pete Carroll -- and his offensive coordinator -- skipping town to rendezvous with the NFL in Seattle, recruits are second-guessing signing the dotted line on their letters of intent, and some underclassmen aren't sticking around to feel the wrath of the NCAA.
Chalk up the rise and fall of the USC football program this decade to the ebb and flow of college football, where the sustained success of programs like Virginia Tech, Texas, LSU and Ohio State looks all the more impressive each winter.
But, the timing of Carroll's departure -- just as NCAA sanctions are about to be slapped on Traveler's mane -- paints the light-hearted coach as a coward.
"If you know anything about me, you know I can't pass up this challenge," Carroll said.
No, Pete. Guiding USC through a rebuilding period with a black eye on its athletic department is the real challenge worth taking.
* * * * *
Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids during his record-setting 1998 season. I think most of us saw that coming, but it's still depressing to hear another baseball star cheated.
However, what's really unfortunate about McGwire's admission is not that we can add his name to the list of stars that we know used steroids -- what we can say we know isn't what's truly bothersome.
The essential letdown is that with every new admission of guilt, fans can feel less and less comfortable assuming the integrity of any star of the steroid era. It's just downright depressing even to have to consider if it's more likely that every power player of the last two decades was using performance enhancers or that there's some end in sight regarding the ghastly list of fallen stars.
Unfortunately, it's anyone's guess just how long that list will get and just how many major accomplishments will earn asterisks as it grows. To a baseball fan, that uncertainty is torturous.
* * * * *
Well, it's official: Donovan McNabb will return for the Eagles next season.
At this point in coach Andy Reid's press conference Monday, half the people in Philadelphia probably lifted their heads back and screamed in agony.
Not McNabb again! Not the quarterback who carried the then-sorry Eagles to four consecutive NFC title games in the first half of the past decade. Not the franchise's leader in career passing yards, touchdowns, wins and completion percentage for starters who played at least one full season.
Oh wait a minute, that's right, McNabb has been Philly's best skill player every year since he strapped on the winged helmet. Yes, Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson and some guy named Owens have all played vital roles in the Eagles' fast-paced, high-scoring offense through the years, but all three relied on No. 5 getting them the ball.
All the Eagles fans who can't wait to see Reid and McNabb go should think about where the team would be without them. Who would start in McNabb's stead? Kevin Kolb, the man trying so desperately hard to break the string of failed Houston quarterbacks? How about bringing back A.J. Feeley and Koy Detmer? Or, dare we even say it, dog's best friend Michael Vick?
* * * * *
There are athletes who are funny (Ocho) and athletes who are dumb (Gilbert), those who are quirky (Avery) and those who are naÃ¯ve (Tiger).
Jayson Williams is neither. Jayson Williams is sad.
It's a different kind of sad, different from the way Jay Williams seriously injuring himself in a motorcycle accident is sad.
Jayson Williams could once be thought of as admirable, the way Jason Williams starting the We Will Foundation is admirable.
Jayson Williams had two sisters die from AIDS and adopted their kids. He wrote a tell-all biography in hopes of being remembered as a good man. He showed enough charisma for the Nets to make him the face of their franchise and throw him $100 million. For a brief moment, America liked Jayson Williams.
Now he's finally taking responsibility for an irresponsible and deadly act that happened eight years ago. During that time -- and after a brief public attempt at reconciliation -- Jayson Williams has been arrested, tasered, charged with DUI and has sank to an absolute low. We think.
And it's sad. Because unlike other athletes, Jayson Williams did not sell us on sneakers or watches or sports drinks or any other gimmicks. No, Jayson Williams sold us on honesty, and as he falls, there is no money to be saved or channel to be changed to make him think twice about his next move.
The American Volleyball Coaches Association released its first Division 1-11 Men's Top 15 Poll of the regular season today, and the Nittany Lions are ranked sixth -- one spot below their No. 5 preseason ranking.
Penn State (2-1) dropped a spot after being swept by the top ranked USC Trojans (2-1) in the Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu this past weekend. The Lions picked up wins over No. 8 Hawaii (2-1) and No. 11 Ohio State (0-3) in the season-opening tournament.
The Lions return to State College to play EIVA foe St. Francis (Pa.) on Friday at 7p.m. at Rec Hall. The Red Flash did not make the poll, but received six votes and appeared on two or more ballots.
Penn State recruit Sam Sherlock won't compete the rest of the wrestling season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Sherlock, a West Mifflin High School senior, injured his knee during his 130-pound title bout against Nick Schenk of St. Mark's in Del. at the Beast of the East Tournament. Sherlock lost the match 3-2 in tiebreaker overtime and will have surgery on his knee this week. Sherlock had talked to Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, who advised Sherlock to partake in surgery.
Dirk Cowburn wrestled in the Coudersport Duals over the weekend. Cowburn of Coudersport High School defeated Mark Havers of Bradford High School 5-3 in a 160-pound bout but lost 5-0 to Nathaniel Brown of Lewisburg in a 171-pound matchup.
The Alton brothers of Central Mountain High School competed in the Escape the Rock Tournament at Council Rock South High School in Holland. Andrew Alton defeated Josh Dziewa 10-6 in a highly-anticipated 145-pound championship bout. His brother, Dylan Alton pinned Bo Candelaria in the 152-pound title.
With the information coming out that Mark McGwire admitted to steroid use during his playing career, it causes us to wonder: what now?
McGwire didn't get into the Hall of Fame on his first try, a sign that voters were skeptical of how much juicing possibly contributed to his career. Now that we know the truth, how does this affect him?
He was one of the greatest home run hitters of all time and now that is tainted. However, one could argue voters could sympathize with him admitting his mistake and put him in. Like the Salem Witch Trials, if you admit it, you get a pass. If you don't, you get stoned.
What's next is anyone's guess. McGwire, who led a relatively quiet life after retiring, is now back in the spotlight as he joined the Cardinals' coaching staff. He will undoubtedly face even harsher quizzing and will have to deal with it.
As for the Hall? In my opinion, he goes in when Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose do.
Game of the Night: Villanova at Louisville (-3), 7 p.m. ESPN
This is a huge game for both Big East squads. No. 6 Villanova is looking for its first convincing road victory of the year. The Wildcats' only loss of the year was to Big 5 rival Temple at the Liacouras Center. They also escaped with a narrow two-point win at Marquette in its first Big East game. They'll go on the road for the second time tonight to visit a Louisville team that has shown flashes of potential this year. The Cardinals played Kentucky tight at Rupp Arena just a few weeks ago but dropped the hard-fought battle. The loss is their only one in the last eight games, however. Early losses to Charlotte and Western Michigan will be more easily forgotten if Rick Pitino can lead this squad over Villanova. Louisville is having a Whiteout in Freedom Hall tonight, where they will be passing out T-shirts that feature Pitino's usual suit-and-tie get-up. They'll need the crowd behind them tonight to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Villanova 76, Louisville 72
Player of the Night: Willie Warren, Oklahoma
It's been a rocky beginning for this Warren-led Oklahoma Sooners squad. A 31-point loss to Baylor last time out was not the way they envisioned starting their Big 12 schedule. Tonight's 9 p.m. game against Oklahoma State is a chance to make a statement in the conference it was picked fifth by the Sporting News. To knock off the Cowboys, Warren will have to be on his game. Last year's Big 12 Freshman of the Year has scored 20+ points six time this season, but only managed nine points in 36 minutes last time out. With a game on ESPN, Warren has a chance to step up for his team and improve his NBA draft status, too.
To say the least, it's been a busy week in college hoops. Six of the nation's top-10 teams went down, including the No. 1-ranked Kansas Jayhawks.
At this point in the season, there are a few very good teams and a whole lot of mediocrity. Here is our attempt to sort it all out with the first edition of AJC's Bracket Projections:
EAST REGION - SYRACUSE
4. North Carolina
10. St. Mary's
15. UT-San Antonio
16. Robert Morris
Because Kansas lost, the Jayhawks move from a close-to-home St. Louis regional to the East where they will play in the Carrier Dome. With a big win over a very good Purdue team Wisconsin moves up to a 3-seed. North Carolina's shocking loss to Charleston also helps Wisconsin's case and drops the struggling Tar Heels.
The bracket also features two of the final teams in - Alabama and Dayton. Despite having more losses than they probably should, both Bama and Dayton have at least suffered those losses at the hands of teams like Villanova and Purdue.
WEST REGION--Salt Lake City
4. Kansas St.
5. Georgia Tech
9. Northern Iowa
12. William & Mary
13. Western Kentucky
14. Louisiana Tech
15. North Colorado
Purdue was the No. 1 seed in this region, but because of its loss to Wisconsin on Saturday they basically flip-flop with the Orange at the top of the bracket (The Orange can't play in the Syracuse region because it is played on their home floor.) Tennessee (who forced me to shuffle my entire bracket because of its win over last week's No. 1 Kansas) moves up to a 3, despite off-court issues.
The lower-half of the bracket is filled with mid-majors who could make noise. UNI, Siena, William & Mary and Western Kentucky should all win their conferences, but if they don't, they have a good chance at spoiling the hopes of some bubble teams.
MIDWEST REGION - St. Louis
2. Michigan St.
3. West Virginia
6. Florida State
7. Ole Miss
10. New Mexico
11. Texas A&M
12. Wake Forest
16. Coastal Carolina
Despite a one-point OT loss to Miami, Wake Forest sneaks in as the eighth ACC team and the last at-large team into the bracket. The Demon Deacons are one of three ACC teams that sit on the bubble - a group that includes Maryland, Virginia Tech also. The Big East may be the best conference at the top, but the ACC could get nine teams this year... it could also get five.
Kentucky is a no-brainer as a 1-seed. Temple - a team Penn State came within three points of beating - is a 4-seed - usually high for an Atlantic Ten school. But the Owls two losses came against Georgetown and Kansas, and they are the only team to knock off Villanova. Their resume also includes wins at Seton Hall, Rhode Island and Northern Iowa, and on a neutral site against Virginia Tech.
SOUTH REGION -- Houston
8. Ohio St.
9. Mississippi St.
11. Wichita St.
12. Virginia Tech
14. Murray St.
15. Morgan St.
16. Prairie View A&M or Campbell
Duke lost its shot at claiming a 1-seed with a loss at Georgia Tech. Instead, the Blue Devils get stuck with Texas - the tournament's No. 1 team overall.
Saturday's Big East thriller between Georgetown and Connecticut gave each of those team's its seed. Had the Hoyas not pulled off a 19-point comeback on Saturday, the seeds could very well be reversed.
Ohio State and Minnesota make up the Big Ten's final two teams with Illinois and Northwestern on the outside looking in. Again, it's an ACC team (Virginia Tech this time) that takes one of the remaining spots. Expect the Buckeyes to move up again with the return of Evan Turner.
Where Penn State fits in: At this point, it's looking like the Big Ten tournament will be the Nittany Lions' best option in terms of reaching the NCAA tournament. Easier said than done. The Big Ten is loaded at the top this year with three teams ranked as a 3-seed or higher. If head coach Ed DeChellis and the Lions even want to get back into the discussion, they will have to win their next three contests (all winnable games), and even then, they might need to upset Wisconsin on the road. The committee members like hot teams when they make their final decision. If the Lions have any chance at an at-large bid, they will have to catch fire.
Penn State prediction: No postseason
Final Four predictions: Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, UConn
You've seen it in the pages of the sports section. Now, the Daily Collegian's sports editors share our thoughts on the world of sports on the MAKE PLAYS blog.
We'll bring up the biggest topics in sports and state our opinions every night, stopping only on weekends to recharge our batteries and watch the NFL playoffs. Hey, speaking of which ...
* * * * *
It's a bit ironic the highest scoring playoff game ever ended on a defensive score.
But Karlos Dansby's 17-yard fumble return lifted to the Cardinals to the divisional round and extended Kurt Warner's career another week.
Now, a trip to the Bayou awaits Warner, who is expected to announce his retirement at season's end. The only thing more nostalgic than a team playing for a rebuilding city is a quarterback playing every game like it's his last.
Completing 29-of-33 passes for 379 yards and five touchdowns against a secondary we thought was among the league's best proves this grizzled signal caller ain't going down without a fight.
* * * * *
And then there were two.
A wild weekend in the college basketball world saw a pair of unbeatens go down on the road. No. 1 Kansas and No. 4 Purdue fell at No. 16 Tennesse and No. 17 Wisconsin, respectively. Throw in the always-hateable Dukies, who lost at Georgia Tech, and that makes three top-5 teams taking a fall in the last two days.
Surely, there will be a shakeup at the top of the polls Monday, as either No. 2 Texas or No. 3 Kentucky -- the only remaining unbeatens -- will slide into the top spot. The bigger question is who will fall first?
The Wildcats travel to Florida Tuesday while the Longhorns face Iowa State and Texas A&M this week. But the road gets much rockier for Texas next week, with trips to No. 11 Kansas State and No. 13 UConn awaiting them. Still, our money says a hungry Gator team coming off a loss at Vanderbilt contains the young 'Cats, whose early season luck finally runs its course. Look for tiny Erving Walker to be the first man this season to give Kentucky's all-everything freshman John Wall fits up-and-down the court.
* * * * *
There was still hope. Grandstanding and media manipulation have long been pillars of professional boxing, and it was reasonable to think a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather could still become reality even after it was pronounced dead when the fighters' respective camps couldn't come to an agreement about drug-testing protocol.
It's logical: Maybe the fight's off today, but there are millions upon millions of dollars on the line -- surely it'll be back on tomorrow.
Unfortunately, as it appears Dallas' Cowboys Stadium has been secured as a venue for a March 13 fight between Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey, boxing fans, at least for now, will have to forget their Mayweather-Pacquiao dream fight.
It's a disservice to anyone who'd ever care to look up the winner of such a fight the next day, much less pay to watch it the night of. Even more frustrating, fans are left to listen to bickering about which side is at fault.
Both camps should be ashamed of their respective roles in this charade; however, the only true shame in boxing is taking a loss in the ring. And, unfortunately, that's why this superfight may never be made (if ever it was even a true possibility) -- Manny and Floyd both know that the shame of losing is far more painful than the disgrace of simply duping fans.
* * * * *
When Washington Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson took the floor for shootaround Sunday, photographers noticed hehad something written on his taped ankles.
On one ankle was the word "AGENT." On the other, "ZERO." As in Agent Zero, the nickname of Stevenson's teammate Gilbert Arenas, who was suspended indefinitely last week after he brought guns into the Wizards' locker room.
It's unclear as to why exactly Stevenson would stand in support of Arenas, who has shown no indication that he is taking the investigation into the gun charges seriously. Mr. Zero has been seen pointing finger pistols at teammates, heard joking about being more scared of commissioner David Stern than the authorities, and reported planning another pregame pretend gun show before the NBA enacted its suspension.
Stevenson seems to be the only Wizard willing to stick up for Arenas, as the organization has removed all other traces of its one-time star from the Verizon Center. The team's actions have been for the best. Ever the practical jokester, Arenas has gotten away with too much for too long in Washington, going as far as defecating in a teammate's shoes, according to the Washington Post.
DeShawn, remind us, why are you standing up for him again?
The Outrigger Invitational --which coach Mark Pavlik said was, perhaps, the most competitive he could remember in the 15 years Penn State has participated in it -- concluded Saturday night when Hawaii upset No. 1 USC, to claim the tournament title. Hawaii, USC, and Penn State all finished with a 2-1 record, but the Warriors won the tie-breaker: set records.
Redshirt sophomore Joe Sunder and senior captain Max Lipsitz were named to the All-Tournament team. Hawaii's Joshua Walker -- who had 22 kills in the match against Penn State -- was named the tournament's MVP.
Lipsitz said that after PSU won the second set in the Hawaii match -- the team's first set win of the season after being swept by USC and falling one set down to the Warriors -- Will Price huddled his teammates together and said, "Ok guys, now the monkey is off our backs. Lets go."
Nick Turko didn't see playing time after leaving early in the first set of the Hawaii match with an ankle injury. The freshman started in the first two matches of the season and was making a big impact on the court: he had a team-best two aces in the USC loss. Pavlik said that Turko is not using crutches and doesn't think the injury will be too serious.
Trogele gets fouled and hits both. It's an eight point lead for the Lions.
Mells hits for the Hoosiers and that'll do it for us here at the BJC.
Check back later for our post game wrap up.
Penn State 77 Indiana 71
Davis fouls Trogele and that'll be it for Indiana's best player. Davis and her 25 points take a seat on the bench.
Trogele hits both free throws.
Mells fouls Grant off the Indiana miss and Grant heads to the line.
Grant hits both and that should ice it.
Lindsay hits for two and Washington takes a timeout.
Penn State 75 Indiana 69
Jori Davis checks back in for the Hoosiers with four fouls. Sinclair also has four fouls for the Hoosiers as she stays on the court.
Greene is the only Lady Lion with four personals. Grant and Bentley have three apiece.
Hope Elam travels and gives possession back to the Lions.
Bentley rushes her shot and misses, Greene can't get the board and it will be Indiana ball.
Indiana misses on another three. Sinclair fouls Trogele and she'll head to the line.
Trogele hits both free throws, but Jori Davis comes down and hits a three on the other end. This game is not over yet and the Lions will have to hit their free throws if they want to hang on.
Indiana takes its final timeout.
Penn State 71 Indiana 67
Indiana controls the tip, but Braun has her shot blocked by Trogele.
Both teams exchange two fruitless trips in the first minute of overtime.
Braun connects for Indiana, but Bentley hits on the other end to bring it back even at 64.
Grant nails a three and puts the Lions up 67-64. Her defender gave her a little bit of room and Grant answered with a trey.
Braun launches a three on the other end, but comes up short. Nikki Greene grabs a huge o-board on the other end and is fouled by Davis. That's four for her.
Davis takes a seat. Indiana's best player sits on the bench in overtime with 1:55 to play.
Greene hits one of two to make it a four point game.
Indiana misses a couple of long threes and then a lay-up. Wolfe comes down with the board and the Lions have the ball and the lead with just under a minute.
Lindsay fouls Grant and she'll head to the line trying to extend Penn State's lead.
Grant's first attempt is short. She hits the second and Washington takes a timeout.
Penn State 69 Indiana 64
Monroe inbounds to Bentley.
Bentley feeds Grant,who forces a shot. The rebound goes out of bounds off of Braun and Penn State keeps possession.
Washington takes a timeout. Penn State will inbound with 2.9 seconds left in a tie game.
Grant gets a wide open look from the baseline, but her shot is long and time expires.
We'll have some bonus basketball for you.
End of Regulation
Penn State 62 Indiana 62
Trogele misses on an up-and-under, but Greene is there for the put bacl and gives the Lions a one point lead.
A steal by Grant ends in another bad shot as she elects to hold the ball rather than give it up on a two-on-one.
Indiana turns the ball over again and Trogele is fouled with 21.7 seconds left, the Lions clinging to a one-point lead.
Trogele hits both.
Trogele fouls Davis while attempting a three. She goes to the line with a chance to tie the game.
Davis hits all three and Indiana takes a timeout.
Timeout on the floor.
13.1 Second Half
Penn State 62 Indiana 62
Trogele drives baseline and draws the foul. Aulani Sinclair picks up her fourth personal foul.
Trogele hits both to bring it even at 58.
Good defense once again by the Lions forces a bad shot by Davis, but she is fouled by Greene. Greene's fourth foul. She stays in the game.
Davis goes one-for-two and Washington takes a timeout.
1:10 Second Half
Indiana 59 Penn State 58
Grant hits both free throws and we're tied at 54.
Braun air balls a three attempt, but Davis is there for the rebound. Good defense byt he Lions forces another air ball and they have possession.
Trogele hits in the close range shot. Good defense again by the Lions creates a turnover, but Bentley can't connect on the other end.
Elam gets the lay-in and we're tied again.
Questionable shot choice by Grant as she rattles a three point attempt off the back of the rim. Indiana scores on the ensuing possession and then takes a timeout.
1:52 Second Half
Indiana 58 Penn State 56
Jamie Braun gets called for the offensive foul as Wolff does a nice job of getting in good position.
Greene and Trogele check back in.
Davis gets called for her third personal and the Lady Lions will head to the line down by two.
Timeout on the floor.
3:50 Second Half
Indiana 54 Penn State 52
Whitney Lindsay nets a couple of free throws to make it a three point Penn State lead. Jamie Braun then completes a lay-up to bring the Hoosiers to within one.
Elam fouls Grant. She'll head to the line for a couple of crucial free throws.
Grant hits one of two and is replaced by Gray.
Lindsay hits again and we're tied at 52 with just over six minutes to play.
Trogele fouls Davis. She heads to the line with a chance to put the Hoosiers in front.
Davis hits both and its a two point lead for the Hoosiers.
Timeout on the floor.
5:37 Second Half
Indiana 54 Penn State 52
Jori Davis hits both free throws out of the timeout and it is a six point Penn State lead.
Bentley bombs one from three and Monroe corrals the miss. Monroe is fouled and will head to the line for two.
She misses both and the rebound goes to Indiana, who turns the ball right back over to the Lions.
Trogele hits a couple free throws to put the Lions up by eight. Elam answers on the other end with a three to make it a five point game.
Trogele fouled again as the Lady Lions are now in the double bonus with 9:45 to go. Trogele hits one of two.
Grant gets called for the body. Davis connects on the lay-up as Grant picks up her third personal. Questionable call there as it looked like Grant had good position.
Davis hits the free throw to make it a three point game.
Trogele feeds an outlet pass to Grant, who streaks down the floor for two. Washington takes a 30 second timeout.
Timeout on the floor.
8:49 Second Half
Penn State 51 Indiana 46
Check that, no shots for the Lions. Marisa Wolfe hits for two to put the Lions out by nine.
Wolfe then fouls Ashlee Mells at the other end. Mells misses both free throws.
Janessa Wolff is blocked, but collects her own miss and hits for two to give the Lions an 11 point lead. It's a 14-4 run for the Lady Lions in the second half.
Monroe fights for position on an offensive rebound and draws the foul. Lions keep possession, but Grant can't connect on the floater.
Indiana with seven team fouls now with 12:45 to play. Free throws are now going to become crucial with the Lions ahead by eight.
Grant called for a foul.
Timeout on the floor.
11:57 Second Half
Penn State 44 Indiana 36
Braun hits for Indiana, but Wolff answers at the other end with a lay-up to keep the lead at seven.
The Lady Lions will be shooting free throws after the television timeout.
Timeout on the floor.
15:33 Second Half
Penn State 40 Indiana33
Greene gets called for a questionable foul right away. She grabbed a rebound out of the hands of a smaller player and was called for over the back.
Indiana cannot capitalize, though and Grant gets fouled at the other end.
Grant hits both freebies.
Trogele runs the floor with Monroe and feeds a nice pass to her teammate who hits the baseline jumper. Nice awareness by Trogele there to realize she didn't have the shot and give it up to Monroe.
Greene picks up another foul, this one is her fault and she tried to block a bad shot attempt. Janessa Wolff checks in for Greene.
Monroe feeds a nice pass to Wolff on the block and Wolff hits for two. Penn State then forces a turnover and Grant scores in transition. Indiana takes a timeout.
Timeout on the floor.
16:38 Second Half
Penn State 38 Indiana 31
Some thoughts at the half:
Not really a solid half for any team. Penn State shot just 35.1 percent while Indiana wasn't much better, shooting 35.5 percent.
A lot of turnovers for both teams as the Hoosiers finished the half with 12 and the Lady Lions gave the ball away 11 times.
The reason Penn State is leading at the half: a 10-8 advantage in points off of turnovers and an 8-4 advantage in second chance points.
The Lions are being led by Tyra Grant's 10 points, but Nikki Greene has been just as dominant on the defensive end.
The freshman center has eight rebounds (including six defensive) and four blocks. It seems that Greene can start to impact the game on the offensive end if she can stay out of foul trouble and get more touches.
Right now, Greene has just one foul, but has only taken three shots.
If she can stay in, look for Greene to have a second half like she had against Illinois when she scored 10 of her 12 points.
I'll be back with second half action.
Good hustle by both teams as Greene and Jamie Braun go to the floor for a loose ball. The ref calls jump ball to give possession back to Indiana.
Jamie Braun connects for the Hoosiers and gives Indiana the lead at 29-28. It is the Hoosier's first lead of the game.
Meredith Monroe receives the pass on the block and puts the Lions back out in front. Penn State then forces a turnover on the defensive end.
A last second heave by Davis is no where near the basket and the Lady Lions take a one point lead into halftime.
Penn State 30 Indiana 29
The Lions get a quick bucket out of the timeout.
On the next possession, Trogele drives, gets fouled and hits the shot. Trogele connects on the free throw to put the Lions back out in front by six.
Whitney Lindsay runs the length of the floor and connects on a lay-up to bring Indiana within two. Lazy defense by the Lady Lions there as they let Lindsay drive right through the lane uncontested.
Lindsay hits again to tie the game at 23.
Zha Zha Gray grabs a board off a Ty Grant miss and puts it back for two. Elam answers on the other end for the Hoosiers.
Gray nails a three ans the game starts to pick up a little bit.
Lions force a jump ball on the next Indiana possession.
Penn State will have the ball out of the timeout.
Timeout on the floor.
2:48 First Half
Penn State 28 Indiana 25
Good defense By Monroe forces another Indiana turnover. Studevent gives it right back to Indiana, though.
Jori Davis scores on a lay-up and Coquese Washington takes a timeout.
Timeout on the floor.
5:53 First Half
Penn State 18 Indiana 17
Tough defense by Emily Phillips. She pestered guard Whitney Lindsay leading to Lindsay committing an offensive foul.
Grant scores on the ensuing Lady Lions possession.
Andrea McGurt tackles Grant. This isn't football, so that's a foul. Lady Lions keep possession after the foul and Grant hits on a lay-up for her tenth point of the game.
Hope Elam hits one of two free throws for Indiana to bring the Hoosiers within seven.
Greene gets a chance down low, but misses on two attempts after grabbing her own rebound. It looked like Greene might have been fouled, but no call and Hope Elam scores on the other end for the Hoosiers.
Timeout on the floor.
7:47 First Half
Penn State 18 Indiana 13
Another block for the Lions as Marisa Wolfe rejects a shot down low. Phillips grabs the loose ball and scores in transition.
Thus far, the Lions have done a nice job of staying in their zones on defense and denying baseline when they have to.
Grant drives from the right side and draws the foul. Grant hits both free throws and the Lions are up by 5.
Jori Davis nails a contested three, but Bentley answers on the other end with a short jumper. Lady Lions lead 14-10.
Timeout on the floor.
11:49 First Half
Penn State 14 Indiana 10
Lions strike first as Monroe feeds Grant with a bounce pass on the low block. Grant hits for two. Monroe grabbed the board off of the initial miss by Grant.
Lions utilizing a full court zone press and pick up a steal off of another Grant basket.
Jamie Braun drives baseline and his met with a swat by Nikki Greene. Greene did a nice job of hustling down low and protecting the baseline. Greene swats the ball out of bounds and fouls Jori Davis on the ensuing Indiana possession.
Janessa Wolff checks in for Greene.
Braun drive and is again rejected, this time by Trogele.
Some sloppy basketball by the Lions as Gray elects to keep the ball on a two-on-one and is swatted. The ball goes out off of Trogele and Indiana gets possession.
Timeout on the floor.
15:53 First Half
Penn State 6 Indiana 4
Penn State starters:
G Alex Bentley
G Tyra Grant
F Meredith Monroe
F Julia Trogele
C Nikkie Greene
G Whitney Lindsay
G Jamie Braun
G Jori Davis
F Hope Elam
F Danilsa Andujar
The Lady Lions beat writers have returned to Happy Valley and are ready to bring you some more Lady Lions basketball action.
Collegian writer Bill Landis here to take you through the Lady Lions (10-4, 2-2 Big Ten) afternoon matchup with the Hoosiers of Indiana (9-6, 2-2 Big Ten).
This game has huge implications as far as the Big Ten standings go. Both the Lions and the Hoosiers are cluttered in a four-way tie for third place in the conference. A win today for either team could go a long way in creating some separation at the top of the Big Ten.
The last time out, the Lady Lions had arguably their best performance of the season in a 88-68 win over Northwestern in Evanston,Ill. The Lions shot a season-best 56.4 percent from the floor and had four players score in double digits.
In its last game, Indiana used a last-second lay-up from Jamie Braun to come away with a two point victory over Illinois. Braun contributed 12 points in the win, while junior guard Jori Davis led the Hoosiers with 18 points.
Look for Davis to be the focus this afternoon for both teams. She leads Indiana and is fourth in the Big Ten with 17.2 points per game. Sophomore forward Sasha Chaplin could be a force down low as well. She is Indiana's leading rebounder, bringing down 7.3 per game.
About three minutes until tip-off, I'll be back with live action in a bit.
Future Nittany Lion Nico Megaludis received High School Athlete of the Week honors from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Megaludis is currently a junior at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. Megaludis received the honor after winning his third straight Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament. The junior won a 2-1 decision over Benton High School's Michael Rhone for the 119-pound title. Franklin Regional placed 14 out of 44 competing schools in the tournament, which took place at Canon McMillan High School in Canonsburg on Dec. 29 and 30.
Although a junior at Franklin Regional, Megaludis has already committed to Penn State. He will attempt to win his second straight PIAA title this year after taking the 112-pound championship last year. In the Post-Gazette interview, Megaludis mentions Cael Sanderson as his role model -- picking PSU seemed to be a no-brainer.
A triple block on match point gives Penn State the 3-2 victory (26-30, 30-26, 30-23, 28-30, 15-9). Impressive blocking down the stretch as the Nittany Lions win the tiring five set match.
PSU will be back in action tomorrow when they face off against No. 10 Ohio State for their final match in the Outrigger Invitational. The Buckeyes were swept by Hawaii yesterday, but stole a set from No. 1 USC when they played the Trojans earlier tonight.
Thanks for tuning in, and remember to check the blog and the Collegian's Web site for continuous coverage this weekend.
Penn State's block -- led by Lipsitz -- is a brick wall to Hawaii's hitters. Two straight points from the block and the Lions jump to an early lead.
Comfort is continuing to impress me. The freshman -- in his first career start -- has been outstanding, tallying 18 kills. He's also leading the team in hitting percentage, at .500. If he has any nerves, you sure can't see them. He's playing like a vet.
Penn State 4 - Hawaii 2
Penn State 2- Hawaii 2
Warriors have battled back and we're going to a fifth, decisive set. The Lions will need to find a way to halt Hawaii's sudden surge of energy, or they'll fall to 0-2.
Hawaii now leads by two behind an impressive performance by Walker. The junior has 20 kills and just one error on the night. Perhaps even more important, though, is his effort in getting the crowd involved. The fans -- who for a good part of PSU's dominating third set were completely silent -- have become loud and supportive, trying to boost the Warriors to a fifth set.
Hawaii 27 - Penn State 25.
The big star of the night isn't just Price -- it's all of the Lions' outside hitters. They're hitting an impressive .512 with 16 digs. The trio -- Price, Comfort, and Sunder -- is a balanced attack, too. They have 21,16 and 17 kills, respectively.
PSU 17 - Hawaii 15
Walker -- who leads the Warriors with 14 kills -- raises his hands towards stands, trying to rile up the lifeless crowd. It's pretty back and fourth early in the fourth, and the Warriors are desperately trying to get their offense hot again.
Penn State 6 - Hawaii 6
Penn State 2 - Hawaii 1
Price took complete control of the third set to pace the Lions to a 30-21 win. The Lions are looking to carry their momentum over to the fourth set, where they will try to close out the match. Let's see if Lipsitz continues to heat up, or if the Warriors can find an answer to Price's dominance.
I don't know what Pavlik told his team between the second and third sets, but it certainly was effective. The Lions are rejuvenated, and their energy has completely surpassed that of Hawaii's. The Warriors look drained, and Penn State has taken advantage, stretching their lead to nine.
Penn State 27 - Hawaii 18
PSU starting to pull away. Lipsitz beginning to show some momentum and Hawaii coach Charlie Wade calls a time out, hoping to quiet it. The Warriors came out strong in the match, but they're sizzling out fast. Hawaii's block -- a big asset for them in their first set win -- now seems nearly nonexistent.
Penn State 18 - Hawaii 11
Goas is quietly excelling. The sophomore has already posted 43 assists and is showing leadership and composure for the Lions. His vocal presence is vital as the team searches for constancy. For now, it looks like they have found it. Penn State is hitting a remarkable .635 in the set.
Penn State 12 - Hawaii 9
Hawaii 1 - PSU 1
A kill by Price caps the set and we're all tied up. He and Sunder have carried Penn State in the second; the duo has accounted for 19 kills. Each had two service aces in the second set.
Not in the box score is Del Valle. As usual, the junior libero is making acrobatic defensive plays, keeping the Lions alive in many sequences.
Turko has yet to return to the match, after leaving early in the first with an ankle injury. We'll definitely be tracking that.
Sunder with a big kill and PSU is at set point, forcing Hawaii to call a time out. Sunder walks to the Penn State huddle with a huge grin on his face. He's clearly confident, and exactly what the Lions need to claw back into this match.
PSU 29 - Hawaii 26
Another Sunder ace. The redshirt sophomore has had some clutch plays. Pavlik has left the bench and is now standing on the sideline, yelling encouragement to his team. There's some energy from Penn State and the hometown crowd is temporarily silenced.
PSU 25 - Hawaii 23.
Sunder registers an ace to tie the game up at 23-23. This is a crucial moment in the game and it will be interesting to see how PSU responds.
Freshman Comfort is showing poise. He's registered eight kills -- second on the team, only to Price's 10 -- and looks comfortable on the court. However, the rest of the Lions are struggling to find offensive rhythm. They've lost their lead and are struggling to get back in the game. Lipsitz is in a funk. He's hitting under .300, and after a service error it's clear he's lacking confidence. Tonight, he does not look like a returning All-American.
Hawaii 23 - PSU 21
Umlaft just deflected the ball off of PSU's triple block for a Hawaii point. He's been going through Penn State's block all night.
The Lions have yet to find an adjustment.
Penn State 14 Hawaii 12
An ace by Walker sealed the first set, and Hawaii takes a 1-0 lead.
The Warriors started quickly in the first, and though the Nittany Lions made a slight comeback, they never really recovered.
If Penn State is going to win the match, they'll need more production from their big guns. Lipstiz only hit .333 in the first -- his percentage is usually much higher. Price -- who showed flashes of power earlier -- needs to show consistency.
Sunder, as Marv Albert would say, is "on fire." He is hitting a team-best .429, with three completely dominant kills, and a service ace.
However, Hawaii has an answer for him in Umlaft, the 6-foot-9 German. He has seven kills here in the first.
Hawaii 29 - PSU 26
Price -- who was unproductive and inconsistent last night hitting a lowly .038 pct -- seems to be stepping up. He already has four kills.
The Penn State coaching staff has definitely caught the island fever. Coach Mark Parvlik -- donning a navy blue and white floral Hawaiian shirt -- looks like quite the tourist.
The Nittany Lions are inching back, now trailing by just two.
Hawaii 21 - PSU 19
So far, I'm impressed with the live video streaming. It has pretty good picture and sound quality.
Hawaii's middles are really giving PSU a tough time. Matt Rawson is hitting 1.000 with two solo blocks. The Nittany Lions have no one matching his hot start.
Hawaii 15- PSU 9.
Interesting Tom Comfort gets the start tonight. The freshman subbed in late in last night's match for Alan Mars, and I'm curious to see how he'll do in his first career start.
Meanwhile, fellow freshman starter Nick Turko, who had an impressive match against the Trojans (two service aces and a team-best .273 hitting pct.) had to leave early in the first set with an injury. Looks like his left ankle. Frosh Ian Hendries subs in to make his PSU debut.
Hawaii 11 - PSU 7
Hey folks, Emily Kaplan here to live blog the Penn State men's volleyball team's second match of the season. The No. 5 Nittany Lions (0-1) will take on No. 12 Hawaii (1-0) at the Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu. Unfortunately I did not make the trip, so I'll be streaming the game live from my computer at home, in chilly Montclair, NJ.
Tip-off is 7p.m. HT (midnight here on the East Coast), and the Nittany Lions are looking to rebound from last nights loss to No. 1 USC. Penn State fell to the Trojans (30-28, 30-24, 30-24) despite a strong effort from Joe Sunder. The redshirt sophomore had 14 kills.
Hawaii, meanwhile, comes into tonight's match with some momentum. They swept No. 10 Ohio State last night, behind a dominant performance from Joshua Walker. The junior outside had a huge night, hitting an incredible .652 while posting 17 kills and nine digs.
To win, Penn State will have to shut him down. They'll also have to watch out for 6-foot-9 freshman Jonas Umlaft.
What he's done so far: Experienced some horrible luck. Taylor Cera has appeared in only five games so far this season, struggling to stay healthy. After injuring his ankle in an Oct. 23 game against Drexel, Cera has spent the last two months trying to nurse his ankle back to full strength. In his five games, Cera has recorded one goal and one assist, both of which came in the Icers' 7-1 victory over West Chester on Oct. 16. Cera hasn't given us much to evaluate yet this season, but he has proven he can be an asset to the team in the 41 games he played with Penn State over the last two seasons. Even in his limited action this year, Cera has shown his versatility at the forward position, using his size to make an impact on both ends of the ice.
What they'll need from him: This one is simple -- get healthy. Even though the Icers have gotten off to an impressive start at 18-2-1, mostly without Cera on the ice, they could still use him in the lineup when it comes time to make a run at a championship. Cera is one of the biggest forwards on the team, listed on the Icers' website at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. In a lineup that already contains physical forwards like Matt Kirstein, Paul Daley and Marek Polidor, Cera would fit right into the Icers' style and could be just what the team needs to give it an extra edge in its push for a national title.
After suffering a disappointing sweep at the hands of the No. 1 ranked USC Trojans Thursday at the Outrigger Invitational, the Nittany Lions will have to recover quickly if they plan to stop the bleeding.
The No. 5 Lions face a tough test tonight when they take on No. 12 Hawaii in Honolulu. Hawaii dominated No. 10 Ohio State last night 3-0 (30-20, 30-20, 30-26).
PSU must have a much better attack tonight if it wants to even their record at 1-1. Attack percentage is often a very telling statistic of who is playing better volleyball, not necessarily the score.
In the first set last night, the set the Lions were closest to the Trojans based on score (28-30), USC out hit PSU .312-.143. That set, despite the close score, went on to set the tone for the match as USC won the later two sets with more convincing 30-24 scores.
Over the course of the match, PSU had a dismal .208 attack percentage compared to USC's .393.
Coming into the tournament, the Lions appeared to be a clear favorite over the Warriors. Hawaii attacked at an impressive .411 clip last night against the Buckeyes. Penn State needs to step up its game tonight or it may be looking at an 0-2 start to its 2010 campaign.
Cameron Wade sees the importance of this weekend's Virginia Duals.
It's an opportunity for the redshirt sophomore to put the past behind him. Wade, who ranks No. 18 in the nation at heavyweight, lost a 6-1 decision to Lock Haven's Dan Craig this past Sunday. The loss caused Wade to drop six spots from his previous No. 12 ranking.
Wade said he lost his focus after Craig performed a four-point move. Wade gained hold of one of Craig's legs, but before the Nittany Lion could react, Craig took control over Wade, threw him to the ground and turned Wade's back for near-fall points.
"It got me out of my game, which shouldn't have happened," Wade said. "I didn't wrestle a good match - really have to put that behind me, push forward and quit worrying about my ankle and things like that and just wrestle."
Wade said his ankle was fully healed before the match.
"It wasn't even about reinjuring it or anything," Wade said. "I just didn't wrestle like I should have, and it was something I needed to get fixed."
Wade said he had a beneficial practice week and claimed he is now focused. He will need that newfound mentality at Hampton, Va. The heavyweight field will feature five other ranked wrestlers, including No. 2 Jared Rosholt of Oklahoma State, No. 6 Zach Rey of Lehigh, No. 12 Nathan Fernandez of Oklahoma, No. 13 Ricky Alcala of UC-Davis and No. 19 Chris Birchler of Edinboro.
"I'm definitely going in with the right mindset," Wade said. "I want to go out there and get some good quality wins against some quality opponents this weekend."
Penn State suffers its third straight Big Ten loss, and second consecutive home loss. Check the Collegian's website for more coverage and thanks for following along.
Harris lofts the ball to the photographers off the inbounds. Frazier passes into Battle who misses a three.
Sims scores one more time and Brooks can't convert on the other end. Harris is fouled and goes for a one-and-one.
Harris hits the first as the rest of his teammates retreat to prevent anything in transition. The junior hits the second shot, and this one is about over.
Michigan runs out the clock on the final possession, 64-55 final
Babb at the line for a one-and-one. No problem for the sophomore as he hits both and it's a one-point Lions lead.
Lucas-Perry from three. Where did all this shooting come from? These guys were beyond cold in the first half. Harris fouled from behind by Frazier and the juniors shot hits the back of the rim and falls through. Harris hits the FT, and just like that, Michigan is up five points.
Brooks fumbles the ball and gets called for a travel as he could not find anyone to pass to. Lucas-Perry misses a three, only for Sims to get the board and kick it out to the same Lucas-Perry who drains the three from the top of the key.
Frazier fouled on the drive and will shoot a one-and-one.
Some of the crowd has given up on this one and are making their way out of the building as Frazier hits the first, but misses his second shot.
Seven-point Michigan lead and Harris is fouled by Jackson. Harris goes to the line for a one-and-one.
The junior misses the first and Jeff Brooks comes down with the board and Jackson makes a basket.
Timeout on the floor
1:12 2nd half, 60-55 Michigan
Michigan is now 5-21 on threes, and those 15 points were huge in the Wolverines comeback run.
Frazier got switched onto Harris and gets called for a foul, his second. Babb was the primary defender on the play but got caught on a screen.
Lucas-Perry knocks down a three in the corner to make it a one point game, and after a PSU miss, it's Michigan's chance to take a lead.
The Wolverines do just that as Harris drives the lane and gets fouled by Brooks, but makes the shot anyway. After Harris sinks the FT, Michigan is up two.
Correction, were up two. Chris Babb nails a three to give the Lions a brief lead until...
Sims sinks a jumper and Michigan is back on top by a point.
Harris fouls Babb and we'll take a quick breather.
3:50 2nd half, 51-50 Michigan
Michigan swarming to the ball on defense as Babb misses a three, but Edwards hauls in the ball. The freshman is fouled on his putback attempt, and makes one of two FTs. Jackson crashed the glass after the missed second foul shot and got a basket out of it, an unconventional three-point play, but I think the Lions will take it.
Ott fouls Sims, who makes the basket anyway and hits the foul shot for his 17th, 18th and 19th points of the night.
Battle called for an offensive foul, and the crowd is pretty unhappy about that one. Novak misses a three, but the Lions give the ball right back with a bad pass that sails past Jackson and off the scorer's table.
Jackson wrestles the ball away from Harris, only to get hounded by Harris and Novak. A bit of a battle ends in a foul on Novak and the Lions take the ball upcourt. Novak now with two fouls after he is whistled on the defensive end.
Lucas-Perry rattles down a three, and suddenly, this is a four-point game.
Ott makes a basket after a pretty solid shot-fake, but like the rest of the night, Sims answers back.
Battle airballs a three with the clock running down and nobody comes up with the ball. A shot clock violation turns the ball over and we go into a timeout.
That 15-point cushion from the half is almost gone, 6:00 2nd half, 47-43 Penn State
Manny Harris with a three. Watch out fans, Michigan is on fire.
Seriously, they are, Zack Novak just hit his second three of the half after DJ Jackson misses a shot in close.
Penn State calls a timeout.
10:33 2nd half, 42-35 Penn State
Thanks to the miracle of modern laptop technology, I have calculated Michigan now has a scorching 6.7% three-point percentage in the game. Somebody slow them down.
Jackson turns the ball over and Michigan takes a timeout.
11:36 2nd half, 42-29 Penn State
Another awe-inspiring Kiss Cam has come and gone, and it's back to basketball.
Penn State out of the timeout with the ball, and the Lions manage to run the clock down to two before Jones misses. Brooks is quick to collect the board though and Penn State salvages a bucket out of the possession.
Jones gets fouled on a turnaround shot. The foul goes to Sims, his first, and Jones will shoot two from the line. Jones misses the first Lion FT of the night, but hits on the second, only to get called for his third foul on the next play.
Ott is right back in for Jones. A Sims shot somehow rims out and Ott grabs the board, and the ensuing possession sees Stu Douglass whistled for his third foul.
Sims again, surprise. He now has 16 of his team's 26 points.
Chris Babb is cold-blooded. The sophomore drained a three with a hand in his face.
I can't believe what I just saw.
Zack Novak...hit...a three.
That makes Michigan 1-of-15 from outside and we have another timeout
11:54 2nd half, 42-29 Penn State
Second half is underway and Zack Novak connects on a very long two.
Babb responds by doing something Michigan can't: hitting a three.
Sims scores once again, about the only thing going right for Michigan tonight has been the senior's strong play inside. Harris manages to get by Babb, only to have his shot sent into the stands by Andrew Jones.
That was a block
Three-point woes continue as Harris gets into the lane and for some reason kicks out to Lucas-Perry who misses again from outside.
Jackson finds Jones inside on a nice pass and the junior center puts it away. However, Sims is quick to fire back after a feed inside from Douglass. That's 14 and counting for Michigan's big man.
Lucas-Perry commits his third foul and it's a timeout.
15:18 2nd half, 36-24 Penn State
Penn State scoring after 20 minutes.
Michigan scoring after 20 minutes.
A few observations from the first half.
1. Andrew Ott came to play. After two quick fouls put Andrew Jones on the bench, Ott came in and scored three of the Lions' first four baskets.
2. No surprise from Talor Battle, who is leading the Lions with nine points, but also has three assists and four rebounds and has made two very difficult shots in the lane.
3. Manny Harris, the Big Ten's leading scorer, has two points at the half, and they came on a putback. Harris is just 1-5 from the floor and is 0-3 from deep. So far, Penn State has used different defenders on the junior, including Chris Babb, DJ Jackson, Bill Edwards and Battle.
4. Sims is scoring, but he only has one rebound and has been charged with three turnovers. Jones played most of the half with two personal fouls and seemed to be laying off a little bit on defense, but the Lions can live with one Wolverine scoring if they continue to play defense like in the first half.
Morris fouls Battle with 2.3 seconds left. Battle gets the ball on the inbounds but does not get a shot off in time. First half is over, the Lions lead 31-16.
Battle leads the Lions with nine points, while Sims leads both the Wolverines and the game with 10 points.
PSU is 3-6 from 3-point range while Michigan stills sits at 0-12, for a staggering 0.0%
Jones misses a lay-up after Battle finds him right below the basket.
Sims steps out, giving the ball back to the Lions.
Brooks collects a Battle miss and bullies his way into the lane at Harris' expense, hitting a shot over the Michigan guard.
Frazier called for his first foul and Ott comes in for Jones. Babb with a nice deflection of a pass intended for Harris.
Battle hits another tough lay-up.
Babb is all over Harris, leading to a Lucas-Perry miss from three. The Wolverines are currently 0-12 from downtown as we have another timeout.
24.6 seconds 1st half, 31-16 Penn State
Battle forces Harris to turn the ball over out-of-bounds as Sims and Lucas-Perry re-enter for Michigan.
Ott's long jumper is off, but Edwards wrestles down the rebound.
Edwards is now on Harris, looks like Penn State coach Ed DeChellis isn't going to stick one man on Michigan and the Big Ten's leading scorer.
Jones replaces Ott, on the ensuing possession, Frazier takes a near impossible shot, which understandably missed.
Lucas-Perry responds with a lay-up and manages to take out a Lionette as well, but it looks like she is OK.
Douglass commits his second foul, leading to a timeout.
2:56 1st half, 27-14 Penn State
Zack Gibson in for Michigan
Jackson and Ott return for PSU
Frazier drives into the paint and kicks to Edwards in the corner, who hits on the three. Battle puts up a tough shot in traffic and gets the roll, prompting Michigan to call timeout.
6:12 1st half, 25-12 PSU
Several subs after the timeout.
Tim Frazier, Jones, Sasa Borovnjak and Bill Edwards in for Penn State
Douglass and Matt Vogrich in for Michigan
Sims scores another, the senior now has eight points.
Outlet pass from Babb leads to a Frazier layup over a sprawled out Zack Novak who slipped trying to contest.
Battle and Harris come back in after one minute, 32 seconds off. Battle nails a three on his first possession back in.
Bill Edwards whistled for a foul as a timeout is taken
7:06 1st 20-12 Penn State
Sims is certainly the Wolverines main option so far, but gets called for a travel on the first possesion after the timeout.
First substitution for Michigan, freshman guard Darius Morris in for Douglass.
Babb comes up with a steal and finds Brooks on the fast break, who hammers down a one-handed jam.
Manny Harris on the board, gathering an offensive rebound and scoring on a layup. Harris is the Wolverines' best player and so far, Jackson and Babb have both guarded the junior.
Sims scores again, but Brooks answers, after a slow start with several fouls called, the pace of the game has picked up.
A scrum involving Novak, Brooks and Harris ends with Battle in possesion of the ball, who finds Babb for 3.
Timeout on the floor.
9:40 1st half 15-8 Penn State
Sidenote: When Ott got the ball in space, the crowd made noise for the junior to shoot, but he passed it up. Not sure if Ott couldn't tell how open he was or if he just didn't want to shoot, but he drained it from nearly the same spot a few seconds later.
A "jump ball," if you can call it that in the college game, gives the Lions the ball and Ott finds Jackson for a layup.
Ott is feeling it right now, scoring off a pass from Talor Battle the center has six early points, but is called for a foul and the officials take a timeout.
14:43 1st half, 8-4 Penn State
And they're off. Michigan wins the tip, Stu Dougalss misses a three to start. After a Michigan rebound and a Zack Novak miss, Talor Battle is fouled by Laval Lucas-Perry.
The Lions first possesion ends in a turnover as DJ Jackson is whistled for a travel, Andrew Jones fouls DeShawn Sims, who then hits a long two. Jones commits another foul and is replaced by Andrew Ott.
Andrew Ott gets the Lions on the board with a layup after a nice feed from Chris Babb, but Sims answers on the other end.
Ott found himself alone and passed up a shot, only to get the ball back and drains a long shot.
16:09 left 1st half, 4-4
Andrew Robinson here to take you through tonight's game.
Starters for Michigan
G: Stu Douglass
G: Zack Novak
G: Manny Harris
G/F: Laval Lucas-Perry
F: DeShawn Sims
Starters for Penn State
G: Talor Battle
G: Chris Babb
F: DJ Jackson
F: Jeff Brooks
F: Andrew Jones
One more pregame note. There are two guys about ten rows in front of us wearing Josh Hamilton t-shirts. This has no impact on the game, I just found it very interesting.
We're back for the first live blog of 2010 and the Nittany Lions' second Big Ten home game against the Michigan Wolverines.
Both teams have just left the floor after warming up, Penn State is wearing it's traditional home whites while the Wolverines will take the floor in their maize jerseys, and they are quite bright.
The Penn State men's volleyball team opens its season tonight against No. 1 USC, a rematch of last year's NCAA Semifinals. The Nittany Lions will have very little time to recover as they'll face two top fifteen teams -- No. 12 Hawaii and No. 10 Ohio State -- in the next two days as part of a jam packed weekend in Honolulu.
Kaplan: The team that knocked PSU out of the NCAA's just eight months ago is coming back even stronger, returning six tested starters from last year's squad, including 2010 National Player of the Year front-runner Murphy Troy. I think the Trojans will carry the momentum from their successful 2009 campaign -- capped by an appearance in the national title game -- and storm to an early start in their first match of the year. USC 3 PSU 1
Book: This one could go either way. I just can't get over how tough this match will be for a Penn State team that is playing its first match without Max Holt. The Lions will miss him against the Trojans. Different players will grow into different roles over the course of the season, and the Lions will be able to pull of wins against the top teams in the country. I think it's unrealistic to expect a victory against USC this early in the season. My call is a hard fought five-setter that leaves the players with that confusing feeling of being proud of their effort but disappointed in the close loss. USC 3 PSU 2
No. 12 Hawaii vs No. 5 PSU - Tomorrow at 7 p.m. HT (midnight ET)
Kaplan: Hawaii will receive a strong performance from freshman stud Jonas Umlaft -- a 6-foot-9 outside hitter from Germany -- so Penn State's defense will be tested. Here's junior Dennis Del Valle's first chance to prove why he's one of the top liberos in the country. This is also where the captain, returning All-American Max Lipsitz, steps up big time. PSU 3 Hawaii 1
Book: Don't take my prediction the wrong way. Beating the hosts won't be easy. As Emily pointed out, Hawaii is poised to improve this season, but the Nittany Lions just have too much fire power for the Warriors. Expect big matches out of Will Price and Max Lipsitz. PSU 3 Hawaii 1
No. 10 Ohio State vs No. 5 PSU - Saturday 4p.m. HT (9 p.m. ET)
Kaplan: Penn State holds a 62-22-1 all-time record against its Big Ten foe -- not exactly a rivalry -- and I don't see it changing this year. Penn State is going to close out the weekend with style, sweeping the Buckeyes behind strong performances from the youngsters. Joe Sunder will begin what should be a monstrous 2010 season, while frosh Tom Comfort and Nick Turko will shine in their Nittany Lion debuts. PSU 3 Ohio State 0
Book: In three matches against the Buckeyes last season, Penn State didn't drop a set. I don't see that streak continuing. I wouldn't be surprised if Ohio State knocked off the Lions once this year, but PSU seems to like playing in Hawaii. OSU might have to wait to pull the upset in Columbus or Happy Valley. In their third career matches, I'm curious to see if any newcomers have stepped up over the weekend. My hunch is Kyle Mars has an impressive first weekend as a Lion with a breakout performance against the Buckeyes. PSU 3 Ohio State 1
Looking to follow the Nittany Lions this weekend? Live stats for all three matches will be available at HawaiiAthletics.com, and live video streaming can be purchased (for about seven bucks a game. You have to sign up one hour before tip-off) at uhstreaming.oceanic.com
And of course, we'll be keeping you current on Above the Net, so make sure to keep coming back for updates.
The Wild Card round is right around the corner, and we at MAKE PLAYS couldn't be more excited. We've got big plans for the next few months, and they all start with our commentary on the NFL playoffs.
Before we move ahead to the postseason, let's take a look back at all the year that was. We'll kick it off by honoring the winner of the CAPS-lock sponsored MAKE PLAYS NFL Picks Pool. With only three of the original six remaining at the tail end of the season, all of the relevant handicappers receive a medal that may or may not exist. So that's nice.
Bronze: Adam Clark (140-91)
Silver: Dave Miniaci (147-84)
Gold: Dan Rorabaugh (153-78)
He had a two-game edge heading into Week 17, and the copy desk chief from Lancaster didn't play it conservative in the grand finale. Going against the resting Saints and Colts paid off for him, as did siding with the streaking Browns and Packers. A 13-3 closed out his picks season, giving him a comfortable lead at year's end. Mr. Rorabaugh plans to ride this championship into a better computer at the Daily Collegian office and a few more off nights to prepare for the start of the Phillies' spring training.
Now onto everyone's favorite part of the end of any regular season: looking back on horrible preseason predictions. We'll start by bringing the picks champ down a notch or two.
Rorabaugh: Giants win NFC
What went wrong: New York started hot but finished the season 2-6, missing the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Here's a direct quote from September's prediction post: "I think the Giants improve from last season and claim the NFC's slot in the Super Bowl, while the Patriots bump off the Steelers in the AFC title game." Two of the three teams mentioned didn't even make the playoffs, while New England limped into the postseason without star wideout Wes Welker, severely hurting its chances of making that prediction salvageable.
Oplinger: Chiefs win AFC West
What went wrong: Kansas City went 4-12, finishing with the worst record in the AFC.
Apparently Mike didn't take a look at KC's roster before the start of the season. The Chiefs won one game in the first half of the year, although they did put together a two-game winning streak in November.
Gentile: Seahawks win NFC West
What went wrong: Seattle finished 5-11, good for third in the division.
Gentile said in September "the 'Hawks get their QB [Matt Hasselbeck] back, and defensively I think they can compete." Seattle finished 24th in the league in total defense, giving up 356 yards and 24 points per game. Whoops.
Miniaci: Falcons win NFC
What went wrong: Atlanta couldn't build on its impressive 2008-09 campaign, going 9-7 but missing out on the playoffs.
Picking the Falcons wasn't really that bad a move, but what was stunning was Miniaci's tabbing of Matt Ryan as NFL MVP. The reigning offensive rookie of the year threw more touchdowns this year than last, but he also threw more interceptions and saw most of his passing numbers drop.
Rung: Jaguars win AFC South
What went wrong: Jacksonville placed last in the division with a 7-9 record.
We think Rung forgot the Colts were in the AFC South. Indy got off to a 14-0 start. The Jags represented the first of those 14 wins, and Maurice Jones-Drew and the gang lost 41-0 to the lowly Seahawks four weeks later.
Clark: Bears win Super Bowl XLIV
What went wrong: Chicago didn't exactly live up to its preseason hype, finishing 7-9 and third in the NFC Central.
Wow. Clark really jumped onto the Jay Cutler love train, didn't he? Unfortunately, Cutler threw 27 touchdowns and 26 picks, while getting sacked 35 times, in his first year in the Windy City. The really great thing about this one is who Clark had playing in Miami in February: 7-9 Chicago and 9-7 Houston, a team that has never made the postseason in its history. Now that, my friends, is one doozy of a preseason prediction.
I find it amusing that the day after bird killer Randy Johnson announces his retirement, a Hawk is elected into the Hall of Fame.
Former Expo and Cub outfielder Andre Dawson flew outta the nest and into the Hall Monday, something he has deserved for quite some time as he was an eight-time all-star and was one of the top-hitting outfielders of the '80s.
But like many others, there were arguments over his candidacy with many people pointing to his relatively low on-base percentage. He had a career .279 batting average and only a .323 OBP. For guys like me who love metrics and stats like OBP, that's pretty low.
But he was a good hitter, and a feared one at that. His 438 career home runs don't lie. And three of his top five most comparable hitters on Baseball Reference are also Hall of Famers. I know that isn't exactly a strong argument, but there is no doubting Dawson was a good hitter. Hall of Fame worthy? He was teetering on the edge for a while. Now it begs to question, will any other players with solid but not outstanding career stats get in? Ron Santo is one of the top third basemen of all time but doesn't have a plaque in Cooperstown yet. Harold Baines, Dave Parker and Bill Buckner were all very good hitters and each had near 3,000 career hits. But should they get in? Only time will tell.
And one last question, what hat does Dawson sport? He was a well-known Expo and played most of his career for them. However, some of his best seasons, and his only MVP Award, came with the Cubs. And he loved playing for the Cubs, going so far as to infamously hand the team a blank check one offseason and saying he would play for whatever the team paid him. It's been debated for some time, and now we'll finally get to see the Hawk's decision.
It's a new year and the a new decade for the Lady Lions. With this young team on the verge of possibly becoming contenders in the Big Ten again after a five year hiatus, we thought it would be nice to give out our New Year's Resolutions for coach Coquese Washington, Tyra Grant, Nikki Greene and the is rest of this year's squad.
Angert- Stay positive and fire up your teammates while riding the bench.
Audrey- Be the vocal leader of this team and hope Coquese gives you the starting nod on senior day.
Landis-Provide a spark off the bench when needed and continue to be an emotional leader.
Angert- Work on your free throw shooting and getting to the line more to complement the rest of your game.
Audrey- Play like you've been in the clutch situations before. You have a great, confident presence on the court, so use it. Continue to be a consistent scorer and keep making those around you better.
Landis- Do a better job of protecting the ball. Turnovers have led to some decreased minutes in some games.
Angert- It's your last season so go out with a bang and lead this team to the WNIT or at least an above-.500 record before you graduate.
Audrey- Don't let the burden of carrying the team make you feel the need to force shots. Find the passing lanes and don't be afraid to be a defensive force as well. Also, these random benchings need to stop.
Landis- Whatever is it that is making coach Washington put you on the bench needs to stop because the team needs you on the court for the entire game.
Angert- Become a consistent scoring threat for the Lady Lions from the outside but don't force your shots.
Audrey- Be consistent with your scoring. I've seen flashes of success and then I've seen a few air balls. Find a happy median and emerge as the team's third scorer.
Landis- Find the stroke that made you a scoring threat in the beginning of the year and become a potent offensive contributor off the bench.
Angert- Stay in the game because you're an imposing presence when you stay out of foul trouble.
Audrey- Don't play like a freshman. Be physical and crash the boards, but please limit the fouls.
Landis- Keep your hands to yourself.
Angert- Keep making the most of your time on the court, especially at the end of the game. You've been a pleasant surprise so far this season.
Audrey- Take a more assertive leadership role. This young team needs stability and with your improved game comes increased responsibilities.
Landis- Keep up the intensity and level of play that has made you the second best player on the team thus far.
Angert- Soak up as much as you can while redshirting in preparation for next year when you will definitely be called upon.
Audrey- Keep your teammates inspired and challenge them in practice. It's a long season and someone needs to keep everyone loose and upbeat.
Landis- Use your personality to keep this team loose because it is on the cusp of being a contender in the Big Ten.
Angert- Continue to embrace the role of the 'Energizer Bunny' off the bench when your team needs that spark you can provide.
Audrey- Stay calm and focus on ball control. Being called the Energizer Bunny can be a negative if it affects your ability to stay collected when you enter the game.
Landis- Be a little stronger with the ball and you will continue to provide quality minutes when giving Bentley a breather.
Angert- Teach the young Lady Lions all that you've learned while on the team before you graduate. Some of the younger players sure can use it.
Audrey- Make the most of your situation. It's certainly not how you envisioned ending your collegiate career, but continue to mentor the younger players and be the mediator between the coaches and players.
Landis- As difficult as it might be, continue to relish the role of a coach and teammate and keep this team focused.
Angert- Don't be discouraged by the lack of minutes, they'll come next year with that shot of yours. Continue to tune it in practice and when you're in the game.
Audrey- Don't let the cold, State College winter affect your hot shot. Hope for more minutes and when given the chance, continue to step up and bury the three.
Landis- Learn when to unleash that jump shot because you can be a much-needed shooter off the bench at the end of a close game.
Angert- Give the Lady Lions a third scoring option behind Grant and Bentley by cutting down on the unnecessary fouls.
Audrey- Be composed. The team needs you on the court because your versatility provides many mismatches. Staying out of foul trouble will help you stay level headed during the game.
Landis- Like Greene, keep your hands to yourself and continue to grab key rebounds.
Angert- Build off of your nine point performance in the Northwestern game when you fill in for the foul prone Trogele and Greene.
Audrey- Keep taking advantage of playing time. Learn as much as you can from your teammates and then apply it during the games. You have a bright future if you can become more of a defensive force.
Landis- Continue making the most of your minutes and you can find yourself as the first sub off the bench when it comes to post players.
Angert- Become more aggressive down low to get to the free-throw line more because that is when you are most effective.
Audrey- Get ready to box out the Big Ten's finest post players. You're going to need to become a shutdown defender for this team to have a chance at competing with the conference's best teams.
Landis- Don't rush so much when you get the ball in the low post. You have a nice touch but get anxious sometimes down low.
Angert- Work on your offense so coach Coquese Washington can put you in the game more because of your superb defense.
Audrey- We've seen your defensive skills, but become an offensive threat. Washington is looking for complete players and if you can bury some shots you should see increased action.Â
Landis- Keep up the stingy defense and develop more of a touch on the offensive end to become a complete player.
COACH COQUESE WASHINGTON
Angert- Work on the players' maturity in practice as fouls continue to plague this young team. Progress has definitely been made but there is still a lot of work to be done in rebuilding this program.
Audrey- Challenge your players to play like veterans. Other teams in the conference are young too, but don't let age dictate how your team approaches games. Make the veterans set the tempo for the game, but don't be afraid to turn to the youth when you need a spark. Tyra Grant can't do it all, but she does need to be challenged. After four years in the program she needs to make strides to get ready for her future basketball career and staying on top of her during practice and games, while working on decreasing her number of turnovers should be a focus.
Landis- Keep this young team focused as they head through a tough conference schedule. They have what it takes to make some noise in the Big Ten if they concentrate night-in and night-out.
Those are our New Years Resolutions for the rest of the Lady Lions season. If you are still hungry for more resolutions, you can check out the Make Plays blog to read about your favorite professional athletes.
Bubba Jenkins, recently released from his Penn State wrestling scholarship, told Flowrestling that he intentionally did poorly in his spring 2009 classes to become ineligible and force a redshirt year this season.
The erstwhile Nittany Lion All-American was frustrated that he hadn't been granted a redshirt year in his previous three seasons on campus. He was thrown into the lineup as a true freshman in 2006-07 to fill an injury hole and stayed in the lineup until becoming ineligible.
In Jenkins' absence at 149 pounds, sophomore Frank Molinaro has surged to an 18-0 record to start the year and ranks fifth nationally.
Jenkins also says in the video that he's made his mind up as to where he wants to go to continue his wrestling career, but that he still needs to talk things over with his mom and will probably announce his plans for the future later in the week. If Jenkins decides to wrestle this year, he will only be able to wrestle at 157 pounds or higher because of missing weight at the Mat-Town U.S.A. tournament in November. NCAA wrestling rules prohibit a wrestler who weighs in two weight classes above his certified weight (in Jenkins' case, 165 and 149) from going back down to that weight in the same season.
The 157-pound weight class is wide open, and Jenkins could immediately enter the national championship discussion for this year along with Harvard's J.P. O'Connor and former teammate Cyler Sanderson. Nebraska's Jordan Burroughs, the reigning national champion for the weight class, is out for the year with an injury.
Today, birds sing songs of joy. Hitters breathe a sigh of relief. And pitchers wonder, "will I be as good as him?"
With the retirement of 303-game-winner Randy Johnson last night, many people sing praise for the Big Unit. And then questions arise. Who will be the next 300-game winner? Will anyone ever come close to 4,000 career strikeouts, let alone Johnson's total of 4,875? Who will be the next pitcher to kill a bird with a fastball?
For the latter, I could see Carlos Zambrano pulling it off and then keeping the bird as a good luck charm or something.
But in today's day in age, 300 wins is a tough achievement with wear and tear on pitchers' arms becoming more problematic. The next closest active pitcher to 300 wins is Jamie Moyer with 258. I don't think he'll be hanging around long enough. Of all active pitchers, Roy Halladay seems most likely if he can keep turning in 15-win seasons.
But 4,000 strikeouts? That's highly unlikely. The good strikeout pitchers nowadays get hurt fairly easily. I can't see anyone in the near future posting 4,000+ K's.
And then one more question reigns supreme--which team will Johnson sport on his Hall of Fame plaque? He pitched for the Expos, Mariners, Astros, DBacks, Yankees and Giants in his 22-year career. He pitched for the Astros, Giants, Expos and Yankees for a total of five seasons so those are likely out, though it would be admittedly hilarious to see him don an Expos hat on the plaque. Really, it comes down to the Mariners (the team he came into prominence with) or the DBacks (the team he won a World Series with and the team he won four of his five Cy Young Awards with). I can see him choosing the DBacks but I'd much rather see him don a Mariners cap and the long hair in his plaque. Now that would be throwing it back old school.
No one in the next few season will accomplish the career milestones the Big Unit has. I just don't see it.
And of course no mention of Randy Johnson would be fitting without this video of said bird killing:
The Penn State wrestling team made one of the few movements on the list, as it moved up one spot to No. 14. Iowa remains No. 1, while five other Big Ten teams are among the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes in the top 25.
Meanwhile, senior Cyler Sanderson continues to lead the Lions in the Intermat Poll. Sanderson's No. 2 ranking at 157-pounds is the highest on the team.
Frank Molinaro moved up one spot to No. 5 at 149. Molinaro, who remains undefeated on the season, was the only Lion to move up in the rankings.
Junior Brad Pataky fell a spot to No. 12 at 125, while heavyweight Cameron Wade fell six spots to No. 18.
Dan Vallimont remained No. 8 among 165-pounders, and 184-pounder David Erwin also stayed idle at No. 14.
Welcome to the new decade. What will the 2010s bring? Well, for now, they'll bring another set of musings.
Let the NFL offseason coaching carousel commence! The Bills canned their entire coaching staff. But who will calm down TO? The Redskins axed Jim Zorn in a move that was a long time coming, and Mike Shanahan is nearing a deal to become their next coach. Who's getting the pink slip next? Tom Cable has been on thin ice with the Raiders all season after allegedly hitting his wife and his assistant coach. And leading the Raiders to another losing season. Jack Del Rio's time in Jacksonville could come to an end after another sub-par season. Anything can happen. Could Bill Cowher come out of retirement? I guess we'll see.
Some other things important and not so important:
- The NFL is considering inserting the Curtis Painter Rule, meaning teams that are playoff-bound would not be able to bench their starters for the final game of the season. I think it's dumb. I'd rather have my starters rested and healthy for the playoffs than a meaningless game. People need to stop whining.
- The new season of Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice has epic written all over it. Former Illinois senator Rod Blagojevich will be competing. But that's not the best part, which is the fact that Darryl Strawberry will also be a contestant. I'd come up with a drug joke, but just the fact the Darryl Strawberry will be on Celebrity Apprentice is good enough for me.
- And last, but definitely not least, Angels play-by-play broadcaster Rory Markas passed away Monday at the age of 54. He was the Angels announcer for the last eight seasons and the USC men's basketball team's announcer for the last 12 seasons. Our condolences go out to his family.
Video of the week: We go from good announcing to bad announcing. Chris Myers goes for a joke during the Bears-Lions game and ends up looking like an offensive idiot.
Last February, Brendan Shorts, Ian Brown and I made our picks for the USA Olympic hockey team. With the team just recently announced, let's look back at the picks and see how we did.
Zach Parise-Paul Stastny-Patrick Kane
Blake Wheeler-Chris Drury-Phil Kessel
Dustin Brown-Joe Pavelski-Bobby Ryan
Ryan Malone-Ryan Kesler-Jamie Langenbrunner
Extra F1:Brian Gionta
Extra F2:Kyle Okposo
Ryan Suter-Mike Komisarek
Brian Rafalski-Jack Johnson
Ryan Whitney-Erik Johnson
Paul Martin-Jordan Leopold
Actual Team USA:
Looks like we did pretty well. In forwards, only missed on Backes and Callahan. Both are good enforcers and Backes can score as well. Backes is a good choice that we missed, though I'm not sold on Callahan. On defense, we only missed on Orpik, and we picked eight defenders, whereas USA took seven. Brooks Orpik might be a little questionable over Leopold, but it's not a make-or-break move. Jonathan Quick has broken out since we made these picks, getting the nod on Team USA over our pick of Rick DiPietro. But then again, DiPietro, the man with the 15-year contract, has been hurt and is recovering from knee surgery. Overall, though, it looks like we made some strong picks.
It's been five years since the first weekend of the NFL playoffs have included a match-up from the final week of the regular season.
But the league has never seen what it will Saturday and Sunday, when a whopping three of four Wild Card games will be repeats from the previous week. The Jets and Bengals will swap venues from the Meadowlands in New Jersey to Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Division rivals Dallas and Philadelphia will return to the new Cowboys Stadium for Round 3 later Saturday, while the Packers and Cardinals will once again take the field in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday. Only the Ravens-Patriots showdown Sunday afternoon will feature two teams who didn't play each other in Week 17, although the two did play each other in Foxborough in Week 4.
This unique circumstance is especially interesting considering how this past week's games panned out. New York, Dallas and Green Bay each walloped their opponents, outscoring Cincy, Philly and Arizona by a combined score of 94-7 (the Cards scored all seven of those points).
Does this mean the Jets, Cowboys and Packers have an advantage heading into the rematches this weekend? Probably. But not as much as one would think.
Because in the Super Bowl era (since 1966), there have been 10 opening-round playoff games with two teams who played each other the week before. The team that lost that first game is 6-4 in the postseason rematch. That's right, the squad that lost to the exact same team in the last week of the regular season has a winning record once the playoffs start up.
How has all this come to be? We'll dissect the historical match-ups by comparing them to what we'll see this weekend.
The Packers-Cardinals Straight-Up Rematch
Seven times since 1966, the winner of the regular-season finale has hosted the playoff meeting. Surprise, surprise, those teams more often than not have completed the sweep, going 4-3 in the Wild Card round.
Wait a second, but didn't the first-game losers go 6-4 in Round 2? That would mean the first-game winners won four rematches. But that means the only time the team that won the regular-season closer also took the postseason rematch was when it hosted the playoff game.
Yep. That's right. The 2001 Eagles, '97 Patriots, '93 Raiders and '91 Chiefs all won their Week 17 match-ups and hosted that same team in the Wild Card round. They all advanced, with only the Kansas City-Los Angeles playoff game in '91 being within 14 points.
Meanwhile, the '04 Colts, '00 Saints and '92 Bills lost their final games to Denver, St. Louis and Houston, respectively. Each still got to host the playoff rematch, and each won the one that counts. Those were the only three teams since the dawn of the Super Bowl to lose to a team in the last game of the regular season, then host that same team the next week in the playoffs.
The Cardinals will be glad to hear that, but they should also take into accord the history of these games when both are played in the same locale. That's happened four times before: 2000 (Saints hosting Rams), 1993 (Lions hosting Packers and Raiders hosting Broncos) and 1988 (Browns hosting Oilers). In the regular-season finale, the home team went 3-1, with the '00 Saints as the only losers of the group. In the playoffs, though, it turned out 50-50, with the Saints and Raiders pulling out wins and the Lions and Browns coming up short.
The Jets-Bengals Change of Venue
This one's basically the same as what Green Bay and Arizona are facing, except the lower-seeded Jets beat Cincy in their house in Week 17. This Saturday, New York will ship out to Ohio for the postseason rematch.
This scenario has played out six times before: Indianapolis-Denver in 2004 (the Broncos hosted the Week 17 game), Philadelphia-Tampa Bay and N.Y. Jets-Oakland in '01, New England-Miami in '97, Buffalo-Houston in '92 and Kansas City-L.A. Raiders in '91. In the regular season, only the '04 Broncos and '92 Oilers won their home games, making the hosts 2-4 in those finales.
All six of those match-ups switched cities for the Wild Card games, and all of a sudden, home-field advantage came to life. Five of the six decisions went to the home team, with the only loss suffered by the '01 Jets at the hands of the Raiders.
So in this case, it looks like the first game doesn't really mean too much. The '01 Eagles, '97 Pats and '91 Chiefs won in both venues; the '04 Broncos and '92 Oilers could only win at home in the regular season; and the '01 Jets won on the road, then lost at home to the same team the next week. Go figure.
The Eagles-Cowboys Third-Round Showdown
Divisional foes often close out the regular season against each other, and sometimes that means they'll wind up squaring off again the next week in the playoffs. Six of the 10 times teams have played in back-to-back weeks, they were in the same division.
Let's hammer out these inter-divisional meetings:
2000 NFC West: New Orleans had already clinched the division when the Rams came into the Superdome in Week 17 and beat the hosts. The Saints would exact revenge in the playoffs.
1997 AFC East: The Pats went into Miami and took the AFC East crown, wearing it proudly the next week in their 17-3 win in New England.
1993 NFC Central: The Lions beat the Packers by 10 at home in the regular-season finale to win the division, but Green Bay struck back the following week at the Silverdome.
1993 AFC West: The L.A. Raiders squeaked out a division title at home against Denver, then poured it on and won convincingly in their postseason meeting.
1991 AFC West: Denver had already clinched the division, but the Chiefs took second place with a win at Los Angeles. They won 10-6 in the Wild Card showdown in Arrowhead.
1988 AFC Central: After Cincinnati won the division, Cleveland claimed the No. 2 spot in the Central with a win against the Oilers. Houston would exact revenge in Cleveland in the playoffs.
So that makes the final tally a 3-3 split between the winners and losers of the regular-season closer. Much like with the other two scenarios, it seems like historically it doesn't matter what happened in the previous week. Once the playoffs start, anything goes.
One more important thing to mention: The '92 Bills, who lost 27-3 at Houston in Week 17 and beat the Oilers in Buffalo 41-38 in the Wild Card round, were the only team from this group to make it to the Super Bowl. So ultimately, it may not even matter which of these six teams advances to the divisional playoffs, especially considering the Colts, Saints, Chargers and Vikings are the ones who await the winners.
The Penn State men's volleyball team is officially en route to the Outrigger Invitational -- starting at 4 a.m. today when they boarded a bus in chilly State College -- and will spend most of the day traveling. As Book previewed in the last post, the Nittany Lions' first game in the "Aloha State" will be Thursday against the top-ranked USC Trojans. Their second match is Friday night, a 7 p.m. (HT) feature game which pits No. 5 Penn State against No. 12 Hawaii. Here's a little preview of what to expect:
The rundown: The Warriors provide one of the most compelling story lines for the 2010 men's volleyball season. The program, rich in history -- Hawaii holds a 505-383 record over 31 varsity seasons -- has struggled of late, including a disappointing 9-18 2009 campaign. The Warriors have been plagued by mediocracy and controversy, their woes stemming from the 2002 season, when their National Championship was vacated by the NCAA due to eligibility infractions. Yet 2010 has all the makings for a Hawaii comeback, as a new era begins -- the Charlie Wade Era. Wade, a longtime assistant for the Hawaii women's team, steps in as the new head coach, replacing Mike Wilton, who retired after nearly two decades with the Warriors. Though Hawaii graduated just one player from their 2009 team that finished tenth in the MPSF, Wade promises to bring a new energy to the Warriors, and surely all of the volleyball community will be watching
Who you know: Joshua Walker. The junior outside hitter led the team with 300 kills last season and will provide offensive leadership for the 2010 Warriors.
Who you don't: Jonas Umlauft. You might not know him yet -- the 6-foot-9 freshman outside hitter hails from Stadtbergen, Germany -- but coach Wade promises that you will, soon. "Everyone's going to know his name," Wade said in a live video chat with The Honolulu Advertiser late last month. "I don't think there's any question that he will be very effective player in the league."
Break-out player to watch: Brennon Dyer. The 6-foot-4 junior is versatile enough to play any position. Watch out to see if he plays at middle hitter. He's a little undersized for the middle, but his quickness and athleticism could really catch some teams off balance.
Did you know: Hawaii and Penn State are the only two teams to play in each of the 15 Outrigger Invitationals. Ohio State will be making its third appearance and USC's only other appearance was last season. The Warriors have won the tournament five times, their most recent title was 2006. The Nittany Lions have won twice -- the past two years.
The countdown to the first serve of the season for the Penn State men's volleyball team is down to just three days.
The Nittany Lions are looking to win the Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the third year in a row.
The weekend in Hawaii will consist of matches against USC (Thursday), Hawaii (Friday) and Ohio State (Saturday).
Each of the next three days leading up the tournament Above the Net will be previewing one of the matches, and then we will make our predictions for the tournament after we preview each of the matches. Be sure to stay tuned to ATN throughout the week and weekend as we keep you up to date on all the happenings in Hawaii.
Now on to previewing the Lions' tough season opening match against the nation's top-ranked team, the USC Trojans. Penn State is ranked fifth in the preseason poll.
Penn State opened the season last year in Hawaii with a victory over the Trojans, and then USC ended the Lions' season in the national semifinals. USC went on to lose in the championship match to UC Irvine.
As stated above, the Trojans come into the season ranked No. 1, and that doesn't come as a surprise. They knocked off UC Irivine in the MPSF championship match to earn the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The Anteaters then went on to defeat the Trojans for the national title. USC only needs to replace the libero in its starting lineup. The 2010 version of the Trojans appears poised to make a run at the national title.
The Trojans are led by junior opposite hitter Murphy Troy. Last season he became the first USC player since 2000 to be named to the All-MPSF team and a first-team All-American while setting the school record for kills (615) and leading the team with 43 aces. Troy dominated the Lions in the semifinals with 24 kills on .590 hitting.
He could make a run at national player of the year this season.
Behind Troy the Trojans don't have overwhelming star power returning, just solid, experienced players poised to improve on promising seasons. Middle blocker Austin Zahn and setter Riley McKibbin joined Troy in the ranks of All-Americans, with each named to the third team.
USC must replace Luke Morris, its four-year starter at libero. Three underclassmen are vying for the spot, and there was an open competition this fall. Libero serves as the only question mark for the Trojans, who seem to have all the pieces to make a run at the national title, should the libero position get ironed out.
NO STRANGERS HERE
Penn State and USC will certainly know what to expect when they hit the court Thursday. With the Lions defeating the Trojans last season and then USC ending PSU's season, there is a lot of recent history between the teams. With USC picked to win the MPSF and Penn State picked to win the EIVA, the teams might again see each other in the NCAA tournament.
PRICE TO PLAY
Senior All-American Will Price will be in the lineup for the Lions. We just got word from Coach Pavlik that he is good to go. That is huge news for PSU, as Price is, at least on paper, the best returning player on the team.
ROLE PLAYERS NEED TO STEP UP
Price and USC's Troy are both first team All-Americans. They are two of the best hitters in the nation. Those two players will duel it out and will most likely get their kills. Behind Troy, the Trojans have solid, reliable experience. Odds are USC won't "lay an egg." Penn State's senior Max Lipsitz will most likely play solid, as he has his whole career. Dennis Del Valle will play solid defense and get his digs. You can count on Edgardo Goas to continue his development as a great setter.
Those things are fair assumptions for this match. But the Lions have more questions:
How will they play in their first match without Max Holt?
How will role players like freshmen Tom Comfort and Kyle Mars play in their first career matches, against an experienced group of 6-foot-8 blockers?
Will Joe Sunder have star-like performance he showed at times last season he's capable of?
Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said Colby Pisani notified Cody Sanderson of his departure from the team on Saturday night - one day prior to the team's win over Lock Haven.
Cael Sanderson didn't know why Pisani left the team. Pisani couldn't be reached for comment.
Pisani had been suffering from pulled cartilage in his ribs for several weeks. Sanderson said the injury was painful but not one that would sideline the 141-pounder.
With Pisani off the roster, Adam Lynch is the starting 141-pounder and the only Nittany Lion left in the 141-pound weight class.
"Lynch is the man," Cael Sanderson said. "He has worked hard, and he has earned that spot."
Pisani was the fourth member to depart from the wrestling team this year. Cael Sanderson said he doesn't know whether his no-nonsense wrestling methods are why grapplers are leaving.
"I know that we are doing what it takes to build a championship program," Sanderson said. "You have to love the sport; you have to be here because you want to be a national champion and be a part of a national championship team. We're going to do everything it takes to do that."
J.R. Brown left the team earlier in the season as well as Luke Macchiaroli last week. Bubba Jenkins also parted ways with the team, but Cael Sanderson made the decision to let the senior go. Sanderson said different wrestling styles didn't play a factor in Jenkins' departure, but he wouldn't talk further on his decision to release Jenkins from the roster.
With the calendar turned to 2010 the sports world is full of players, teams and even leagues looking to improve. But how do they do it? We've the answers. In our minds, here are the New Year's Resolutions that would make a big difference in 2010...
JaMarcus Russell-Lose 20 pounds
Tiger Woods - Lower his scores...and play better golf, too.
U.S. Men's Soccer- Add to its current 20 fans before the 2010 World Cup.
New York Yankees - Find a new Kate Hudson for A-Rod
Phoenix Suns - Don't mess up another good season by trading an all-star forward for a certain 7-foot, 325-pound center.
St. Louis Rams - Make a good selection with the No. 1 pick they will likely have. Picking in the top-two for the third-straight year, and if they pick a Notre Dame quarterback just hope he doesn't turn out like the last highly-touted Irish quarterback selected in the first round.
MLB - Don't have any playoff games postponed because of snow and freezing temperatures.
Allen Iverson - If voted to the All-Star game as a starter, be enough of a man to give the spot to someone who actually deserves to be there.
Buffalo Bills - Lose the 2010-11 Super Bowl. That's not a misprint. After all, they did it plenty of times in the 1990's and at least then they were considered a relevant football team. We're sure they'd be happy to return to the days of losing the big game every year.
Brett Favre- Go away forever
LenDale White- Put down the cheeseburger
Chicago Cubs- Win something
Cubs GM Jim Hendry- Stop signing bad players
ESPN- Be a little less biased for a change
The Virginia Duals bracket is now available online, and the Nittany Lions will face Virginia Tech in first-round action. In addition to Penn State, the field features seven more ranked teams including No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 11 Lehigh, No. 13 Kent State, No. 16 Edinboro, No. 23 Virginia, and No. 24 Old Dominion. In all, 16 teams will compete.
The Lions lost 23-14 to Lehigh in their first dual meet of the season but defeated Edinboro 22-9 at the Sprawl and Brawl duals earlier in the season. In the Reno Tournament of Champions, Penn State placed third behind Oklahoma State (first) and Edinboro (second), but the Lions surpassed Ohio and UC Davis. All teams mentioned above will be competing at the Virginia Duals, which takes place on Friday and Saturday. Penn State will face Virginia Tech at 9 a.m. Friday.
The Lions will wrestle without their starting 141-pounder Colby Pisani. After Penn State's win over Lock Haven on Sunday, Penn State coach Cael Sanderson announced Pisani had left the team. Besides Adam Lynch and freshman Jim Vollrath, no other Lion wrestlers are listed 141-pounders.
Gilbert Arenas has always been somewhat of a character.
He had his own blog on NBA.com that became an instant hit. He chose the number zero because that's how many minutes people predicted he'd play at the pro level. "Agent Zero" was a professional basketball player but he was just as much a showman, the Chad Ochocinco of the hardwood, if you will.
He amused us, he amazed us with his scoring prowess, he brought something extra to the game that wasn't seen from most players.
Now he just scares us.
With the news that Arenas is being investigated for bringing firearms into the Verizon Center, the home of his team, the Washington Wizards and the report of Arenas getting into a wild west-style standoff at gunpoint with teammate Javaris Crittenton over a gambling debt, all of the charms of Agent Zero are gone.
Forget the fact that from 2005 to 2007 Arenas was one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA, averaging nearly 30 points a game over those two seasons.
Forget the days where he was so popular that he made the cover of NBA Live 08.
Now, reports indicate he's toting guns (despite having one gun-related conviction on his record) and pointing them at teammates over a gambling debt Arenas allegedly owed to Crittenton.
Seriously Gil? Seriously? This is the man who signed a six-year $111 million deal in 2008.
All of this is ignoring the fact that former owner Abe Pollin changed the name from the Bullets to the Wizards because of the link to gun violence.
The entire saga around Arenas reeks of immaturity, something that is very familiar to Arenas' career storyline.
He whined and complained when he was not selected to represent the United States in the World Championships.
Arenas stormed out of the locker room and drove home after being told by a team doctor he wasn't cleared to play.
Agent Zero has used his mouth to air his grievances with all of his "enemies," including Phoenix Suns executive Jerry Colangelo and Kobe Bryant, over things such as Team USA and his skills as a player.
The guard has been looked at as something of a petulant child, and this circus does nothing to dispute that perception.
There is no discernible reason for Washington to keep Arenas at this point. His contract became an albatross for the Wizards, not only because of a shrinking salary cap, but the fact that the guard has missed extended time because of knee injuries and suffered through poor performances in his limited action. Only now is he starting to round into shape, averaging nearly 23 points a game.
He disrespected the legacy of the franchise, which has shown sensitivity for gun-related violence. He has disrespected his teammates, coaches and fans with his behavior.
Arenas was always something of a sideshow, albeit a talented one. But the curtain always closes on sideshows, and it's time for Agent Zero's swan song in the nation's capital.
Well, this is it. Week 17, the end of the NFL's regular season. It's been an exciting year (especially in the NFC, where all six playoff teams have at least 10 wins). It's also been a good year for us here at MAKE PLAYS. The lowest of our three remaining competitors has picked 60 percent of the games correctly. Not too shabby, eh?
Here's where we stand now: Rorabaugh took the lead last week by picking against the Colts and Vikings. He holds a two-game lead over Miniaci, while Clark is sitting 10 games behind the lead. This likely means he's out of the running for the championship, but he's still playing out the rest of the season, like the Colts probably should have.
So without further ado, the final picks:
CLARK (130-85): 49ers over Rams, Bears over Lions, Steelers over Dolphins, Packers over Cardinals, Eagles over Cowboys, Texans over Patriots, Raiders over Ravens, Bills over Colts, Broncos over Chiefs, Falcons over Bucs, Saints over Panthers, Vikings over Giants, Chargers over Redskins, Jaguars over Browns, Titans over Seahawks, Bengals over Jets
MINIACI (138-77): Colts over Bills, Saints over Panthers, Jags over Browns, Bears over Lions, Pats over Texans, Steelers over Dolphins, Vikings over Giants, 49ers over Rams, Falcons over Bucs, Eagles over Cowboys, Cards over Packers, Broncos over Chiefs, Ravens over Raiders, Chargers over Redskins, Titans over Seahawks, Jets over Bengals
RORABAUGH (140-75): Home team in CAPS: BILLS over Colts (resting), PANTHERS over Saints (ditto), BROWNS over Jaguars (somehow Cleveland closes out the season with a four-game winning streak), Patriots over TEXANS, VIKINGS over Giants (how good to be back indoors), 49ers over RAMS, Falcons over BUCS, Steelers over DOLPHINS (the defending champs know how to finish a season strong), Bears over LIONS, Eagles over COWBOYS, Chiefs over BRONCOS (this whole Brandon Marshall thing feels weird), Ravens over RAIDERS, Titans over SEAHAWKS, CHARGERS over Redskins, Packers over CARDINALS (hope these teams pay close attention this game, because they'll probably see each other again in a week), Bengals over JETS
The departures of Bubba Jenkins and Luke Macchiaroli don't affect the starting lineup of the Nittany Lions this season. Even if both weren't redshirting, there wasn't any room for either wrestler in the lineup.
In Jenkins' case, No. 2 Cyler Sanderson held the 157-pound spot and undefeated No. 6 Frank Molinaro has a firm grip on the 149-pound spot this year and two years after. With Jenkins leaving, room is made for redshirting freshman David Taylor to start four years at 157 pounds.
Macchiaroli, listed at 197 pounds, would have had to challenge current starter Clay Steadman this season. In addition, Steadman has two years of eligibility after this season. Redshirting 2009 All-American Quentin Wright, with sophomore eligibility next season, is also projected to wrestle at either 184 or 197 pounds in 2010-11. With No. 12 Cameron Wade holding the heavyweight position for two more years and redshirting freshman Ed Ruth challenging at 184 pounds next year, Macchiaroli would have to fight for a spot if he moved up or down a weight class. Even if he stayed at 197 pounds, he would have to face Steadman and possibly Wright for a starting position.
In a deep Lion roster, Macchiaroli would have most likely been relegated to a future bench position, and Jenkins also could have joined him there.