Time To Win In Happy Valley
There are more intimidating road trips in the Big Ten than State College, PA .
Playing on the road in West Lafayette and Bloomington and Madison.... in packed arenas with hyper-partisan crowds.... can be tough on visiting teams. You need to keep your poise and maintain your confidence and...if you are the visitors....you are not likely to blow out the home team. If you win...it will probably be close...so get ready.
But despite the fact that Penn State basketball usually plays in front of a lot of empty seats....the Nittany Lions have been a thorn in the side of the Illini in recent years at the Bryce Jordan Center.
In 2008...Illinois lost at Penn State 52-51. In 2009...they lost to the Nittany Lions 64-63. Last year...PSU got a rebound basket with :01 second left to nip the Illini again 57-55. Talor Battle was a huge factor in those games with last-second buzzer beaters. He also hurt Illinois with 26 points in last year's game...although it was Andrew Jones who did the last-second damage that time.
Throw in 2 losses to the NIttany Lions at the Assembly Hall in Champaign in 2006 and 2008....and the Illini have gone 6-6 vs Penn State in the last 12 meetings....with 5 of those games decided by only 1 point.
The Ilini are feeling pretty good about themselves after the memorable win over Ohio State a week ago. Brandon Paul had a night that most players can only dream about. The Illini sit atop the Big Ten standings in mid-January.
I am sure the coaches will remind the players over and over again that Penn State absolutely destroyed Purdue at home a couple of weeks ago. And we all remember how badly Purdue beat the Illini on New Years Eve.
But they also need to be shown the tapes of Penn State students celebrating wins over favored Illini teams in 3 of the last 4 matchups in State College. They will be reminded again about not taking any teams for granted....no matter their current record or place in the Big Ten standings ...or... how many fans are in attendance.
Especially when playing Penn State.