STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — About 15 minutes before tipoff at Bryce Jordan Center, members of Penn State's student section began chanting "Take it off!" They were talking to the Orange Krush, Illinois' student section, who were posing as Penn State fans, dressed in navy.
Penn State's students got word that the Illinois student section might be in attendance for one of their annual road trips and tried to ruin the reveal that traditionally takes place just at the opening tip.
"I think they got a hold of one of our emails," Orange Krush Chairman Preston Brown said.
Just after tipoff, the Krush members removed their blue shirts to reveal their orange to a chorus of boos and obscenities from the Penn State fans.
"We love coming in and taking over places," Brown said. "They made it easy for us. We're just trying to have a good time and they're playing along."
Last year, the Krush pretended to be a group of State Farm agents in securing tickets for a takeover at Northwestern. This year, they secured tickets at Penn State, which averages a little more than 5,000 fans for home games at the 15,261-seat Bryce Jordan Center, by pretending to be a group of Big Ten alumni networking in the area for the weekend.
"We set up a tour of the football facilities and some museum stuff. We weren't able to make it because of the weather," Brown said.
The Krush packed 120 members onto two buses and made the 12-hour trip from Champaign beginning at 12:30 a.m. Sunday. They arrived on the Penn State campus about an hour before Sunday's tip.
When the Illini left the floor tied at halftime, players pointed and applauded the Krush on their way into the locker room. After the win, Austin Colbert flashed the "Illinois" on his jersey at the Krush, and other Illini players pointed and applauded at their student cheering section.
"It's just awesome to be here and support the guys, especially when we come this far," Orange Krush President Ryan Gant said. "I think they know it means a lot. We love coming in these places every year. It's a blast."
The Illinois veterans are used to seeing their students on the road. The freshmen were caught somewhat off guard.
"It was great. It was actually a surprise for me because I had no idea they were going to be here," freshman Malcolm Hill said. "To have our fans come all the way out to Pennsylvania, that means a lot. We needed this win for them."
Said Illinois coach John Groce: "They make a big difference when we're at home. We noticed that here lately when we've had some home games with the students back for spring semester. They're huge. We love those guys, they support us through thick, thin. They're as good a student organization as there is nationally."