Illini plow past Penn State
Check out photos from Tuesday night's victory here.
CHAMPAIGN – For an 8 p.m. tipoff, Bruce Weber left his home in southwest Champaign at 6:20, roughly 10 minutes before he usually would.
That's when it got dicey. He found three cars piled up and unable to move. Then his SUV found a snowdrift.
"I was starting to panic," Weber said after Illinois beat Penn State 68-51 on Tuesday.
Snowmaggedon had struck.
"I just sat and said a prayer and said, 'Let me get through this thing,' " he added. "I'm a good Wisconsin driver and I've been through this. I backed up, went forward, backed up, kept rocking it. Boom, I shot through the drift.
"I felt bad for the three cars there. One was a lady. She's kind of waving me down, and I had to get to the game and I couldn't help her."
If Bruce Weber doesn't help a lady, you know it's nasty outside. And if the Illini go haywire at Northwestern, well, we will know he tested Karma.
On a bizarre night at the Assembly Hall – only 3,470 sloshed their snow boots through the turnstiles – the Illini (15-7, 5-4 Big Ten) overcame the icy elements and the Nittany Lions (12-9, 5-5) to clinch a much-needed win. The pep band chimed in with "Jingle Bells" as the Illini left the court with their biggest margin of victory against Penn State in four years.
Midway through the first half, P.A. announcer Mike Cation became the most popular figure in the Hall by announcing open seating in the Hall. Fans rushed into A Section and lower B. With 8 minutes left in regulation, the news that today's classes were cancelled circulated through the Orange Krush, which began chanting, "Snow day! Snow day!"
"I'm going to sleep in all day," said senior Mike Davis, who has two classes on Wednesdays and lit up Penn State for a season-high 22 points.
"I don't have classes anyways," added senior Bill Cole, who added 10 points off the bench. "I was hoping they would cancel them Thursday."
There were discussions about postponing the game – or even canceling the game, Weber said. It was the DIA's call, and athletic director Ron Guenther chose to play the game as scheduled. The crowd may have been sparse, but it was lively, particularly when the A and B Sections became nearly full.
"I think it was a positive thing (to play Wednesday)," Weber said, adding, "And we play well at home, so we wanted to make sure we got the game in."
Given their travel troubles, Penn State's coaches would have preferred if the game were played a day later. The Nittany Lions had their flight diverted to Evansville, Ind., on Monday and bused to Champaign-Urbana earlier Tuesday. The visitors planned to stay in C-U Tuesday night before figuring out their return trip to State College.
"We played inside," coach Ed DeChellis said, making no excuses for the goofy arrangements.
DeChellis added, "We didn't have any answers for Mike Davis tonight. He was very, very active and found the ball."