I haven’t seen the split-screen all-access thingy*, so I don’t know whether the following news is news to you, dear reader. I do know you can’t get enough Illini Basketball at the moment, so I’m here to help.
You know that Da’Monte Williams got in Lamar Stevens’ grill, and head. Maybe you didn’t know the other member of the team who gave her all to stymie Stevens.
Kelsea (Garthoff) Ansfield is Director of Creative Media and one of the great personalities of the Illini team. On the road, she spends the first 12 minutes of each game shooting photos in furtherance of the Illini online presence. (i.e. she gets up from the baseline at the under-8 media timeout and goes to edit/upload to various Illini branded properties.)
Early on in Tuesday’s game, Kelsea was sitting in the pole position (photog spot nearest the home basket’s stanchion) when Lamar Stevens fell on her.
He’d jammed her camera right into her nose.
I was sitting two spots away, WJAC-TV’s Candace Martino was between us. I heard the crunch.
PSU’s trainer Jon Salazer rushed over to help.
Kelsea was able to get to the locker room on her own. At halftime, Paul Schmidt inspected her swelling. It looked a lot better than it sounded, but you could tell she’d taken a blow.
So had Stevens. He was clearly rattled, and it put him a step behind. A moment later, he committed a major faux pas.
You have to love Da’Monte’s reaction to this turn of events. It’s pretty unusual to see him smile, but on Tuesday in State College, it happened at least three times.
So Lamar Stevens, the best player on the B1G’s hottest team, spent a crucial nine minutes on the bench during a first half that set the narrative for the game. Illinois led 30-26 at halftime.
Pat Chambers said he was encouraged that his team kept the game so close without Stevens. The unanswerable question is how well they would have done with him? As it was, he never found his rhythm against Da’Monte and Kipper Nichols.
While the Second Foul Rule is universally respected by college coaches, you have to wonder whether it cost the Nittany Lions a ninth-straight victory. As seems so often the case with these fateful coaching decisions, Stevens finished the game with two fouls.
*If anyone who wants to send me an MP4, I’d love to watch it.
Chambers said the game should be decided by the players, not the refs.
But that’s unfair to the Illini. The truth is that Glenn Mayborg (and Earl Walton and Rob Riley) had been deciding the game for all of the first 39 and a half minutes, too.
Mayborg and Riley were especially responsible for allowing Penn State’s bigs to wrestle and batter the Illini on the interior. Chambers should be thanking them effusively for keeping his team in the game. It certainly abetted The Nittany style of play.
On the other hand, Mayborg et al decided early on that every ticky-tack touch was a foul.
And this choice also benefited the Nittany Lions. e.g. not only did Nnanna Egwu spend 12 minutes on the pine (especially after his 4th “foul” with 12:29 to play) but when Austin Colbert checked in to spell Egwu; Donovon Jack, Julian Moore and Jordan Dickerson were given carte blanche to toss Colbert around the lane like a rubber chicken. (That said, Colbert stood his ground pretty well.)
I have not seen a more brutal game, perhaps ever.
The good (frankly fantastic) news abut Austin Colbert is that John Groce, spurred by the Mother of Invention, has figured out how to use him. Groce thinks Colbert is too weak to hold his own in the pivot. (Colbert is a lithe and lengthy small forward, but he’s been asked to play center for some reason.)
When Bruce Weber had Mike Tisdale and Richard Semrau on the roster, he never played them together. It could have been a great combination, but only if Weber could use zone defense effectively, to hide Tisdale’s slowness as a small forward. Groce figured it out. He used Colbert in combination with both Egwu and Maverick Morgan, hiding Austin in the zone.
Mike Basgier loves to talk about Austin Colbert, and point out that Austin works out more often than the rest of the team.
Basgier likes to point out that Austin is near the top of the charts in certain statistical categories (behind Rayvonte Rice). Yet the concern for Groce & staff is Colbert’s strength in the post. Squats and bench-press equal keeping a B1G big off the glass.
AHMAD STARKS ON FIRE
Heather went to dinner & movie with a girlfirend while I stayed home editing pictures and audio. She reports that Ahmad Starks was at Savoy 16 “surrounded by girls.”
Good for him.
Starks shot 3-of-4 3FGs against PSU. He grabbed two rebounds, one of which dropped in his lap when Kendrick Nunn boxed every mofo who dared charge the lane. Starks also boxed mofos on behalf of his teammates.
Glenn Mayborg’s baseline activity is unlike any official I’ve seen. He moves constantly, which is frustrating for photographers, who all sit along the baseline. But it means he’s trying to get the best angle on every aspect of every movement.
In this day and age, plenty of digital recording renders each B1G basketball game as a searchable document. The data may prove me and 14,597 fans wrong. But we all thought there was something weird, incongruent, disjointed about the officiating.
Pat Chambers should be Nittany Lionized not only for his game plan, but for his manipulation of the conference and the media. He’s doing everything he can to maximize the potential of his team. Good for him. And great for Illinois that he didn’t get away with it.
A WEEK OFF
At least two of the lads used their free time to obtain a haircut. Leron Black opted for a fade, now resembling Kid n’ Play circa 1991. Kendrick Nunn got it all chopped off, now resembling Kendrick Nunn circa 2013.
DJ RICHARDSON RETURNS
Dietrich Richardson says he had a great time playing pro-ball in Finland. He learned about the jet stream: It wasn’t as cold there, despite being way farther north. He also learned about jet lag. The flight home threw him for a loop, especially because he’s been living on three hours of sunlight per day.
D.J.’s agent advised him to get back to the states last week, because the folks in Finland were having a hard time finding their wallet. It’s a familiar story with pro-ball overseas.
He’s not sure where he’ll be balling next, but added that he should find out within ten days to two weeks.
ZACH NORVELL OFFERED
John Groce takes longer in getting to his postgame presser than any major conference coach I’ve observed in seven years of covering college basketball. A week ago in Minneapolis, Groce’s dilatory attitude to media seemed to be the story among the twin cities’ beat writers.
What is he doing? we all wonder. We see the locker room speeches via the TNT series on YouTube. We hear his radio interview with Brian & Jerry (which today didn’t start until Penn State was practically on board its return flight). Neither of those postgame duties accounts for a full ten minutes. So when 40 minutes have passed, we become curious.
Saturday afternoon, we got one inkling of Groce’s postgame, behind-the-scenes.
I tried to interview Zach Norvell during a media timeout, early in the second half. He was sitting with Saieed Ivey, about four feet behind me. Plenty easy to access.
Way too close to the pep band.
I could hear him fine, but it’s not good for microphones. I knew the sound quality would be terrible if I pressed “record.” One thing that I did hear him say clearly is that he did not have a scholarship offer from Illinois.
That seemed strange to me. Yes, the Illini team is composed purely of wings, and Zach is a wing; but Norvell seemed like an Illini target, not just a plan B.
Well, it turns out that John Groce spends his post-locker room, pre-media room time offering scholarships to Simeon standouts. By the time Groce showed up for his postgame session, Zach Norvell was the proud recipient of an official offer.
By the time Groce finished his press conference, Norvell was still in the building only because his Simeon assistant coach Melvin Nunn is media savvy. A pair of pleading texts kept the Simeon contingent around for the duration.
There are many reasons that Simeon’s coaching staff finds scholarships for all their guys. One of them is knowing how to play the game. Another is knowing how to play the games.
“You owe me one,” said Melvin.
But it’s not true. I owe him many.
As for Saieed Ivey, he’s currently a freshman playing point guard at Governors State University in Will County.
BRENDA COLBERT ATTENDS
I was worried that I’d seen the last of the Colbert family. It had been long enough since I’d seen their son, who was once upon a time a basketball player at the University of Illinois.
But Saturday, Brenda Colbert showed up for the first time in ages. And Austin played meaningful minutes for the first time in ages. “Did you get a tip that he might be getting some real PT?” I asked at halftime.
“Nope. I just came on faith,” she replied.
Austin Colbert is a personal favorite of mine. I freely admit I’m biased in his favor. He’s simply a very warm, positive, funny and smart guy.
SUSPENDING TWO GUYS WHO WEREN’T GOING TO PLAY ANYWAY
Let’s just bookmark this moment. It’s brilliant, or it’s idiotic, or it reflects an actual moment of marijuana smoking.
Why would John Groce suspend two guys who can’t play? Did he do it from a sense of justice & rightness? Is he playing mind games with opposing coaching staves?
For purposes of the PSU game, it doesn’t matter. Neither of those two dudes would have played.
Is it an insult to the players themselves? Yes, it is. That’s why Groce didn’t elaborate on their purported malfeasance.
Is it all a farce? Probably not, but that would certainly be the coolest purpose for the suspensions.