Illini Crush Penn State, McCamey’s Final Battle with Talor

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Two all-star senior point guards meeting for the final time…unless of course they square off in the Big Ten Tournament. But during the four years that Demetri McCamey manned the one for the Illini, and Talor Battle served in the same role for the Nittany Lions, Battle won the war 5-4. This is a substantial aberration, because Illinois has an all-time 22-10 advantage in the series versus  their Big ten rival, if you subtract the last four years.

Both point guards know what it’s like to shoulder an enormous burden on their teams. Especially in 2009-10, these guys were their teams, as Battle led PSU in scoring, rebounding, assists, minutes and steals. Last year McCamey scored or assisted on an exceedingly high and somewhat disturbing percentage of the Illini scoring.

By Paul M. Banks

But Penn State (12-9; 5-5 Big Ten) suffered two big blows Tuesday on a snowy thunderstruck night in Champaign, Ill. as senior forward Jeff Brooks left the game with a dislocated right shoulder with 1:39 to play in the first half and No. 24 Illinois (15-7; 5-4 Big Ten) handed the Lions their worst Big Ten loss of the season, 68-51.

Brooks will undergo and MRI when Penn State returns to State College to gauge the extent of the injury and set a timetable for his return to action. The Nittany Lions stayed the night in Champaign Tuesday as a massive winter storm slamming the Midwest made travel nearly impossible and threatened to dump and additional 6-8 inches of snow on Champaign overnight. To quote an ad campaign to a mediocre mid ’00s kids movie, “anything can happen on a snow day,” and a lot of unorthodox things transpired on a thundersnow night.

With ice falling outside Assembly Hall on a freezing night that thinned a sparse crowd of 3,470 inside, Penn State was equally cold hitting just 2-of-17 from three and shooting 33 percent from the floor. Tim Frazier posted a season-high 12 points and added seven boards to join Talor Battle with 12 points (on only 4-11 shooting) to lead the Lions.

Hail to the Orange summed up my thoughts on what this game meant for the Illini.

I cannot overstate how important this game was for the Illini. Having lost four of the last five games, including one to this very same Penn State team, the Illini slumped to 4-4 in the Big Ten, and 14-7 overall, and with a loss to Indiana fell to the brink of the tournament field. Talor Battle, as you all well know, has been a total thorn against the Illini and has single handedly stolen victories against Illinois.

Things could have gone full boar into the the abyss tonight, but thankfully they didn’t. The Illini caught Penn State on a brutal multi day, cross country road trip that would have broken the spirit of most teams, and the O&B capitalized.

And HTTO co-signed my theory on how Dememtri McCamey can NOT be Illini basketball in order for them to be successful.

Fact is, this is exactly what we have wanted for so long, other players to be able to take some of the offensive load off of Demetri, and maybe keep the defenses honest.

When the offense only looks to McCamey to produce off of the pick and roll, the offense takes much longer to set up, and pretty good shots are passed up in the interest of getting Demetri the ball.

The Nittany Lions have improved by leaps and bounds over last year’s team because they aren’t the Penn State Talor Battles anymore. Battle leads the team in only a couple major categories this year. They’re getting huge contributions from Frazier, Brooks and Andrew Jones. The Ilini need to follow that lead. Jereme Richmond is growing and developing. They need any semblance of consistency from the two Mikes, or the two sophomores.

McCamey has been in an AWFUL shooting funk the past three games. He’s 6-31 from the field over that span. Except this time the Illini actually won despite his woeful shooting. In fact, I would say that PSU was never actually really in this game at all. That’s got to be a good sign.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He doesn’t have a real nickname, but he is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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