Coach UncleLar

Set your TiVo’s and VCR’s. Coach UncleLar makes his TV appearance Saturday when the Wisconsin Badgers visit the Penn State Nittany Lions in a basketball game being broadcast by ESPN2 at 4PM EST (3PM CST).

The timing of this couldn’t be better. We had a HUGE upset win over Illinois in Champaign on Saturday. At the time, Illinois had won 33 games in a row at home, at the time, the longest home winning streak in the nation.

The team showed incredible grit in their win. They went down 13-0 early in the game and scored all of 12 points in the first 14 minutes of play. At that point they trailed 26-12 and things weren’t looking good. From that point on though, things started to change. First, they suddenly found their offense, scoring 13 points in the next 6 minutes. Unfortunately, Illinois kept scoring so, at the half, PSU still trailed by 14 at 39-25.

The second half was a different story. Penn State’s offense continued to hit and they tightened their defense up considerably. PSU scored 41 points in the second half against the B10’s best defense while holding the Illini to only 26 points. That resulted in a one point win that wasn’t decided until a good 2-3 minutes after the buzzer sounded.

Illinois guard Rich McBride sank a 3 pointer as the game ended. The officials on the floor ruled the shot good and the Orange Krush, Illinois’ student section, stormed the court. However, the NCAA has instructed their officials to use replay to confirm game ending buzzer beating winners, so they went to the videotape. Sure enough, the video confirmed that the ball was still in McBride’s hand when the red light behind the basket went on signalling the end of the game. The arena got very very quite as the only celebrants were a bunch of happy young guys in blue. Read the story here.

Some photos:

Here’s the shot at the end (you can’t see the clock though).

Here it is going through the net.

The ref signals it good:

Fans on the court:

Not so fast, it’s time for the guys in blue to party.

Students react:

The win was a huge one for our program. Illinois was the highest ranked team, #6, that we had ever beaten on their court. We’ve had bigger wins, over #2 Michigan State, #5 Ohio State, and #5 North Carolina but they were all on neutral courts. We’ve been really suffering in hoops, last in the B10 for the last four years but we’ve shown signs of improving.

We hired a new coach two years ago and the team has had considerable turnover over the last two years as the old coaches recruits decided to transfer. This is the first year that our new coach, Ed DeChellis, has had mostly his own recruits on the floor. We are the youngest team in the B10 with 1 senior, 2 juniors, 4 sophomores, 5 freshmen. We are also the smallest team in the B10 with no starter over 6’6″. Despite our lack of height we are one of the leading rebounding teams in the league – that’s a tribute to the heart and fight in these kids.

Fan support, including the student body, has been very lukewarm – losing will do that. But over the last five game stretch, all against ranked opponents, we hard started to show signs of improvement. We lost badly in the first of five at Ohio State but we were in every other game until the final minutes. We led Michigan State with five minutes to go in East Lansing before the Spartans pulled out the victory. Following the game, MSU coach Tom Izzo proved to be a prophet when he said that we were a good team and would beat somebody on the road. Some of us diehards believe that also but I don’t think any of us thought it would happen in Champaign.

We’ve not got a chance to get momentum on our side. We’ve got a very beatable Minnesota team here in Happy Valley tomorrow (Minn has ONE Big Ten win). Wisconsin comes in Saturday. The have been a force for most of the year but have been in a freefall the last 2 1/2 weeks so they are beatable also. We then get Indiana next Wednesday, also at home. If we can build on Saturday’s win and take at least 2 of the next 3 we may have turned the corner.

And to make things even better, I really am going to be a coach – OK an honorary coach but I’ll be on the bench just the same. Look for me. I’ll be the guy way way down on the right. As an honorary coach, I get to go to practice on Friday, the shootaround Saturday morning before the game, have lunch with the team after the shootarond, and then sit on the bench for the game. I’m definitely looking forward to it.