Talor Battle: A Retrospective On Basketball Trolling
Thursday night, Illinois will travel to Happy Valley and the Bryce Jordan center, and for the first time in four years, I don't know what to expect. This will be the first time the Illini face Penn State and Talor Battle wont be there. It is a day I have been waiting for for a long long time, but at the same time its kind of sad.
Illinois basketball, from my junior year of undergrad through last season, was defined by Demetri McCamey, but you could probably just as easily have said it was defined by Talor Battle. Because Illinois has been on the receiving end of some of the most spectacular displays of basketball trolling ever, all at the hands of a kid who barely broke the six foot barrier.
I feel like now is as good a time as any give a bit of perspective on why, more than any other player in the Big Ten, I dreaded Talor Battle.
As a true freshman, Talor Battle started every game for Penn State, and faced Illinois three times that season. The year was 2007/2008 and Illinois was having its worst season in a decade. PSU faced the Illini three times that year, and were it not for a last minute layup by Chester Frazier in Indianapolis, they would have swept all three. Battle averaged 10.2 points for that season, against Illinois he averaged 13, and in all three games came down to last minute possessions. Remember that.
In the 08/09 season, the Illini were back on track, and would end up with a second place finish in the league, as well as a five seed in the NCAA tournament. But frankly they could have won that regular season title, were it not for Talor Battle. Illinois went 0-2 against Penn State that year. The barn raiser in Champaign gave the world probably the worst single basketball game in the modern era, a 38-33 Penn State win. Battle played all 40 minutes, and scored 11 points, which might as well have been thirty in that game. Half of those points came in the final two minutes, icing the game for the Nittany Lions
The next game though, truly created the reputation of Talor Battle, hyper troll. I can give you his numbers for that game, but they don't really matter. ( He scored 15) It was really all about one play.
Six foot nothing. Illini dream killer. Level 30 Troll.
The worst part? Penn State would then soon drop a game at basement dweller Iowa, and miss the tournament entirely.
2009/10 was a high stress season for Illinois, including both of their games against Penn State. But even Talor couldn't pull PSU over the hump that season, even though he went off for 20 points against them in Champaign.
Last season though, we were treated with vintage Talor Battle. When the Illini traveled to the Bryce Jordan center last January, they were ranked No 16 in the nation flying high and ready to take on the would be pushover Nittany Lions. What they got was a Talor Battle scoring show.
If you made it through that entire video, congratulations. You are stronger than I am. Yes, 26 points for Mr Battle that night, punctuated by yet another last second drive to the basket. But as we all know, Talor Battle does not repeat himself, and a buzzer beating lay up, well that's been done. No, the true troll lets you think you've won, by letting the defense collapse on you, only to have a buddy come in at the last moment to pull the rug out.
So today, as I look ahead to the trip to Happy Valley, and the always eerily empty Bryce Jordan center, I am both relieved and a little sad. Sure, Talor Battle wont be there taking threes from the half court line and sinking them. He wont slip through Bill Cole's or DJ Richardson's defense any more, and he wont beat the Illini on a final possession ever again, but it also means I wont get to see, inch for inch, one of the best Big Ten players I've ever seen in person. A player to absolutely night in night out had to take over a game or his team would almost certainly lose. And a player who, when he wasn't crushing my dreams, was just a lot of fun to watch.
All in all, Battle was 5-4 against Illinois, but perhaps more tellingly, he was 3-1 against ranked Illini teams. Whenever Illinois headed into Happy Valley with a number attached to them, they left with a loss, and a reminder that nobody but nobody, trolls like Talor Battle. His legend lives on.
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