The Takeaway–Penn State-Virgina Tech
Well…..crap.. It’s nice having a player that you can make you feel ok about things when you’re down 2 with a few ticks left. On the other hand, it make that same player missing the shot even more painful. All of that aside it was quite the game tonight in front of the largest crowd this season and against the best team the Lions will face during their OOC play. It’s hard to have fun looking back over a game that you’ve lost, it’s kind of like looking for a box of matches after you burnt down your own house, but I digress..
First of all, Talor Battle is trying his hardest to pick this team back up scoring over 30 points for the second time this season. The issues are coming from the supporting cast, or the lack there of. For a few games it looked like Jeff Brooks was going to be the #2 as odd as that seemed, and then DJ had a coming out party. But besides the occasional 15 point plus game nobody has truly stepped into the role as the go to number two guy. For a good 90% of the Big Ten season that just isn’t going to fly. Tim Frazier looks young, Chris Babb is streaky shooter, and Andrew Jones isn’t putting up the numbers we need in the post. This very well could be the most talented team Ed has ever coached, but the most unorganized.
Your guess is as good as mine but we might be better served just setting a rotation in stone and working with that for the rest of the season. If nothing else it helps define the roles on the team and gets the guys in the habit of coming in with the mentality of stepping up where somebody has been having an off night. A lot of this season has been like watching Ed at a make-your-own-mixed-drink party and he doesn’t know which combination works until he tastes it and finds out that isn’t the answer.
I’ve found the right combination! A shot of Talor Battle, Drew Jones, David Jackson, Jeff Brooks, and a sprinkle of Tim Frazier.
So back to Virgina Tech, looking at the numbers one thing stands out, free throws. Now that is something that your casual Penn State basketball fan is used to; and last season it was the sticking point in almost every game. This year however the Lions have shot the free ones really well and has allowed me a moment or two to rest my heart rate. I guess we were about due for a bad game as the Lions shot 13-22 from the line, almost exactly how last seasons average would have had those shots pan out. Talor Battle despite his strong performance shot 3-10 from the line. You win and lose as a team, but it couldn’t have hurt to have made a few more of those.
Off the bench we got almost nothing with Cam, Babb, and Edwards combining for a dismal 0-9 from 3 point land. They did pull down 14 boards but added 8 personal fouls. I imagine that those are a bit off if you take in account end of game fouls which isn’t the same thing as playing bad defense. Either way, this bench has looked as deep as any in the Big Ten and as shallow as any. The key is going to be finding the right time to put those guys in, but I suppose half the fun of coaching is having to admit half the time you’re actually guessing.
The fact of the matter is that you can’t have 3 of your 5 starters combine for 11 points. You’re not going to win many games that way, and Talor isn’t going to put up 32 every game to save you. Somebody needs to step up, that is the key that this team is missing, somebody besides Talor to step up and be a leader in the box score. I love Drew, I love his intensity before the game, but that doesn’t score you points. The defense has gotten much better over the course of the season, and even though the shots haven’t been falling they’re still finding ways to be in the game. The thing this team needs is somebody to step up, I dont know who, but they need to find him.
Following your friends into the Sun, even when you’re pretty sure you shouldn’t go that way.
So where do we sit exactly? The team is 6-4 with American and Gardner-Webb left before Big Ten play starts. It isn’t unreasonable to expect the Lions to come out on top of those two games, even if it seems like no game is an easy win so far this season, lets just assume that they win those. That puts them at 8-4 on the year and headed into the Barn to start Big Ten play. Is that what we expected? When I first went over the OOC portion of the season I guessed without much thought that the Lions would be 8-1 not including the Charleston Classic, (the bracket hadn’t been set at the time.)
Looking over the schedule you could have realistically expected the Lions to lose to VT, Temple, Miami, South Carolina, or American. Four of those teams have been the NCAA’s in the past five years and all have solid teams. While the Lions didn’t get the chance to play Miami or South Carolina, the traded those expected losses to UNC-Wilmington and Tulane. It is true that in the grand scope of the season losing to those teams hurts our RPI and SOS, but from the standpoint of wins and losses, this team has done exactly what has been expected of it. 6-4 with two more games to go. So lets go out and support the team, pick up these two wins and see what we can do in the Big Ten season.