It almost looked as if the 2010 Penn State basketball season was going to be over before it really ever began. Penn State was losing to Lehigh, Talor Battle had to be carried off of the court into the locker room,(only to later return) and the offense was operating about as well as a broken washing machine. To say the first 20 minutes didn’t go to well would be an understatement.
For the most part Penn State controlled the pace of play in the first half, playing solid defense, creating turnovers and bad shots for Lehigh, shutting down Lehigh’s star C.J McCollum who was held to only 7 points on 3-11 shooting in 29 minutes of work. This defensive success however did not translate on the offensive side of the court where Penn State was able to produce good looks at the basket but was unable to finish, ultimately allowing Lehigh to end the first half with a 27-21 lead. Penn State’s lack of offensive production in the first half seemed more attributed to nerves, and some hesitancy to just execute, rather than any inability to create opportunities. Unlike last season when Talor Battle was often criticized for not sharing the load, Penn State seemed more happy to pass the ball rather than shooting it.
Ed DeChellis apparently gave quite the halftime speech as Penn State responded in the second half with a dominating effort led by David Jackson’s 7 points in 3 possessions early in the second half (14 points overall). Jackson was undoubtedly frustrated with his first half performance after Penn State made an attempt to get him more involved in the offense. A goal Ed DeChellis has emphasized in pre-season practices. Along with Jackson, Tim Frazier had a nice second half leading the team with 6 assists while running the offense to a 49 point second half outburst. Generally speaking Frazier seems to be progressing nicely in his second season, and ought to be an important player early on in the season. Frazier’s ability to run the offense will play a key role in Penn State’s successes. Maybe the player of the game though was Jeff Brooks, putting together a 10 point, 9 rebound, 5 block game that set the tone on defense and gave the team timely boosts of momentum with his blocks and a beautiful ally-oop from Taran Buie during a 13-3 Penn State run. Once Penn State gained the lead in the second half the outcome was never really in question. The first half was more a product of nerves, rust, and bad shooting than actual issues with execution.
- The second half of the game was maybe one of the better halves of basketball Penn State has played since the NIT season. That however does not negate the struggles Penn State had in the first half shooting the ball. Not very many teams on the schedule will allow Penn State back into a game that they play so poorly in for so long. That being said, it seems unlikely that you will seem many more halves played like that this year.Rebounding was outstanding as the Lions cleaned off the glass with ease picking up 45 boards against a much smaller Lehigh squad. Penn State shot drastically better from the line going 14/17. A huge improvement from last year. Many games could have been won last season from the line. A better FT% could make all the difference this year.
- Penn State pretty much shut down every shooter Lehigh had except a short stretch when Anthongy D’Orazio hit a few threes in a row scoring a quick 17 points. Other than that Penn State had no issues keeping Lehigh from getting good shots, and were able to force several turnovers. It remains to be seen how they will play against a tougher team, but so far the defense seems to be a strong point in the game.
- Andrew Jones’ 9 rebounds were a welcome sight, but his inconsistent play in the paint could become an issue later in the year. Penn State never really tried to get him going though, so a 6 shot performance is not entirely on him.
- Billy Oliver looked solid in his first real game since coming to Penn State, a solid 10 points and 2 three-pointers made him look like the first real option from the “Bench players” (this is excluding Buie who for the most part is the 6th man in the starting 5.) Oliver didn’t look lost which was the biggest key, and his shooting was a nice surprise. Any sort of consistency from Oliver will be a great asset.
- Taran Buie was the man of the hour in regards to expectations, and he did a good job not letting anybody down. Buie had a solid day making a lot of good passes and seems to be finding his role on the team. Overall his performance was better than that in the exhibition game, so it’s nice to see he made a step forward. His one area of focus however is his three point shot. When I visited Buie while he was in high school, his long range shot was never really there, and it still seems to be suspect. Buie will either need to learn when to take that shot, or learn that it really isn’t his strong suite. He can certainly work on it, but Buie’s bread and butter ought to be inside the arc.
- Talor Battle was Talor Battle. Besides getting knocked out of the game early on with an ankle issue, he put up his usual 21 point 6 rebound outing. It’s not that his play wasn’t superb, but more that it is expect from him.
5 Questions: (revisited in the review)
- Does Penn State’s bench play any better?–Yep, 10+ points are better than last time
- How does Taran Buie’s first game go? –Pretty well, played within himself
- How many minutes does Billy Oliver play? –Enough to make a solid 10 point mark
- Does Penn State play 3 guards at once? —Yes
- Talor Battle break 20 points? —21 is over 20