With Penn State’s anemic offense and Wisconsin’s stifling defense, fans knew that Tuesday night’s Nittany Lion basketball game was going to be ugly, but I’m not sure they imagined it would be this ugly. Penn Staters not named Jermaine Marshall or Tim Frazier went 4 of 15 in a game that was closely contested only because the misguided Badgers spent the entire first half heaving the ball at the rim from 20 feet away instead of working it inside to attack State’s gooey interior defense.
Tim Frazier, who hit a couple very difficult tear drops to keep Penn State in the game in the final five minutes, was not Mr. Efficiency himself. The hero of the Lions went 8 of 22 from the floor to get 21 points. At least his assist-to-turnover ratio was 7:2. I’m never crazy about a point guard taking that many shots, but Frazier usually stays away from such exuberance. In Tuesday night’s case, the shooting was warranted because PSU had nothing going on otherwise.
For some reason Jon Graham played 26 minutes while Sasa Borovnjak played only 14. This was a game in which Penn State was starving for buckets so why play the better defensive player so much? It’s true that Wisconsin finally started feeding Ryan Berggren inside in the second half, but you can always double team him. There’s nothing you can do on offense right now to make Jon Graham not miss layups or turn the ball over.
The only secondary scorer for Penn State was Jermaine Marshall. He had an awesome first half with 10 points and PSU led at the break 23-17. Marshall hit a couple of 15-footers to get the party started and then a driving layups and it looked like we had finally found good Jermaine Marshall. He was a Jermaine Marshall who could lighten the scoring load on Tim Frazier and not take crazy possession-killing shots that ruined any offensive momentum that Penn State might have accumulated. Instead, Marshall vanished in the second half and only scored 3 more points for the whole game while Tim Frazier was forced to do his Superman impression. It came up short because Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor hit a super clutch three pointer with less than 2 minutes left to give the Badgers a five-point lead that they would not relinquish.
I know I’ve mentioned that I love Matt Glover for all the great things that he does that don’t involve shooting the ball. I also know that he is shooting 28% on the year (OK, I had to look it up), but to take zero field goal attempts in 30 minutes is insane. Just jack one up. It’s not as though you’re going to ruin the offensive “rhythm.” Glover also had 4 turnovers.
For Wisconsin, Taylor and 18 points and 5 assists on 4 of 12 shooting. Berggren added 8 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks while shooting 4 for 10, and Ryan Evans had 11 points and 6 rebounds on 5 of 12 field goals. The Badgers only shot 5 of 19 (26%) from beyond the arc, but in the second half, more of their shots came from the interior, where Berggren was able to create for himself. Ryan Evans is developing a solid baseline jumper that should help open things up for him more inside, while Jordan Taylor did what he does. The expert point guard did most of his damage from the charity stripe (8 of 10) while sticking with the three-point shot long enough to shoot the dagger I mentioned earlier.
The themes for Penn State mostly remain the same. They are terrible at shooting despite starting the game with some nice mid-range jump shots (36% overall). Despite perpetually playing against taller opponents, Penn State is a beast at rebounding. Even in defeat, they grabbed 32 rebounds to Wisconsin’s 28 (and won 9 to 8 on the offensive glass). Chambers’ team also does not turn the ball over a ton, so at least the ball is going towards the rim most of the time.
Penn State has now lost three games in a row. Their next one (game, not loss) is this Saturday in Iowa at 3 PM.