So this is what it feels like to root for a good basketball team? Sure, Penn State is not that far removed from last season’s NCAA Tournament birth, but it still feels like a long time since the Lions have had a victory come this easily. Even last month’s stomping of Purdue saw the Boilers put a run together and put the eventual outcome in doubt for a moment.
In Saturday afternoon’s Penn State win, Nebraska never came closer than the 10-point halftime deficit. Tim Frazier played perhaps the best game of his college career with 23 points on 7 of 9 shooting in addition to 10 rebounds and 9 assists. Despite Penn State’s efforts in garbage time, Frazier just barely failed to record a triple-double. He certainly didn’t hurt his Cousy Award chances, though, and if he continues playing like this, Frazier should be a lock for first team all-conference. That is, as long as voters can look past the lousy play of Penn State as a team and realize that Frazier has done as much with less-than-stellar teammates as anyone could have possibly hope for.
Speaking of those teammates, Cammeron Woodyard scored 11 of his 14 points in the first half, and aside from a pair of free throws, everything was on three-pointers. Woodyard was 4 of 7 from the field, 4 of 7 from beyond the arc and 4 of 7 picking up girls at a house party on Saturday night. Two of those stats are true, but all of them make Woodyard seem like a better player than he really is.
Penn State’s second scorer, Jermaine Marshall, has put in between 12 and 14 points in his last five games. He’s only broken the 20-point barrier three times this season, and I’d definitely like to see him erupt more often. As a shooting guard, whose main job is scoring, the ball should be in his hands a lot more than it has been. It would also help if coach Chambers played him for 30 minutes consistently instead of wasting minutes on Woodyard, although Marshall’s tendency to foul is a factor as well. Anyway, Marshall was 5 of 8 from the field with 12 points in 20 minutes. Not a bad game at all, and his jumper looked good. If he can start hitting 18-footers more often, it will in turn help his drive-to-the-bucket game.
I love Nick Collela, because he seems like a hard-worker and a good guy, but 2 for 11 on three-pointers is a little too much. With 32 minutes played, Collela was on the court more often than any Lion other than Frazier. Collela also attempted the most field goals on the team. It makes sense, then, that more than half (23 of 44) of Penn State’s field goal attempts were from three-point range. That’s probably not going to change anytime soon, but it’s encouraging that the Lions can still win big without a Billy Oliver-like three-point outburst.
With only 21 team field goal attempts from inside the arc, it was another day for Sasa Borovnjak to be underused. In 21 minutes, Penn State’s most efficient big man was just 1 of 2 from the field with 3 points. I’m kind of surprised that he wasn’t a bigger part of the game plan because Nebraska’s center Jorge Brian Diaz was out of the lineup, but I’m also kind of not surprised because Borovnjak is never a big part of the game plan. I’ll continue to think that he has the potential to score at least 10 points per game until he actually gets the ball in his hands for a decent portion of the game.
That’s pretty much it for the Penn State side of things. The home team won by getting good looks inside and hitting on 14 of 21 two-pointers. The Huskers struggled on defense and couldn’t stop Frazier from getting to the hoop. Nebraska coach Doc Sadler made it seem like his team was lost. “I thought we played hard, but we’re not playing with any purpose,” he said after the game, “We’re just out there playing right now.”
Dylan Talley scored 12 points for Nebraska and Caleb Walker had 10. Point guard Bo Spencer was held to 7 points and 3 assists, while Nebraska as a team could only muster 40% field goal shooting.
On Frazier’s performance, Chambers noted, “For me (Frazier) has done it all year, in the locker room, his work ethic. I know he can give us more and I know how good he can get and it’s scary.”
Next up, Penn State has another winnable game at home versus Iowa. Tip-off is 8:00 PM on Thursday night.