February 8, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Penn State Nittany Lion guard Jermaine Marshall (11) drives the lane against Michigan State Spartans during the first half at Jack Breslin Students Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

Penn State Basketball: Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Wednesday night at the BJC, the Penn State Nittany Lions (3-2) take on the Boston College Eagles (2-4).  Penn State is coming off of a comeback win over the previously undefeated Bucknell Bison, while Boston College is trying to rebound after a terrible loss to the Bryant Bulldogs.  To put that into perspective, Bryant lost to Providence by 32, a team Penn State beat by 3 in overtime.  The Bulldogs had only 20 wins in the past four years combined, including two seasons with two wins or less.  A team that plays in the ACC has no business losing to a team like Bryant, but that shows how badly this BC team has been this year and last.  As poorly as this team has played, Penn State hasn’t been much better, so it should be a tightly contested game. A couple keys to the game if Penn State wants to win their 5th ACC Challenge game in the last six years (and two in a row vs. BC).

1. First Half Struggles- Penn State has struggled to score in the first half of games this year.  Their highest total for a half is only 36 points, and in two games they failed to score over 20 points.  The offense has been one of the worst in the country this season, with only nine teams shooting worse than Penn State’s 36% from the field, and only seven teams worse than PSU’s 23% from three.     Penn State is losing their confidence early and getting themselves out of rhythm.  With tougher opponents coming, Penn State needs to tighten up their first half issues, and that needs to start Wednesday night.

2. Fill in for Frazier- It’s not fair to ask one player to replicate Tim Frazier’s stats, and that’s not what Pat Chambers needs.  What he does need is for his team to make up for those numbers as a whole.  Like in the movie Moneyball, when the A’s lost Jason Giambi, they didn’t replace his stats with one player, they didn’t have the resources.  Instead, they relied on several players to replicate his numbers.  Pat Chambers needs to see improved play from his supporting cast to make up for Frazier’s roughly 20 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds a game.  Brandon Taylor has already stepped up, putting up over 10 points in his first two starts.  But who else can improve their play?  At this point Nick Collela is what he is. A hustle player who can play average defense and a “outside shooter” who can knock down the occasional three (3-16 on the year). He hasn’t shot a two point field goal all year and is only hitting 18% of his threes, so it is safe to say he is not the answer. One of PSU’s role players will have to step.  Which one will it be…

3. Jermaine Marshall- With Tim Frazier out for the year, Penn State needs Marshall to pick up his scoring.  Marshall has always been seen as an offense first player, and is third on the team at 11 points per game.  The problem is that Marshall has been extremely inefficient.  He has taken 60 shots this year to score 58 points, which is not a good ration.  His 31% shooting and 26% from three are way too low, and are hurting the team more than helping.  Marshall is a capable scorer, but right now he is settling for outside shots and they aren’t falling.  Marshall is at his best when he is driving to the rim.  He’s a strong player who has really good moves in the paint, especially his spin move.  Even if he struggles from the field, he can get himself to the line and score that way.  In the Bucknell game, Jermaine scored 17 points, and was 7-11 from the line.  Sure he only shot 4-11 from the field, but he was utilizing his strengths and it was key in PSU’s victory.  Marshall needs to start shooting less threes and move closer to the hoop.  His midrange game and free throw shooting are what Penn State needs right now, not shooting an average of seven threes a game.

Prediction- If you can’t make it to the BJC, the game is on ESPNU at 9:15. Both teams will struggle from the floor and we will have ourselves a defensive game.  If Penn State can get hot and shoot 40% or higher, it could be a blowout.  But, expect both teams to shoot in the 30 percents and  battle it out to the finish, just like last years game. I think Penn State wins 57-49.

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