The Penn State Nittany Lions men’s basketball team will host the Purdue Boilermakers Tuesday, February 5th in University Park, PA. Tip-off is at 7pm and will be shown on the Big Ten Network. The Lions are still winless in 2013 and have dropped all nine of their conference games to fall to 8-13 overall. The Boilermakers (11-11 overall, 4-5 B1G) travel to the Bryce Jordan Center on a losing streak of their own after dropping their last two contests against Indiana and Northwestern.
THE LAST TIME OUT
Penn State found a new way to lose last Thursday night against Iowa: turnovers. The Nittany Lions had 11 turnovers in the first half and blew an early 10-3 lead against a beatable opponent on the road. They ended up with 17 for the game, after just turning the ball over four times against Ohio State. Coach Chambers ran a zone defense for most of the game, and although it held Iowa to 39% shooting from the field it also allowed a lot of easy baskets inside the paint.
On the other end, Iowa suffocated Penn State with hardnosed man-to-man defense. Iinstead of calling for picks or running screens to get a man open, the Lions settled for contested three point shots time and time again. D.J. Newbill (20 points, 1-4 3 pt FG) and Jermaine Marshall (15, 1-8) led the team in scoring and missed shots. Penn State continues to struggle to find its third scorer that Chambers has been begging for; someone needs to step up for the Lions, Tim Frazier isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.
ABOUT THE BOILERMAKERS
Purdue is led in scoring by junior guard Terone Johnson at 12.7 points per game, but he has struggled in their past two losses scoring only four and five points in losses to Indiana and Northwestern respectively. Freshman center A.J. Hammons is second on the team in scoring at 11 points per game and leads the team with 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game as well. He leads all starters with 51.3% field goal percentage and has scored 49 points over the past two games for Purdue. When these two teams met a few weeks ago Hammons led the Boilermakers with 12 points and added 10 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Senior D.J. Byrd and freshman Ronnie Johnson also have major roles with the team, averaging 10.2 and 9.3 points in 30 minutes of playing time per game. Byrd shoots 37% from three point range and Johnson leads the team in assists. Johnson also led Purdue in scoring with 13 points in their last game versus Penn State. Purdue relies heavily on its starting five, only two players coming off the bench average more than 15 minutes per game.
Two of Purdue’s next three games are against ranked opponents, and given that Penn State has played so poorly lately Nick Colella’s PSU-Erie team would give them a run for their money, this could be a trap game for the Boilermakers. That is, sadly, what this season has boiled down to for the Nittany Lions men’s basketball team. 44% of the people who voted on our latest poll feel Coach Chambers can lead the team to two or more victories before the regular season ends, if that is to be, this is a must win.
Penn State does have a legitimate chance to pick up a “W” here, but some disturbing trends need to end immediately. First, Brandon Taylor has clearly developed an overwhelming fear of shooting inside the arc. In the past three games Taylor has attempted exactly four field goal attempts the old fashioned way compared to 17 three point shots, of which only four were successful. Taylor is a 6’7” forward who has the fewest free throw attempts (14) of any player (averaging at least eight minutes per game) on the team. Only a Ross Travis jump shot induces more cringes during a game than watching Taylor launch another unsuccessful 30 footer.
Taylor isn’t the only one who needs to forget that chicks dig the long ball. Penn State has fallen in love with the three point shot despite only hitting 27.7% of their attempts. D.J. Newbill is 1-16 in B1G play from behind the three point line and only Nick Colella is shooting better than 30%. The Lions have had the most success on offense when their two guards are driving into the lane creating their own shot or opening up a wide open look for their teammates. Standing outside the line and launching up a shot whenever you touch the ball isn’t what they had in mind when they set up the peach baskets in Springfield.
Watching Penn State basketball can be frustrating because they don’t possess the talent required to compete with the heavyweights in Division 1 hoops, but it is downright unwatchable when they don’t at least match the other team’s effort. I just haven’t seen much #attitude from the team lately. The Lions have been outrebounded (offensively and total) in four of the last five games.
Picking Penn State to lose isn’t original, and lately even picking Penn State to cover hasn’t been a smart bet. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and pick a Nittany Lion victory. Their big men are going to need to set up if they hope to contain Hammons, and they need to protect the ball. I’m calling a big game from Sasa Borovnjak (who is shooting better than 50% for the season, by the way) on both ends of the court and a Nittany Lion victory, 65-59.
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