Blue White Roundtable: Alabama Week Edition
September 7, 2011 – | 1 Comment

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Comfortably Numb: Penn State Dominated by Terrapins

Submitted by on December 2, 20102 Comments

1st 2nd Final
Maryland 26 36 62
Penn State 20 19 39

In my two and a half years at Penn State, I’ve seen the Nittany Lions lose a lot of games, and in a lot of different ways.

I’ve seen them lose on last second-shots. I’ve seen them crumble down the stretch. I’ve seen comebacks fall just short, and better teams prevail. I’ve seen them struggle to get into a rythym, and I’ve even seen lose to teams they should beat.

But I’m not sure I ever so them lose like this.I’m not sure there’s been a game in Ed DeChellis’s tenure quite like this one–a game that started with such high expectations that turned to shit so quickly and suddenly. A game in which we were outplayed, outcoached, and outclassed. A game in which Penn State looked like they didn’t deserve to be on the same court as Maryland.

A game in which the Lions couldn’t buy a shot.

Let me put it this way–I was lucky enough to get on the court during halftime for a 30 second shooting contest. I hit a lay-up, and then just started jacking up threes for no apparent reason. I didn’t make any of them. My shooting night was pretty much on par with the rest of the team’s.

This game was billed as the Biggest Nonconference Game the BJC has ever seen. That was debatable. Also debatable: that this was the biggest let-down in Penn State basketball history.

The official attendance might’ve been just 9,000 and change, but the student turnout was as as impressive as any. We filled up the sideline area, and behind both baskets. We were loud, and pumped up from the start–even though there were as many Maryland fans in attendance as there were Penn State supporters outside the student section. But that was certainly the high point of the evening–the realization that there is a fanbase, a student section, one that’s just waiting to have a reason to get behind this team.

Now, Maryland used to be a traditional football rival, and sure enough, Penn State rolled back the clock to welcome them–back to the disastrous season of last year, at least. Gone was the cohesive offense that we’ve seen all year–the ball movement, the secondary scoring. The only plan was to give the ball to Talor Battle and clear out–either that, or to pass the ball around the perimeter and miss a three pointer.

Penn State looked lost offensively for all 40 minutes–we’re used to seeing stretches of this kind of play from Ed DeChellis’s team, which has lacked focus at times, but Penn State seemed to actively avoid running offensive sets.  When they did, the motion was ineffective and stilted. They were the kind of plays you’d expect from a high school junior varsity team. Battle got his 21 points on the night, but a closer look shows that even he struggled mightily to get them. 7-21 shooting, from Battle, including 2-9 from beyond the arc isn’t going to win Penn State many games.

It’s tough to place so much blame on the coach when a team goes 3-27 from beyond the three point arc. If they’d even have hit a third of their shots from deep–a percentage that’s fair enough to expect–this would’ve been a much closer game. But the problem is that DeChellis doesn’t have a second option beyond shooting from the perimeter. Penn State has never been a team that can rely on low-post play, but this year, with Andrew Jones the lone true big, it’s even worse. When Jamelle Cornley used to post up in the low block, it was his sheer power and determination that willed him to a half dozen buckets a game. But Penn State’s malaise goes even further than personnel–when Penn State went with high-post ball screens, Talor Battle was able to get to the rack, and finished as often as not. But Ed never seemed to call for the pick-and-roll!  Without any element to the offense beyond a reliance on low-percentage shots, Penn State is going to have a lot of nights like this, especially when they come across a well-coached opponent.

I don’t want to fault Jeff Brooks for trying too hard, because he knew the team was relying on him to do something–anything–beyond a thunderous first-half slam. I can’t criticize Billy Oliver for throwing up threes every time he had the ball and the space to get one off–that’s his role on the team. And I’m not sure I can even go too hard on Taran Buie, who was simply awful this game, and hasn’t come close to living up to the lofty expectations. Buie was 0-9, and missed all five of his three pointers badly, but he’s got the excuse of being a freshman, adjusting to this level of play. On the other hand, Andrew Jones has had four years in the system, and he’s still just a black hole in the low post–when the ball isn’t bouncing off his hands, he’s failing to go up strong. Penn State got plenty of offensive rebounds, but just a handful of second-chance points.

Defensively, it wasn’t a much better performance. Penn State was buoyed early by some uncharacteristically sloppy play from the Terps–12 first-half turnovers (four traveling violations in the first five minutes!) and poor rebounding gave Penn State a ridiculous edge on shots in the first half–the Lions took 40, compared to 16 from Maryland. No, you’re not reading that wrong. That Penn State still trailed by 6 tells you all you need to know. We knew that it was just a matter of time before Maryland ran away with it–and that’s probably the best choice of words to describe the second half.  Missed three pointers led to long rebounds and easy run-outs, and Jordan Williams finishes in transition.  With David Jackson and Brooks hampered by foul trouble and ineffectiveness, and Andrew Jones unable to simply catch the ball, Oliver saw stretches as the big man on the court, and was predictably incapable of defending the talented big man. I’m amazed he only finished with 15 points–perhaps that’s due to 6 misses from the free throw line.

I’m not sure I really expected Penn State to win this game, but I expected something better than this. 7 games into the season, there were a smattering of “Fire Ed” chants–and you better believe I was leading the charge. If you want to blame the kids, well, Ed recruited them. And they’ve certainly got the capacity to do more than they did tonight.  It was a shameful, pitiful, ugly performance, one that we’re not supposed to see from a team that starts four seniors. If you watched this game, you saw the difference between a well-disciplined, well-coached outfit that expects success, and one for whom losing comes easy. Being outcoached by Gary Williams isn’t necessarily something to be embarrassed about, but when you prove that you don’t belong on the same court as the opposition, well, that’s grounds for termination in my book. But since I know that’s not coming anytime soon, well, I also know that Penn State basketball isn’t worth my time. Call me when we get a new coach.

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