Got the Job Done

January 19, 2009

Well, it certainly wasn’t pretty, but PSU ended their 15 game losing streak in Assembly Hall, winning in Bloomington for the first time ever.  PSU jumped out early, establishing a commanding 27-13 lead.  They kind of coasted the rest of the way.  Indiana refused to go away, but I don’t think it ever got down to a one possession game.  Pretty boring and ugly game.  But hey, a wire-to-wire win on the road in the Big Ten is always good. PSU held on to the ball well and shot a respectable 45% from the field.  They posted a 101.6 offensive efficiency rating to go along with a 52% Effective FG%.

PSU did not rebound well for the second straight game, however.  IU won the battle on the boards, 35-26, with a 59% rebounding %.  Andrew Jones only played 13 minutes (addressed later) though, so his lack of playing time certainly had an impact on those rebounding numbers. I don’t expect this two game ‘slump’ to continue.  The one thing PSU has consistently been able to do well over the last few years has been rebounding.

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Respectability

January 4, 2009

That was the first time in a long time that we played Wisconsin tough and we had a legitimate chance to win the basketball game.  If you would’ve told me that before the game, with the fact that Talor Battle would have his worst game of the season, I’d would have said you are out of your mind.

Stanley Pringle just went off in the 2nd half.  I was disappointed with his play in the first half.  He clearly could take whoever was defending him (usually J-Bo), but he was reckless in the first half.  Had a few good plays, but didn’t drive as often as I felt he should’ve and threw up some ridiculous shots.  However, in the second half he couldn’t miss. Bo Ryan was having trouble finding someone to guard him.  He tried J Bo, but he was too slow. He put in Rob Wilson, but only briefly because Pringle broke his ankles on his first possession.  Jordan Taylor did a pretty good job on him, but Pringle could not be stopped.  He finished with 26 points, a career high.  22 of them came in the second half.  He also logged 5 boards, 5 assists with only 1 Turnover, a big improvement from his NU performance.  In the last 14 minutes of the game, Pringle scored 20 of PSU’s 27 points.

Jamelle Cornley also had a hell of a game.  He did a great job getting himself position and finishing.  For the first time this season, he really didn’t miss any easy shots.  He also drained all 4 of his free throws, which was very encouraging.  He was going at it with Marcus Landry.  JC finished with 20 points (8-16) and 7 boards.

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Review of the Season Thus Far

December 26, 2008

Penn State has concluded their non-conference schedule on the season and have 5 days until they kick off the real season with Northwestern at the Jordan Center.  So now seems like a great opportunity to do some analysis of what exactly is going on with the men’s basketball team.

Coming into the season, Penn State in Ed DeChellis’ 6th year, finally had some legitimate expectations. It’s a shame it took 6 years, but with what appeared to be a really young conference and PSU returning 7 players (5 of whom were first year players, including 4 freshmen) who won their last 5 Big Ten Home games (including 2 against ranked teams), winning success in the conference seemed more than possible, it became expected.  Talor Battle seemed poised to become one of the best point guards in the conference, despite his poor shooting %’s last season. Stanley Pringle, despite his library incidents, showed glimpses of what he could be with that blazing speed, leaving fans hoping for a significant improvement in his game that most JuCos seem to undergo from their junior to senior seasons.  David Jackson made huge plays down the stretch of a few of those Big Ten wins, showing the ability to fill the statsheet and hopefully becoming a consistent 8-10 PPG scorer.  Jeff Brooks had a strong last 2 games despite looking lost his whole true freshmen season. With his body and skill set, a lot of people expected Brooks to become more like the top-100 recruit he was pegged.  With the addition of Lewis Preston to the coaching staff, Andrew Jones was expected to lose some of that rawness in his game and become more of a contributor inside.  Jamelle Cornley had healed up after his injury-riddled junior season, hungry for some success after a rather unfulfilling 3 years here.  Danny Morrissey also returned for his senior season, providing a legitimate outside threat for the Lions.  With that returning core, PSU was also getting 3 true freshmen and a Villanova transfer.  Ott provides some depth inside, Babb and Woodyard gave PSU some size and athleticism at the 2, and Oliver was the only fall signee, expecting to be able to contribute in the frontcourt.  There was enough returning talent for a tournament run.

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Victory

December 4, 2008

Boy, what a game.  Gani Lawal is redonkulous. I mean, I know PSU is short/weak up front but my goodness is that dude versatile.  He has such an arrangement of weapons in his offensive arsenal.  He was flat out unstoppable.  15-20 from the floor?  34 points?  What an individual performance.

But what might be more impressive is the fact that PSU got dominated inside all game along, and we came away with a huge 85-83 win.  Stanley Pringle was absolutely magnificent all game long, but who stepped up for us when we needed some points?  Danny Morrissey.  He came off the bench with about 7-8 minutes left in the game and hit 3 clutch, open jumpers (2 from behind the arc).

Definitely a big road win, but the complete chokejob the last 2 minutes left a lot to be desired.  We missed all three frontends of 1 and 1s, by arguably our two best free throw shooters.  Then Jamelle Cornley missed 2 foul shots with 5 seconds left to end the game.  Tech got a decent 30 footer at the horn to win the game, after PSU was up comfortably (3 possessions) from about 7 minutes left to 1:20 left.  All we had to do was hit free throws and we would’ve probably won by double digits.  We know our team sucks at the charity stripe, especially Jamelle, but DJ and Talor’s misses were disheartening.  DJ’s decision to pass up on a breakaway layup in favor of running clock and getting to the foul line, certainly left a lot of Lions, especially coach DeChellis, frustrated.

Transition defense was awful all night.  When PSU finally started to extend their lead near the end of the second half, GT would come straight down the court and score within 7 seconds.  It eventually led to a Jamelle Cornley ‘what the fuck are ya’ll doin’, that was audible on the broadcast.  Interior defense was bad, as well, but considering GT’s frontcourt, I’m not too worried.  I don’t think any frontcourt in the Big Ten is as good as athletic and talented as theirs (maybe OSU’s once Mullens gets going).

PSU had just 6 turnovers for the game.  That’s an even more impressive number, considering the number of possessions in the game.  Stanley Pringle has improved so much, I don’t think even he knows how good he is. He’s so quick he can take anybody one-on-one, and he’s got that jumpstop that allows him to get around any one in the lane.  He finished 22 points (9-14, 2-3 from 3), 3 assists, 4 steals, and 1 board.  He hit a lot of clutch shots when it appeared PSU’s offense was going to stall a bit.

Battle didn’t have a great shooting night, but he was setting guys up left and right, finishing with 7 assists.  He also had a strech where he scored 8 straight points in the second half.  Other than that missed one-and-one, he played great, once again.  He finished with 18 points, 7 assists, and 4 boards.

Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones, I mentioned how important they were in the pregame, and they delivered.  Maybe not on the defensive end, but it’s tough to guard an NBA lottery pick one on one.  Coach DeChellis has expressed how uncomfortable Jeff has looked early in the season, claiming the concussion and sprained ankle he has suffered has really hampered him in the early going.  He missed a lot of practice time and coach thought that was a huge reason why he couldn’t get in the flow of things.  Jeff seems to be putting it together over the last week, averaging 6.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 18 MPG off the bench.  He made several big plays, including a big, contested 3 from the corner.  His confidence is growing and he’s showing signs of being a serious player this season.  Jones did a fabulous job of staying out of foul trouble.  He finished with 8 points and 7 boards, including a huge stickback off an offensive rebound in the second half.  He struggled defensively, but like I said, GT had some serious talent.

Good win, but there were so many mistakes, the coaches will certainly have some ammo to keep these guys motivated through a pretty lackluster schedule the rest of the way.  We have a big game against Temple on Saturday, but they’ve struggled this season.  The blue unis won’t be making an appearance again until after the Rose Bowl.

BILLY OLIVER UPDATE: Seems like a redshirt is imminent.  He still hasn’t been cleared for full contact activities in practice, and DeChellis doesn’t expect he will be until at least this time next week.  By then, Andrew Ott will only be a game or two away from eligibility.


Great Win

November 29, 2008

The Penn State Nittany Lions rebounded very nicely after their tough loss yesterday.  We got out and trounced on the Tigers, winning 78-54.

Offensively, we passed and moved the ball through their zone with ease.  We gave ourselves good shots and converted those open shots.  Talor Battle was phenomenal, leaving great impressions on the CN8 broadcast crew, while putting up 15 points, 9 assists, and 8 boards with just 1 turnover.  Similar statline to yesterday, but he took half as many shots (5-8 from the field tonight).  Pringle finished with 16 and Jamelle had 13 as they both shot 6-11 from the field.  Jamelle is definitely healthy.  He was running all over the floor.  Highlighting the night was his fast break dunk off a fabulous feed from Battle.  He made a great catch on the pass, as it had some heat on it, and then planted hard on those knees and elevated for the slam – with no visual signs of pain whatsoever.  It brought a smile to my face.  As I mentioned in my preview, we dominated the boards.  The final numbers don’t say so, but Towson rebounded a lot of garbage time misses.  Andrew Jones had 8 points, 13 boards, 3 steals and 1 nasty block.  It was a great game for him, but it does say something about the interior competition if Jones had a night like this.  However, we did everything right.  Only 10 turnovers (walk-on Will Leiner had 2 near the end of the game), cleaned the glass, made all the right passes, and just outplayed Towson in every facet of the game. Babb and Woodyard got some significant PT tonight, too.  Woodyard still looks confident, Babb still trying to find his way.  Babb did make his first Nittany Lion FG tonight, though.

Towson was definitely scoring-challenged.  They finished the night 20-68 from the floor.  Jerrel Smith hit a few tough shots, and Franklin and Thornton hit a couple of threes.  Otherwise, they couldn’t make anything.  Some of that was PSU defense, some of it was Towson ineptitude.

Few days rest, then on to Ga Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday.


Tough Loss

November 29, 2008

PSU lost a tough one against Rhody, 77-72. I had to listen to the game because no one obviously cares about this Philly Classic tournament enough to broadcast it.

Just a few random thoughts because it’s tough to make legitimate observations from an audio feed.

  • We depend on our guards.  Pringle and Battle didn’t have it last night.  I say that and Battle puts up a statline like this : 15 points, 8 boards, and 8 assists.  He did have four turnovers, most in the first half.  But 7-25 from the field, 4-15 from 3 combined by our 2 guards isn’t going to beat anybody.  To their defense, Dick Jerardi (Penn State Color guy) said URI was playing their best defense in 3 years.  Pringle had an open 24 footer with 5 seconds to go to tie the game that clanked off to the right.
  • Cornley needs to become dominant.  I say that in a game where he’s the game’s leading scorer with 23 points.  But the broadcast guys and eye witnesses at the game claimed he missed way too many easy buckets.  He did miss 9 shots, after all.
  • DeChellis only played 7 guys, after claiming in the pregame show he was going to have to get the 2 freshmen, Babb and Woodyard, even more playing time because of playing back to back days.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.  We have no depth.
  • We played poorly, shot pathetically, and trailed the whole game, yet we nearly pulled it off.  The effort in that regard is positive.  It’s mentally draining to be trailing by single digits for 34 minutes or so.  Hopefully the team learns from that and grows tougher, mentally.
  • URI shot lights out.  Jimmy Baron is just a beast.  Drained contested 25 footers at all the wrong times for PSU.  Also, it didn’t help that URI was absolute cash at the foul line (18-22).  Kahiem Seawright, a senior with a career FT percentage of 67%, calmly made all six of his free throws.  Win some, you lose some.
  • This isn’t a devastating loss.  URI is a quality basketball team.  I’m intrigued how they do against Villanova tonight.  Regardless, this loss will give us a hit in the RPI (by not allowing us to play Nova).  However, our RPI had no chance once the OOC schedule came out.  Basically, in order to make the NCAAs, we gotta sweep the rest of our OOC (Temple, @ GT) and win at least 10 Big Ten games, along with a run in the BTT.  So yeah, NIT here we come…..if we can even make that….

Villanova finally put away Towson in the second half, 64-47.  So we got a pesky Towson team today at 6:30 PM in the third place game of the prestigious Philly Classic.


Finally, a good impression

November 26, 2008

Penn State traveled last night to Philadelphia to take on those pesky Penn Quakers at the cathedral of basketball, the Palestra.  Penn came into the season picked 2nd in the Ivy League behind Cornell, who went undefeated in the Ivy League last year and returned 4 of their starters.  The Quakers, however, are significantly improved from last year and expected to be Cornell’s main competition.  Penn came into the game with a 1-2 record, having already faced explosive UNC (and only lost by 15!).

So this was expected to be PSU’s first real test.  Yes, they’re an Ivy League team, but it was PSU’s first road game, even if the UPenn students weren’t there because of thanksgiving break.  Blue-jerseyed PSU ball clubs usually are significantly worse than the white-jerseyed PSU clubs.  So the vegas line on this game was just 2 points.  I was kinda worried with the low line and had those ever-so-frequent doubts creep in that last night could be that devastating loss that put us into the ‘all hope is lost’ category.

But boy, did they erase all doubts of mind quickly.  7-0.  14-4.  22-4.  29-11. 49-24 at halftime (UNC was only up 48-33 at half).  Stanley Pringle just went off (hahaha) in the first half for 18 points with 4 threes and 7-9 from the field.  They made another dedicated effort to set the offense up with a lot of involvement from the paint.  They ran a lot of sets that got Cornley into great position, and once again, he missed a lot of shots that he shouldn’t have.  Dick Jerardi said on the PSU broadcast that we could’ve been up 35 if we made all the easy shots we missed.  Regardless, it’s always impressive to come out strong on the road, especially for the first time.  Battle and Pringle is one filthy backcourt.

We got complacent in the second half and let a 63-39 lead dwindle down to 71-61, but that really is human nature like Pringle and Coach DeChellis said in their post game interviews.  While yea, you would like to see the team finish these games the way they started, you have to take into account the absurd amount of minutes Cornley, Pringle, and Battle have played to start the season.  They’re all averaging 30+ a game, and we’ve won all 5 of our games by double digits.  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  So understandably, the guards got tired, were slow on rotations, and Penn hit a few threes in the second half to cut the lead down. Apparently the officiating was really poor in the 2nd half as well.

Some statlines…

  • Battle : 40 minutes, 24 points (11-16 from the foul line), 3 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 turnover
  • Pringle : 39 minutes, 25 points (5-7 from 3), 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turnovers
  • Cornley : 36 minutes, 16 points (6-15 from the field), 9 rebounds, 2 assists

So the team gets a rest for the next few days in Philly, then they will return to the Palestra on Friday and Saturday for the championship round of the Philly Hoop Group Classic.  We have a huge showdown with the high-flying Rhode Island Rams on Friday night.


Season Expectations

November 6, 2008

This is a pretty big year for Penn State basketball.  For the first time in a long time, we’ve accumulated a quality core of young, balanced talent.  I’ve never witnessed a point guard in a Penn State uniform as dynamic as Talor Battle. He’s obviously the captain of this ship and will have the biggest impact on our success this season and beyond. He single-handedly won us a few games and he proved he is the definition of clutch. He’s a gamer that just wants to win and will do everything in his power to do so.  He’s only a sophomore, yet he’s been elected captain by his teammates. It’ll be interesting to see him go head-to-head with Kalin Lucas, Trevon Hughes, and E’Twaun Moore as to who’s the best PG in the conference.

Jamelle Cornley is finally healthy for the first time in a long time.  His whole season last year was a struggle.  It all started in October during the intrasquad scrimmage, where he banged up his knee.  He then came back prematurely for the OSC disaster and was fighting the knee the rest of the season.  Add in a shoulder injury, a tooth through his lip, and a black eye, and he just never could get on track last season.  Well, he’s ready to go for this season.  It’s his senior year.  He’s always left everything on the court and never backed down from anyone his first three years here, but it’s all or nothing now.  I can’t wait to see him tearing it up on the low block again.

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