You gotta love season openers. For many of us diehards, we had to wait a long 7 and a half months. Football tried to fill the void, but failed horribly. A terrible schedule/conference provided undeserved victories, which raised unrealistic expectations for this team, and it just led to disappointment, confusion, and an awkward ’emptiness’ feeling. This might be the most unsatisfying 10-2 season in the history of football (assuming they win in EL next week, which is a complete toss-up IMO).
It didn’t help that this has been by far the most optimistic I’ve been for a Penn State basketball season since the Crispin era. With the positive end to last season, along with the uncertainty of how this team is going to be this year, I was just a little excited to get the season started on Friday. I was so excited to see basketball that I completely forgot how awful these early games are. It’s not a Penn State thing. It’s evidenced throughout college basketball. It takes a week or two for teams to get into the flow of the season and start playing competent basketball. It really makes you wonder why the hell the Selection Committee puts as much stock in these games in March. It’s all about the body of work, don’t you know.
So I would have to say the Penn game wasn’t too revealing to how PSU is going to play this year. Or maybe it was a significant sign that this is how we’re gonna be and I’m just in denial.
We all knew Talor Battle is going to produce the most, but if he’s counted on to do this much for PSU to win a game, it’s going to be a long season. Talor had a phenomenal game – 27 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists. He consistently broke Zach Rosen’s ankles with some incredible hesitation steps and some ridiculous craftiness in the lane. Talor could always score in the paint, but the way he did Friday made me think he did really improve over the summer. He did whatever he want against the Quakers and it was a joy to watch. I particularly enjoyed his 1 on 5 drive that put PSU up 61-49, capping off a mini 7-1 run that put the game away with 4 minutes to go.
It was a choppy game, because the officiating crew couldn’t swallow their whistles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many offensive fouls called in one game. It wasn’t unfair or one-sided, it just really kept the game from getting into any sort of flow. Three of PSU starters picked up 2 fouls in the 1st half – Drew, DJ, and Babb. That allowed for DeChellis to play 11 guys at least 5 minutes each in the first half. It was nice to see the new guys get so much time, but there was little cohesion among the ever-changing lineups. Battle was the only constant during the game.
Some tempo-free analysis:
As you can see, PSU shot well and took care of the ball like we did last year. But the offensive rebounding wasn’t there, which is a little unusual for DeChellis’ teams. PSU also didn’t do well getting to the foul line, especially when you consider Penn was whistled for 23 fouls. I thought the pace would be faster, but like I mentioned, I think the number of fouls interrupted the flow.
I was disappointed with the offense. PSU shot 27 threes (made 9 of them). You would think a Big Ten team would be able to getter better shots against an Ivy League team with nobody over 6’9″. I know we are going to shoot a lot of jumpshots from the perimeter, but there has to be some sort of balance. How about this stat; Talor Battle scored 9 baskets inside the arc, the rest of the team scored 8. If a 5’11” PG is going to be our inside threat, we aren’t going anywhere. Andrew Jones didn’t look like the guy he was at the end of last season. He couldn’t get open in the post and we were never able to get some inside-outside ball movement going on. There were only 11 assists on PSU’s 26 made field goals (42.7%). Talor did most of his damage on his own. This cannot be the M.O. for this season.
The defense was okay. Penn State played straight man all night. I was impressed with Penn, to be honest. They had great spacing and did a good job penetrating and getting great looks. Zach Rosen is a solid PG. He can really dish the rock in traffic. Penn had 12 assists on their 18 made field goals (66.7%). Darrin Smith’s 1-11 performance and Tyler Bernandini’s foul troubles really hurt them. Bernandini actually scored the first 10 points for Penn, but finished with just 12. Penn State did a good job rebounding, but they didn’t really force turnovers (most of theirs were offensive fouls) and posted just a 2.1% Block Pct and a 4.8% Steal Pct.We gotta be more active on defense and create plays that will generate fastbreaks and points.
- Talor Battle – Phenomenal, as previously mentioned.
- Andrew Jones – Didn’t play well. Foul troubles limited minutes until he fouled out. Scored 4 points and grabbed 5 boards in 21 minutes. Missed both of his free throws.
- Chris Babb – He played just 6 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, but logged 17 minutes in the second half. Took him a while to get in a rhythm, but he hit 2 threes towards the end of the game and finished with 8 points, 4 boards, 3 assists, and a steal. There are going to be nights when he goes OFF.
- David Jackson – Looked okay. He was also limited by fouls. He scored 4 points on 2-6 shooting, but was steady on defense like always. His shots looked good, he rimmed out a few jumpers.
- Jeff Brooks – Second leading scorer with 10 points. He looked comfortable on the court. You gotta wonder, though, how a 6’7″ forward plays 27 minutes and only grabs 1 rebound. He’s gotta be more willing to mix it up inside.
- Andrew Ott – He was productive, despite how it looked. 5 points and 4 boards in just 14 minutes, but he also fouled out. The guys have to adjust to how the game is called.
- Cammeron Woodyard – He played the majority of the first half because of Babb’s fouls. He hit a pretty three from a feed from Talor, but shot 1-4 from behind the arc. You would like to see more production out of your sixth man who logs 16 minutes. He finished with just 3 points, 1 assist, and 1 rebound.
- Sasa Borovnjak – He’s not red-shirting. I get more and more encouraged by his play each time I see. He was diving on the floor and really hustling out there. He logged 13 minutes – scored 2 points and grabbed a board.
- Adam Highberger – I’m curious to see how much he plays this season. He’s just 6’2″ and doesn’t have the athleticism to create like our other guards. But his shot is money. Very quick release. He hit two big threes in the first half in his 5 minutes of action. He was also guarding Bernandini for a stretch, and while I found that to be a mismatch, surprisingly, Bernandini didn’t score on him.
- Tim Frazier – I thought he would play a bit more, but DeChellis I guess wanted to get his starters some run in the second half. Talor was also playing too well to come out. He didn’t do too much on the stat sheet other than record 2 assists in 8 minutes. Can’t wait to see more of Tim.
- Billy Oliver – Nice to see him see the floor. Didn’t do much in his 5 minutes to really form an impression. He did take a three and missed, but his stroke looked good.
Overall, an unimpressive first performance (except for Battle). They shot pitifully from the foul line (9-17), as usual, chucked up threes on offense, as usual, relied on Battle way too much (39 minutes against Penn?), as usual, and weren’t active on defense, as usual. But it is just the first game and I’m probably looking way too much into it. PSU got the W, so it’s on to the next one (Robert Morris, tomorrow).
PS – If you didn’t know, Denzel Washington was at the game to watch his son, Malcolm, who is a walk-on for Penn. I was disappointed that I was denied by the usher to go meet him. He’s the man.
- Battle powers Penn State in opener – CDT
- Penn State downs Penn 70-55 to win 5th straight season opener – GoPSUSports
- Penn short on answers in 70-55 loss to PSU – Philly Inquirer