Okay, I'll admit it. When Michigan knocked off Duke and UCLA and managed to make a bried appearance in the national rankings, I was scared. I thought, "There's two games I thought we would win that we probably won't." At the time I recall Penn State was coming off their embarrassing loss to Minnesota and it looked like this team was in for another disasterous Ed DeChellis midseason collapse.
But last night Penn State put it all together in front of an energized crowd at the Jordan Center and embarrassed the MIchigan Wolverines.
Anything and everything. It was probably the most complete game we've seen the Nittany Lions play all year. Cornley, Ott, and Jones were dominating inside. When Michigan started bringing the inside double teams in the second half Battle, Morrissey, and Pringle killed them from the outside. Everyone was unselfish in making just the right number of passes and finding the open man. Truly an offensive exhibition in the Jordan Center.
On the defensive end they shut down Big Ten leading scorer Manny Harris and held him to just four points on 1-of-9 shooting.
As I mentioned, Andrew Ott looked fantastic. In only ten minutes of play he scored eight points to go with one rebound and two assists. I was particulary impressed with his defense and footwork when he got the ball down low. He has been a bright spot on the team as he has clearly improved in each game this season.
The team is now at 15 wins which ties the most ever for an Ed DeChellis Penn State team. It is also the earliest in the calendar year that Penn State has ever had 15 wins.
The game started pretty ominously as Michigan jumped out, ok maybe crawled out to a five point lead. Penn State had three turnovers in the first three minutes as the Michigan stretch zone was giving the guards trouble. On the other end Michigan was getting open looks and threw up six three point shots in the first two-and-a-half minutes. They missed them all, but if they make half of those Penn State would have been in a double digit hole really quick. Ed countered with a three guard lineup for better ball movement and Penn State went on a run to take an 11-7 lead. They never looked back from there.
We got a glimpse at next year's team around the eight minute mark of the first half when Ed went with Battle, Jackson, Babb, and Woodyard on the floor. with Cornley Man, they looked terrible. There was no continuity on offense highlighted by Babb tossing an errant pass right out of bounds. The defense looked completely confused and allowed Michigan to go on a quick little run to cut the lead down to four. Ed thankfully ended that experiment quickly and sent Pringle and Morrissey in for Babb and Woodyard. I'm all for plugging in the freshmen to get them experience, but let's do it one at a time.
Penn State didn't have much of an answer for DeShawn Sims who scored 21 points to go with 11 boards. But it seemed like they were content to contain Harris, let Sims get his points and challenge someone else in Maize to beat them.
You guessed it. Free throws. Penn State shot a horrible 6-of-16 from the stripe. Jones and Battle get a pass going a combined 5-for-6, but Cornley, Morrissey, and Ott combined to go 1-for-10. YIKES!
Here is what I suggest. Danny Morrissey should step back from the line so he's standing just a foot inside the three point arc. When the ref tosses him the ball he should just jump and shoot like he's taking a pass from Talor Battle. Danny was 3-for-4 from the three point line last night, so why not go with that?
Cornley should turn his back to the basket when the ref gives him the ball. Then do a turnaround fade shot. He seems to hit those at a 60% clip or so.
Good Lord I've never seen a team suck at foul shots so bad. If I were an opposing coach and the game was coming down to the wire I would send in the freshman walk on at the end of the bench and tell him every time Cornley touches the ball just go tackle him. At worst you will give up one point and get the ball back. Absolutely unbelievable.
Penn State can't feel too good about this win. The Iowa Hawkeyes come to town on Saturday at 6 PM. This is a winable game that Penn State needs in order to keep their post season hopes alive, but they have to be focused because any team in the Big Ten is capable of beating you if you don't show up.
Then Penn State will get a week to rest up before they start a brutal seven game stretch of games against some of the conference heavyweights. The Nittany Lions will have to travel to Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State while hosting Wisconsin and Minnesota. Beating Iowa will be crucial because it will mean going into this stretch with the momentum of a three game winning streak.
By my estimation this team still needs another six or seven wins to make the NCAA tournament. The crucial games will be at Michigan, the two games against Iowa, the two games against Illinois, and the home games against Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana. That's eight potential wins. I'm writing off the road games at Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State as losses, so a win on the road in one of those would be a bonus.
Nittany Lions Basketball Schedule
Next 5 Games
|Iowa||Sat 01/24||6:00 PM EST|
|@ Michigan St.||Sun 02/01||12:00 PM EST|
|@ Michigan||Thu 02/05||7:00 PM EST|
|Wisconsin||Sun 02/08||3:00 PM EST|
|@ Purdue||Wed 02/11||6:30 PM EST|
Last 5 Games
|Michigan||Tue 01/20||W 73 - 58|
|@ Indiana||Sat 01/17||W 65 - 55|
|Michigan St.||Wed 01/14||L 73 - 78|
|@ Minnesota||Sun 01/11||L 59 - 79|
|Purdue||Tue 01/06||W 67 - 64|