(Not) Doing the Little Things Well

I went to a small Catholic grade school when I was in elementary/middle school.  There were 20 odd other kids in my grade, and we had the same teachers for the same subjects in 5th-8th grade.  The English teacher I had in those years hung me for everything.  Missed comma here, typo there, everything.  I'd get my papers back marked up with more red than I knew what to do with.  Then I'd look at my buddy's paper, which was horrible, but had literally no corrections. 

I hated this teacher.  But in hindsight, I wouldn't have had it any other way.  She expected more from me as a writer.  She wanted me to work harder than anyone else because she thought I had the potential to be pretty good some day.

The Big 10 is Penn State's English teacher right now.  Granted, the Big 10 doesn't want the Nittany Lions to succeed now, or in the future, but teams like Iowa and Illinois hanging Penn State for the little things now will pay major dividends in the future.

 

After starting off well, and building a double digit first half advantage, Penn State limped into halftime and trailed by three at the break.  Poor halves by starters Chris Babb, David Jackson, and Tim Frazier forced the bench to pick up a lot of the slack, and the bench responded, posting almost half of the Nittany Lion points early on.  Penn State's defensive rebounding struggled, giving up 5 offensive rebounds to Aaron Fuller, who went on to pull down a couple more in the second half, and lead the Hawkeyes in scoring with 20 points.

After the break, Penn State came out sluggish and fell into a 12 point hole, thanks in part to turnovers and cold shooting.  The Lions did manage to keep themselves in the game, however, by getting to the line and scoring some points to keep things from getting out of hand.

With about 10 minutes remaining, the game started to turn.  The Penn State half-court sets became less stagnant, and the Lions took advantage of poor Iowa free throw shooting to bring the game to as close as a point by the final two minutes.  The Hawkeyes, however, managed to turn their free throw shooting around when it mattered most, trading 2 point possessions with Penn State the rest of the way to hold on for the win.

The Good

I wrote Penn State off at three different points in the 2nd half of this basketball game, but they fought back admirably and had a chance to win at the end.  Granted, Iowa's free throw shooting acted as a crutch, but come backs like today's game serves notice that even at 0-5 in the conference, the Lions still have the character they showed during the NIT championship run last season.

Talor Battle had a bounce back performance after struggles at Illinois, leading Penn State with 31 points and 7 rebounds.  David Jackson played a good second half to finish with 10 points and 5 rebounds, also posting a nice effort after a rough night in Champaign.

Penn State played the last two minutes of the game almost perfectly to get to within a point.  Unfortunately, they weren't able to get over the hump, but after the poor performance through much of the second half, it was important to see the Lions give themselves a chance to win despite it all.

The Bad

The defensive rebounding again came back to bite the Nittany Lions as it has in many of their losses, and even some of their wins.  It's no coincidence that Fuller went from a 6.5 points per game  through the season to a 20 point scorer today.  He handled the Lions down low in their own end, and his seven offensive boards doomed Penn State more than anything else.

The defensive rotations regressed against Iowa.  They hurt Penn State at several points, but could have hurt a lot more, and the Hawkeyes missed several wide open three point field goals in the second half that could have sent the Lions home much earlier.

Penn State got reckless with the ball in the second half, and hurt themselves with a lot of turnovers.  While eight as a final number isn't horrible, the turnovers came at critical times, either compounding the damage of Iowa's early second half run, or stalling the come back late.

The Ugly

Chris Babb posted an 0-6 performance, all from beyond the arc, and scored no points after leading Penn State against Illinois.  Babb is still a young player, but he needs to find a way to contribute when his infamously streaky jumper is off.  If he is going to become the Robin to Talor Battle's Batman, he has to develop some sort of an inside game, or learn from Battle's knack at getting to the free throw line when his shots aren't falling.  Babb is a good, but streaky shooter.  That's all he'll ever be, though, unless he develops the other facets of his game.

The coaching staff really needs to work on drawing up plays coming out of timeouts.  These possessions should be easy points as results of set plays, but far too often, Penn State fails to convert or more importantly get a good shot.

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