At 0-10 in Big Ten, there aren't a whole lot of flowery ledes left to write.
The more games we lose, the more I think about beating Virginia in late November. That win had all the Hallmarks of so many from last season's NIT Championship run that you wondered if this team had lost anything but the on-court contributions of Jamelle Cornley, Stanley Pringle, and Danny Morrissey. Sure, Lions were destined to take a step back Win-Loss wise because those were talented players, not at all easy to replace. But the tight win over Virginia, when it seemed like everyone played tough and smart down the stretch, made it appear as if this team had the mental toughness and fortitude to lead to a pretty decent season by Penn State standards.
What a mirage that night has turned out to be? With every loss like this loss, it becomes more and more apparent that this team's biggest problem isn't the lack of an inside presence, or the inability to score from or defend the perimeter, it's a lack of guts.
The seniors that graduated last spring weren't particularly great basketball players. But all three will be remembered fondly for stuff like this.
Particles of Danny's blood are still on that Madison Square Garden floor. 'Melle's shoulder will probably never be the same after last season. And Stan the Man literally let it all hang out.
This team doesn't have that right now, and that's why you're seeing late leads blown, and big rallies squashed. This team doesn't have the guts to finish a game off.
I'm not going to call out a player on rthis team specifically, because it's not fair. Everyone is to blame when you're 0-10, and if for nothing else, perhaps, than simply not trying hard enough. This team
might be is the worst team in the Big Ten right now, but if this team has any character, and wants to give people any kind of reason to believe heading into 2011, they'll find a way to be the best team in the Big Ten for one night.
Ohio State made the plays they needed to when they needed to. The Bucks cruised most of the game, holding a healthy lead over Penn State until a late push brought the Lions close late. But the Bucks didn't let the pressure get to them, and made plays while the Lions unraveled. The Ohio State transition game was nearly flawless the entire evening, and they Buckeyes did a great job of making the extra pass and exposing the Penn State zone for a 35% shooting effort from the perimeter. Sure, they were playing Penn State, but the Buckeyes looked well prepared, and well coached in this game, and they appear to be a solid pick for the Sweet 16 with Evan Turner, who torched Penn State for 27 points, active and healthy again.
Sasa Borovnjak saw some rare minutes this evening, and showed encouraging aggressiveness. He's been riding a lot of pine lately, and while racking up more fouls than points is typically a bad thing, in Sasa's case it shows that he was playing loose, which is very, very good to see from a guy who's been playing his minutes.
Talor Battle found a way to put up points as usual. Even with the team deteriorating around him, the guy still comes to play every night, and most of the time finds was to play well. DJ Jackson is also achieving a level of consistency after scoring 12 tonight, and is undoubtedly PSU's second best player at this point.
The Lions certainly weren't helped by injuries tonight. Andrew Ott missed the whole game with a shoulder injury, and Bill Edwards went down tonight as well after a strong 10 point, 13 rebound performance at Purdue. It's a shame too, because both players had been emerging as good storylines in a season full of bad ones.
No matter what zone look Penn State threw at Ohio State defensively, the Buckeyes picked it apart. There were several points, most notably the Diebler three at the end, that it looked like the Lions didn't even know how to guard the perimeter out of a zone. As bad as this team looks in rotating in the man-to-man at times, it looked worse tonight in the zone.
I've begun to notice that Penn State seems to struggle most offensively in the first ten minutes of a game. It seems like they get way too cute with the ball when they feel like they're still in the game early. They throw the ball around for 30 seconds like they're a good basketball team and eventually something will open up, but what they don't realize is that in looking for the perfect, or even just a good shot the entire shot clock, they're shooting themselves in the foot by the time the shot clock gets down to five. I'm all for a responsible, paced offense that takes it's time, but there is absolutely no reason to throw the ball around the top for the key for 30 seconds for the heck of it, and that's what it feels like Penn State is doing far too often early in games.
The last two minutes could not have gone worse. Down three to down 13 in the span of two minutes is nuts, and the sign of a team without a whole lot of mental toughness. Perhaps you could say that you can't blame the players for being mentally fragile after the way this season has gone, but I don't think it's too much to ask to not completely fall apart late like the team did tonight, or against Wisconsin.
And now tonight's EDrawing of the game. This inbound was drawn up in a timeout for Tim Frazier late in the first half...
The inbounds plays after time outs just seem to be getting worse and worse. It seems like the goal now is simply to get the ball in and get some kind of shot off, and the Lions can't even seem to do that anymore.