After the first two lackluster performances from this Nittany Lions team, surely this game would've been the perfect opportunity to get back on track. Providence was coming off a heartbreaker the previous day where they lost on a last second tip-in. They suffered yet another key injury during the loss, and their roster dwindled to just five available scholarship players as a result. Imagine having to play a game without Frazier, Newbill, and four other Nittany Lions of your choosing. That is the reality Providence was faced with.
But despite this significant advantage, PSU decided to play remarkably worse than they had in their first two games. The offense continued to show glaring deficiencies, even against a soft 2-3 zone Providence was forced to play all game long. Penn State struggled mightily in the halfcourt to attack the high post and get inside their zone, so they opted to try to bust it from behind the three-point line. All that accomplished was one of the more painful 30+ minutes of basketball this program has played.
It's really pointless to rehash, but here goes how it went down in the 14-point first half. Frazier played horrible in this period, not taking control of his team as a great leader should. His consistent indecisiveness continued to show his lack of natural instincts as a pure scorer. Newbill had what will hopefully the worst half of basketball of his career, accumulating three turnovers and two fouls in 12 minutes. Jermaine Marshall made his first three-point shot of the game, fooling us all that he'd snap out of his funk. He went on to miss his next eight shots before making some big plays down the stretch in the 2nd half.
We could discuss the rest of the team, but those three are the absolute keys to Penn State's engine. The others play second fiddle, and as you might imagine, they were not able to pick up any slack left behind by the backcourt. Clearly involving the frontcourt doesn't appear to be on the offensive agenda, as Jon Graham and Sasa Borovnjak combined for just two shot attempts in 41 minutes.
Defensively PSU played fine. I didn't understand why there wasn't a more deliberate attempt to press, create turnovers, and wear the thinned Friars down, but at the end of the day, they scored just 43 points in regulation and turned it over 21 times. That should be a winning performance, and so it was!
After PSU slugged it out for just 31 points in 34 minutes, Frazier really turned around his performance down the stretch and led the Lions out of this hellish situation. His final stat-line of 19 points, 9 rebounds (6 offensive), 7 assists, and 4 steals was more remarkable than it appeared in real time, but kudos to him for putting the team on his back. Also, kudos to Jermaine Marshall for two big threes down the stretch in regulation and overtime. While he did miss the potential wide-open three from the corner to win it, he came back and confidently drained a big shot from the right wing in the overtime period.
Like always, there's at least some positives in any victory, but this was far from a feel-good win for this bunch. Providence was terribly out-manned from the get go and should've been blown out by 20+. They had 21 horrendous turnovers, mostly a result of lacking any scholarship point guard, but Penn State will take the win and run, even if they've made just 15.9% of their threes in 3 games already.
I would say they can only go up from here, simply because the shooting percentages have to regress from absolutely atrocious to subpar. It's impossible to sustain this horrendous shooting for the entire season. But this team recently is finding ways to make themselves look even worse than last year. With Akron posing as the first true barometer game of the season, Penn State can't afford to play anything like they have in their first three games if they hope to come out victorious.