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Stuck in a Tailspin

Final - 2.11.2009 1 2 Total
Penn St. Nittany Lions 26 21 47
Purdue Boilermakers 28 33 61

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There's no other way to describe it. After pulling the improbable upset against Michigan State, the Nittany Lions have lost three in a row and their season is in a tailspin. There were signs of life in the first half as Penn State briefly held a 22-16 advantage, but they layed down and died in the second half. It took nearly eight minutes for Penn State to register their second bucket. By that point Purdue had a 17 point lead and the game was already put away.

The Good

We got solid contributions from several role players. Jones and Babb gave us six points each. Morrissey, Woodyard, Jackson, and Brooks each gave us one or two buckets. But it's not enough. Every night we need someone from this group to step up and give us 10-12 points and it's not happening.

The Bad

Talor Battle is obviously in a funk. For the first time this season he didn't score a point. Not only that, but he just didn't look like his usual self. There's no smile. No cockiness in his step. He looks like a beaten kid that hates losing but knows it's going to happen. During the game the announcers relayed a story that right after the Michigan game last week Talor came home to find out his mom was in the hospital. So he and an assistant coach drove all night back to Albany so he could help take care of his six younger siblings. Thankfully, his mother was discharged and he could return to the team. But it gives us some insight as to why he may be dealing with a lot of distractions at this point in the season.

It seems that the Big Ten has figured out Talor Battle. In the last three games they harass him wherever he gets the ball to neutralize his speed. They're not letting him dribble and half court and get a head of steam on his charge to the basket. They get in his face and force him to get rid of the ball. When he comes around a screen they'll step out and double team him to prevent him from driving the lane. They're making someone else on the Penn State offense create a shot and so far nobody can do it. He's got to figure out a way to play through it.

The Ugly

Purdue's tiny 5'9" walkon guard Bobby "Buckets" Riddell came in and abused Danny Morrissey in the second half. He had 13 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block. If I were Ed, I would replay that tape for my guards over and over. Riddell is a short kid that doesn't have blazing speed, but he was really smart. He used his screens effectively to get himself open. Toward the end of half Penn State tried guarding him with Pringle, so Riddell used crisp passes to feed his teammates easy baskets. Our guards don't look anything like that. They just try to blow past their opponent and plow through the trees in the paint to throw up a shot and hope it goes in.

Penn State's half court offense in general is just terrible. They telegraph their screens and seem like they're only setting the screen because coach told them they have to. The guy coming around the screen seems to hardly ever use it giving the defender plenty of room to get around it. Since they're never open coming around the screen the guards never pass them the ball, which I'm sure doesn't give them any incentive to make a better screen next time.

The end result is what we've seen the past few games. Dribble around. Dribble dribble dribble. Oh what? The shot clock is down to ten already? Ok. Drive to the hoop and throw it up. Oh there's no opening? Ok. I'll just throw it up from 25 feet then.

Next Up

I hate to say it, but maybe it's time to pull back our expectations. The NCAA tournament is a pipe dream the way we're playing right now. I don't see any way we're going to win one of our next three games against Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio State. Rest up Cornley, Battle, and Pringle. Get them healthy for the last three games against Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. Get some experience for the younger guys and get back to basics on offense. Let's focus on winning those three games to build some momentum for the Big Ten tournament and the NIT.

And let's just not talk about next year when Pringle and Cornley are gone.