Thanks to CATA and its late night bus schedule, I had a lot of time to think before I made it home just before 1 AM this morning following Penn State's 62-39 loss to Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the Bryce Jordan Center. Plenty of time to consider the range of emotions this Penn State stat line evokes.
On one end, you have a 14-68 performance from the field for 20.6% coupled with a 3-27 mark from three-point land On the other you have 20 offensive rebounds, 17 forced turnovers, 68 shot attempts and 5 blocked shots to go with limiting the Terrapins, a team averaging over 80 points per game, to 62 and four three pointers.
As mind-numbingly depressing as the former numbers are, the latter suggest Penn State played a pretty darn good game on the peripherals. As fans know all to well at this point, though, peripherals don't win basketball games, playmakers do.
Unfortunately, the Nittany Lions plain just don't have enough. In fact, they don't even have enough serviceable players right now. This team runs three deep at best, and that was none more evident than when walk-on Steve Kirkpatrick replaced Jeff Brooks in the first half as Brooks was forced to the bench with foul trouble.
With all due respect to Kirkpatrick, who's been an excellent leader for the team and a tremendous representative of the program, he's just not going to cut it for Penn State against a team the caliber of Maryland. If his entrance into the game is any indication that he'll have to every time Brooks, David Jackson or Andrew Jones runs into foul trouble, it's going to be a long year.
The departures of Chris Babb and Bill Edwards from the team in the spring were quickly dismissed when coach Ed DeCehllis added guard Tre Bowman and forward Jonathan Graham to the roster as replacements. Now, Graham is red-shirting and Bowman has yet to see a meaningful minute.
Not only did Penn State lose two contributors from last year's team, it failed miserably at replacing them, and that, more than anything, might be what cooks its goose in the end.
- Penn State guarded Maryland very well in the half court for much of the game, not giving up three-pointers and limiting the damage dealt inside by star Terp forward Jordan Williams to 15 points. If this game cemented one positive for Penn State moving forward it's that it can guard even the good teams pretty well. Encouraging to see.
- Jeff Brooks by no means had a good basketball game, contributing only 6 points and 10 rebounds, but he didn't completely disappear as he did at points last season, either. He found ways to contribute on what was a quiet night for him in the scoring column by pulling down a career high in boards and blocking two shots. Consistency has always been big for Brooks and though he had an off night, he did some good things, which always reflects well on the elusive consistency.
- What can you say about Talor Battle other than "Wow"? Maryland coach Gary Williams said after the game the Terps' entire defensive strategy revolved around stopping him and he still scored 21 points. Granted, he took 21 shots, but he found ways to score as always. It's scary to think about what this program might look like without that nearly guaranteed 15-20 points walking onto the floor every night.
- Transition defense killed Penn State in the second half. While the Lions locked down in the half court, off their many misses, they just didn't get back in time for about a 5-8 minute stretch in the second half that put the game on ice. It's hard to fault the team for lack of effort considering how well it guarded in the half court and battled a bigger Maryland team on the boards to a 40-40 draw, but the players did lose focus long enough in that area to knock them out.
Billy Oliver looked positively lost in David Jackson/Brooks' stead while they sat with foul trouble. There's a lot of hope for Billy moving forward with his range (he hit another three tonight from the four spot) but right now he's not ready for prime time. When you get 21 minutes as Oliver did, you simply have to do better than 1-5 for three points and three personal fouls. You just do.
- Hopefully Taran Buie learned tonight that 0-9 from the field is what happens when five of the misses are threes he should never have been taking in the first place. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: Taran Buie's game is attacking the basket. When he does that, he can be even better than his brother Battle at times. When he doesn't, he just looks like a chucker that could be riding pine at any community college. On a night when Penn State really could have used his slashing abilities, Taran stuck on the perimeter, where he definitely doesn't belong at this point in his career, and contributed next to nothing.
- Do I even have to say the shooting was ugly? Doesn't 20.6% make it painfully obvious? Well in case it doesn't, there you go. 20.6% will get you beat every single time. Some of Penn State's misses were just bad luck, but others were simply bad shots. Buie's five threes are a perfect example and so is Tim Frazier's 1-8 a shooting performance against only three assists. Just horrific shooting, from perhaps as high as Battle, who was only 7-21, right down to the bench players.
- Where improvement in some areas is obvious, Penn State might have gotten worse at inbounding and that's incredible embarrassing for the players and coaches. Haven't these guys been running stack plays and crosses since they were six years old? It's not impossible to get a good look off an inbound pass, you know, though Penn State does a great job of making it appear that way. The Lions are giving away points here for going on two years, not that it matters for the purposes of this game, but..things should be better here.
- #MDHateWeek looks positively silly right now.
And that's it for tonight, folks. I'll try to transcribe some quotes for ya'll in the morning, but it's well after 2:30 A.M. and I just flat don't have any gas left in the tank.
UPDATE: One other thing before I pass out; Maryland is the most undisciplined team to come into the Jordan Center this year by far. The Terps can't shoot free throws to save their lives and they traveled almost all the way back to College Park with the number of walking calls they hit themsevles with tonight.
Maryland fans have been tossing around a lot of NIT jokes in response to Penn Staters this week. They better stop laughing. Outside of Jordan Williams, that's not a very good basketball team at all.