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Butler 88, Penn State 78: Poor Defense Dooms Nittany Lions

Penn State drops second straight game in Florida

NCAA Basketball: ESPN Events Invitational Consolation game 1-Penn State at Butler Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight game, Penn State’s defense sprung leaks left and right in an 88-78 loss to Butler in the ESPN Events Invitational. The game started strong for the Nittany Lions, with PSU building a 32-23 lead with just six minutes remaining in the first half. However, another poor finish to the first half deflated all of the Lions’ momentum. Butler put together a 19-7 run to enter the locker room with a 42-39 lead.

Butler took charge of the game early in the second half thanks to costly turnovers by Penn State and trips to the free throw line. The Bulldogs were able to open up a nine-point advantage just five minutes into the second half. Penn State prevented Butler from blowing the game open, and baskets by Ace Baldwin and Kanye Clary helped the Lions trim the deficit to three points with eight minutes remaining. After a weak 5-for-21 start from behind the arc, Butler made 4 of its final 7 three-point shots to pull away from the Lions. Penn State’s aggressive defensive pressure left shooters wide open on the perimeter to give Butler easy looks. The Bulldogs stretched the lead to as high as 14 in the closing minutes, and PSU was unable to put together a late rally.

Player of the Game

Kanye Clary- 28 points, 13/22 FG, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals

Clary is the player of the game once again, leading the Lions in points and assists.

Random Observations

Needing Some Help- Penn State had only 9 assists on 31 made field goals in the game. Entering today, the team is 316th in D1 in assists per made FG. Last year, they were 143rd in D1 in the same stat. The offense seems to be reliant on Clary and Baldwin making plays.

Live by the Turnovers, Die by the Turnovers- Turnovers appear to be the bellwether stat for this team, like the three-point shot was last season. In its four wins, Penn State forced 21, 14, 17, and 21 turnovers. In the two losses, they forced 10 and 9. Sure, the level of competition is a big part of it, but Rhoades’ defensive scheme is predicated on forcing turnovers.

It’s Not How You Start- In both games against quality competition, Penn State has faded entering halftime. You could feel the air coming out of the tires when the Lions went from a nine-point lead to a three-point deficit in the last six minutes of the first half.

What’s Next

Penn State will play in the 7th-place game against either VCU or Boise State. Tipoff is scheduled for 10:30am tomorrow on ESPNU.