As a member of the Big Ten — arguably the toughest conference in college basketball — the Penn State men’s basketball team was expected to win convincingly in its season opener against St. Francis.
However, the Lions made a 65-58 win difficult on themselves with self-inflicted mistakes, the most notable being a poor-shooting performance. Despite multiple opportunities to put the game away and a number of open looks, the Lions struggled from the field shooting 36.2 percent on 17-47 shooting.
After the team’s opening exhibition match against Nov. 3 Philadelphia University, three-point shooting was probably the biggest question surrounding the Lions as they shot 27.3 percent behind the arc. Shooting only worsened against St. Francis as the Lions posted 12.5 percent, hitting a mere 3 for 24 from three.
“I’ll tell you what, we got some good looks, some in rhythm jump shots, they just didn’t go down,” coach Pat Chambers said. “I always say we have to grind we have to be gritty and be prepared for the worst case scenario and I think that’s a worst case scenario, 3-24…that’s troubled.”
Though Chambers attributed some of the Lions shooting struggles to first game jitters, the team will need better than the combined 2 for 15 output from top scoring options Tim Frazier, D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall.
Penn State will travel to San Juan this week for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament where they will face some top tier squads such as No. 6 North Carolina State. The Lions will have to find a way to score with a team that has put up a total of 202 points in their two games this season. To truly compete with a team of this caliber, shots will have to fall for the Lions.
A bright spot for the Lions over the weekend was free throw shooting. Behind a 17-18 effort from Frazier, the Lions were able to penetrate and get to the line for a combined 87.5 free throw percentage (18-22). Though they will look to penetrate how they did against St. Francis, they will need to be able to put together a complete offensive performance as they go on.
“You just got to go out there, you got people in the stands and you have the cameras and lights on and you have to get comfortable,” Chambers said. “Last year we were young and a little inexperienced and sometimes you miss shots, this year we shouldn’t have that. If you miss so many shots in a row it deflates you, but we did a good job of getting ourselves to the foul line so if you’re not making three you better get to the foul line.”
The Lions have already taken steps to correct their shooting woes. According to Chambers, players have been in the gym since Saturday putting up shots on their own initiative apart from regular practice.
“We got tremendous looks in the game, a lot of wide-open shots we saw over film, we just missed them,” Frazier said. “We spend a lot of time right after the game we all came in on Friday and shot and we’ve been shooting over the weekend so we don’t have the same type of troubles this weekend. “
For the Lions, the key will be repetition, as they continue to put up shots and develop a rhythm they’re confident that shots will fall as the season progresses.
“It’s just getting up reps, it’s muscle memory,” Newbill said. “The more shots you get up the more you’ll make. We’re in the gym and we’re shooting so we should be fine.”