In a unit lacking a lot of parts, the Penn State offense has been running like a well-oiled machine in its last three games.
However, this vehicle has not been good on fuel, with the Nittany Lions (5-4) often running out of steam and having to fight out games in which they had opportunities to pull away from their opponents.
The Lions have shot a collective 54.2 percent from the field in the first half of their last three games, impressive for a team shooting just 39 percent on the season. They are 2-1 over this span. This quick success has not continued in the final 20 minutes, however, where these three opponents have outscored Penn State 111-88, holding them to 38.1 percent shooting.
A part of this problem has been lack of depth for the Lions. Coach Pat Chambers has been working primarily with a seven-man rotation and players are prone to getting fatigued by the second half.
“It's challenging,” Chambers said. “You start well, you're playing great defense. For whatever reason we are tired. We find it again, we dig a little deeper, and find it within us. We have to get away from it…We need some consistency.”
Redshirt junior Jermaine Marshall, redshirt sophomore D.J. Newbill and sophomore Ross Travis have been asked to carry the weight to make up for the weak bench of the Lions. The three starters are all in the top six in minutes played in the Big Ten.
A generally low-scoring team, the Lions have had to stick to their commitment of defense and rebounding to pull out close games.
“It starts at practice when we're playing 5-on-5, and just going hard all the time,” Travis said. “All the conditioning just transfers over to the game. Our training coach always says that if you go hard in practice, you'll go hard in the game. That's what we're doing.”
Against Army, Penn State led by 12 points at the half only for the Black Knights to get it to within two midway through the second. The Lions showed resilience, locking in defensively and going on a 16-4 run, eventually winning the game 78-70.
“We need to continue to do what we do, defend and rebound then go down on the other end and execute,” Marshall said. “That’s a big staple and we’ve been working a lot in practice to just execute the offense.
The Lions will look to put a complete game together this weekend at home against Delaware State. They have a good shot going up against a team that has allowed opponents to shoot 44 percent against them. They are ready to take the necessary steps to improve this shooting for an entire game
“We just have to keep getting up shots during the week,” Newbill said. “Shots are going to fall but we have to defend and rebound. That’s our identity.”