D.J. Newbill soared above the rim to corral the lob on Penn State’s first offensive play of the Indiana game on Monday.
However, as coach Patrick Chambers joked afterward, the designed alley oop — which resulted in Newbill’s failed one-handed dunk attempt — may not have been the best initial gameplan that he’s drawn up.
“That really worked, didn’t it? Genius, huh?” Chambers said sarcastically.
“It was stupid. Take the possession and get a good shot. I felt like you get at them, [implying], ‘We’re here, and we’re going to be here for 40 minutes.’ We missed it and we kind of got back on our heels.”
Chambers’ squad went on to fall behind the Hoosiers, 15-3, in the first few minutes of the game and the No. 5 team in the country never looked back. The Nittany Lions put forth an overall uptight and sloppy effort in their 74-51 loss to Indiana in their Big Ten home-opener.
Chambers said he was pleased with his team’s second half, in which the Lions were outscored by only six points and showed more poise on both ends of the court. However, he said the lack of ball movement in the first half, which ended with the Lions down 44-27, led to the team’s demise against the highly-touted Hoosiers.
“You can’t play 20 minutes against a team like that,” Chambers said. “And we need everybody contributing. Everybody, no matter how deep we go on our bench.”
The Lions’ bench netted a total of zero points in the first half and could not account for a slumping Newbill — who finished the game with eight points, his lowest output of the year.
On the other hand, the immense depth of coach Tom Crean’s squad served as a reality check to the Lions, reminding them how difficult it can be to keep up with the cream of the crop in the Big Ten.
Four starters for the Hoosiers finished in double figures, but, as redshirt junior Jermaine Marshall said, it’s not just their starters that found ways to hurt the Lions.
“They got some great guys on that team and they got great guys coming off the bench,” Marshall said. “It’s almost like they have two teams coming at you.”
Even when the Lions were able to get stops on the No. 1 scoring team in the nation, they often did not make the most of their offensive possessions, turning the ball over 19 times in the game.
Chambers said nerves likely played a major role in this and his players, including the primary ball-handler, Newbill, were often pressing to try to score on their own without spreading the ball around.
“These guys wanted to play well. They’re 18-23 year-olds,” Chambers said.
“So, sometimes you want to make the big shot, and sometimes it doesn’t go in for you. [D.J.] has got to be one the guys that probes and looks for shots for everybody.”
The second-year coach admitted the Hoosiers have one of the best defenses his team has faced this year, including feisty guards and a strong backline held down by 7-foot preseason All-American, Cody Zeller.
However, Chambers said he hopes the Lions begin to become accustomed to playing against these types of talented conference opponents and play to their full potential as the season progresses.
“I still think we’re a pretty good team,” Chambers said. “We really are and I really believe that. We didn’t show that today. I feel like we showed it against Wisconsin, and we got to show it on Thursday [against Northwestern].”