It is no secret that Penn State is slumping, but in four Big Ten games, the solution to its problems has been elusive.
Currently riding a four-game losing streak, the Nittany Lions (8-8, 0-4 Big Ten) have struggled greatly in conference play, especially with their shooting — they’ve hit just 34 percent of their shots during this four-game span. The shooting reached a low point in a 60-42 blowout loss to Purdue on Sunday in which the Lions shot an exceedingly poor 25.9 percent.
Penn State is last in field goal percentage (38.9), three-point field goal percentage (28.5) and second-worst in points per game (61.4) in its conference.
Coach Patrick Chambers cited the strength of the Big Ten this season as one of the reasons for his team’s recent struggles. The conference boasts six teams in the Associated Press Top 25.
“It’s the Big Ten, you just jumped up a whole level of talent,” Chambers said. “There’s talented teams, there’s quick teams, we struggle with quick guards. They have 7-footers in there [Cody] Zeller, [Jared] Berggren there’s some big boys in the lane so you’re rushing your shots and don’t want to get your shot blocked… We’ve definitely been sped up we just need to exhale, slow down and play at our pace.”
The Lions had their shots disrupted inside by Purdue’s A.J. Hammons last game. The 7-footer had five blocks against the Lions and forced players to adjust on the drive leading to several missed lay ups.
Against the Boilermakers, Penn State faced a scoring drought that lasted nearly five minutes in the second half. The team eventually fell behind by double digits and let the game get out of reach.
This has been a common theme of late, as Indiana and Northwestern were also able to formulate runs and bury the Lions early in the game.
The poor shooting has led to a lack of confidence on the court, which has snowballed into other problems, most notably turnovers.
Penn State has the lowest turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio in the Big Ten.
“We’re a feel good team, we make shots and we play hard,” Chambers said. “I’m trying to teach them that that shouldn’t dictate your effort. When you get on the offensive end you shoot with confidence. I don’t take anyone out for shots, we move the basketball and shoot the basketball.”
Players noted in-game confidence starts in practice, and they made it a goal to have a good week in preparation for tonight’s game against No. 18 Michigan State.
“Ultimately it just comes down to shooting the ball, sharing the ball, playing as a team and playing Penn State basketball on offense,” sophomore Ross Travis said.
“Just running through the plays, hard cuts, setting the screens. All the little things on offense are going to help us get shots. Some of that stuff we haven’t been doing and that’s definitely what we’re going to be working on.”
Travis has been one of four different leading scorers during the losing streak.
The Lions will need to find consistency to score with the more potent offenses they will be facing.
Against Purdue, the Lions’ leading scorer, D.J. Newbill, was held scoreless in the first half and most of the second, scoring just nine points.
Even after a down performance, Newbill remained upbeat.
“It’s a small problem. We’re missing open shots,” Newbill said. “You can’t win on the road missing open, point-blank shots.”