The number of problems Penn State has faced en route to an 0-14 conference record has been glaring.
The Nittany Lions(8-18, 0-14 Big Ten) have shot poorly, and rank last in the Big Ten with a 38.8 percent field goal percentage. They have struggled to take care of the ball with the second worst turnover margin in the conference at -1.19 and have been beleaguered by foul trouble, allowing opponents to average 33.4 free throw attempts per game in their past five contests.
“I think it just goes back to attitude. Coach always says, ‘don’t compound the problems,’ ” senior Nick Colella said. “I think with some of these guys, even the young guys, are trying to work on when we foul, we get upset. It’s in the moment, but I think we really just have to work on our habits in practice and limit cheap fouls.”
Against Illinois last Thursday, the Lions found themselves the victims of some quick whistles, as they were called for 31 fouls. They also failed to take care of the ball with 16 turnovers, including 10 in the first half .
The issues led to some visible frustration throughout the game, most notably by guard D.J. Newbill, who was called for four fouls. He also finished with seven turnovers.
“It was different things going on, on the road, floor spacing,” Newbill said. “Most of my turnovers come from me trying to do too much. I think at this point I need to settle down and use my teammates more.”
Newbill has had to learn the point guard position on the fly this year with the absence of Tim Frazier, and coach Patrick Chambers cites footwork as something the Philadelphia native still has to work on to cut down on turnovers.
Though the guard struggled while trying to force plays, Chambers did not view composure as a point of concern for the redshirt sophomore. Because of the load Newbill has had to carry all season long, the coach pointed to the pressure of his position.
“I don’t think he was out of control, I think he’s just trying to make plays,” Chambers said. “He’s been doing a great job for us all year long and every now and then he’s going to try to overdo it sometimes. He’s got to do a lot for us and I ask him to do a lot. He’s trying to do the best he can under the circumstances.”
The Lions will try to minimize these issues as they prepare for No. 4 Michigan on Wednesday. When the teams met in Michigan on Feb. 17, the Lions sent the Wolverines to the line for 35 attempts and gave up 13 turnovers in a 79-71 loss.
Penn State has moved the ball better and shot it well with a 44 percent field goal percentage in the last three games. Chambers said he believes his team will be able to steal a win in one of its final four games if the players can limit fouls late.
“We’re putting ourselves in the right position to steal a game and that’s all you can ask for,” Chambers said. “For me it comes down to getting stops, and if we can get a couple more stops and not foul in the last three minutes when its crucial, I think that helps you out on the other end.”