Consistency is not a word that has been associated with Penn State basketball’s success this season, but of all the players on its roster, redshirt junior Jermaine Marshall has embodied this attribute.
As the Nittany Lions (10-20, 2-16 Big Ten) prepare for their first round contest against No. 6 Michigan (25-6, 12-6 Big Ten) in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, the hot-handed Marshall is ready to lead his squad.
Marshall has averaged 18.8 points per game in the Lions’ last six matchups, with two of those games against the Wolverines. He was the leading scorer for Penn State in both games against Michigan, including 25 points in an 84-78 upset victory on Feb. 27.
The redshirt junior looks to the first round as a brand new start despite success in the teams’ last meeting.
“It’s definitely a clean slate, they’re a great team,” Marshall said. “We can’t take anything away from them. We got them once but now I think it’s time to refocus, it’s a different game and a different atmosphere, it should be a good one.”
Marshall was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention playeron Monday. Coach Patrick Chambers viewed this as a slight for his starting guard, given his high level of play. Marshall ranks sixth in the Big Ten in scoring with an average of 15.6 points per game.
“I was disappointed for [him], but I understand,” Chambers said. “Jermaine’s play as of late has been unbelievable as far as scoring and doing the things we need him to do to be very competitive, but we have two wins. If we have four or five, maybe [he] makes a team.”
Marshall has the most postseason experience for the Lions. He is the only active player to play for the 2010-2011 team that lost in the championship game of the conference tournament and qualified for the NCAA tournament.. Last season, Indiana eliminated the Lions in the first round.
Redshirt sophomore D.J. Newbill points to Marshall as the one who has inspired the Lions’ improved play late in the season, with two wins in their final four games after opening the Big Ten schedule 0-14. He looks to this leadership as an important factor for a potential playoff run.
“He’s been a great leader,” Newbill said. “Him getting better as a leader and a player helped us pick up our basketball. A lot of guys see him and follow behind him and that’s impacted our whole team.”
Marshall has shared some of his postseason experiences with players who have not been there, such as Newbill, and those who only received limited minutes in last season’s tournament game.
He has preached the importance of taking the tournament one game at a time. Even though the Lions will be facing a top-10 opponent, he remains confident in his team’s chances to make a run in the tournament regardless of its regular season struggles.
“We really don’t try to focus on winning just one game, our hope is to win the tournament and we think we can do that,” Marshall said. “It’s attitude. We know we’re a much better team than our record has shown. Sometimes we’ve got to play harder and I think we’ve been doing that of late and we’re going to continue to do that.”