Heading into halftime against Marshall on Saturday, Penn State had plenty of wiggle room on the scoreboard, holding a 15-point lead.
The team also had room to improve on the floor, though. The Nittany Lions entered the game allowing 10 offensive rebounds per game, the worst mark being 14 in their overtime victory against St. John’s on Nov. 29.
But through only 20 minutes of play with the Thundering Herd, the Lions had given up 12 offensive boards. They did not pay too heavily for it — the Herd led in second-chance points, 9-8, though the Lions collected only five offensive rebounds — but it was still an area addressed in the locker room.
“We just all sat down as a collective unit. Us captains, we spoke to the team,” forward Ross Travis said. “We just kind of came to a conclusion as a group [that] we got to start playing harder and going after loose balls and tagging guys, like we weren’t doing.”
What happened in the second half is something Chambers will likely want to see more of, as the team is set to transition from non-conference opponents to Big Ten play in less than a month.
The Herd corralled just three rebounds on offense after halftime, scoring zero second-chance points. As a collective unit the Lions did not close the game efficiently, giving up 23 points in its final five minutes, but the defensive presence once shots went up was an encouraging sight for them.
“Offensive [rebounds] lead to fouls, another layup or a 3-pointer,” forward Brandon Taylor said. “So you can’t give up easy points like that.”
Even though the Lions picked up two fewer defensive rebounds in the second half than they did in the first, coach Patrick Chambers liked how their play stepped up.
“We completely changed,” Chambers said. “We got mad, I think we got mad and decided that’s enough, we’re not giving up any more offensive rebounds. It was nice to see.”
As a whole, the Lions’ rebounding still lands near middle ground in the Big Ten.
They are sixth in the conference in rebounding defense, and eighth in rebounding offense and margin, with a +1.7 rebounds advantage over opponents per game.
And while the Lions have so far hauled in boards on 71.9 percent of their defensive rebounding opportunities — tied for fifth in the Big Ten — Travis said the Lions can still progress on the boards overall.
“I think some days we come out strong,” Travis said. “Some days, like the Marshall game in the first half, at least, we come out not as strong. There’s always room to improve, so that’s definitely what we’re going to work on.”
If Saturday is any indication, it could be hard for opponents to get second looks on misses when the Lions are dialed in.
Eric Shultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @Shultz_Eric.