As a young team, no one expected too much out of this Penn State team early in the season. The team is coming off back-to-back losses to George Mason and in state rival Pittsburgh. Prior to the two losses, the Nittany Lions had won four straight, including impressive wins over George Washington and Georgia Tech. The team now sits at 6-5 and will have two more out of conference games until Big Ten play starts.
The loss against Pittsburgh seemed to be the epitome of what the Nittany Lion’s season will most likely look like. There were ups and downs and at some points they looked like a really good basketball team, but over and over the word associated with this team is inexperienced.
“This team is very good, once we can put two halves together,” said head coach Pat Chambers.
When Penn State took on the Panthers in the neutral site for the Never Forget Tribute Classic, the team looked terrible to start the game and got down to a huge 20-point deficit in the first half, which included just seven field goals and nine turnovers.
Penn States’ big three freshmen: Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins had just one field goal between them after Watkins made a layup as time expired in the first half.
However, the team’s resiliency in the second half sprung on a comeback that brought the Nittany Lions within 5, with less than two minutes to play.
The team still managed to have four players in double figures and two with eight points. However, the inconsistency throughout games is what plagues this team, either getting off to slow starts or not being able to close out games. Any coach knows it comes with the territory when you have no seniors and start three freshmen.
The bright spot for coach Chambers and this program, is that not one player on the team is leaving next year for the NBA, which means they will return a starting lineup that is currently all averaging in double figures. The team also does not have a top-100 recruit, which means this is the core nucleus that will return. The balance on offense is really encouraging to see, especially with a young team that will continue to grow together everyday this season, into next year.
With all this talent coming back, Penn State could have one of the most elite offenses in the conference with five players being legitimate threats on offense. The defensive side of the ball is where they need to grow as a team. The Nittany Lions are currently ranked No. 180 in terms of total defense. Once they are committed to playing team defense, this team can flourish because when they get going they can score and shoot with anyone in the conference.
The team’s next game will be against St. Johns at Madison Square Garden this Sunday. The team had off this week for finals and will look to stop this two game skid before their out of conference finale against Morgan State and into the team’s conference schedule.
This season is all in preparation for next year so Nittany Lion fans, there is hope, but probably not until next season. As this season progresses, this team will continue to improve and Penn State could be mentioned as one of the best up and coming programs in the country.