Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Fall to Iowa in Tale Of Two Seasons
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers has compared his team to the game of golf more than once during the 11-game losing streak. They can drive the ball some nights, but then they can't putt it. Some nights they putt well, but can't get off the tee.
In basketball terms, the Nittany Lions have struggled to shoot the ball well and play good defense or, in some cases, the other way around. It's a season long battle with inexperience, nerves, and consistency.
Thursday night the Nittany Lions put together what is likely their best conference performance on the year. A 44-percent shooting effort, three double-digit scorers, 17 assists, 6 turnovers, and a 12 point deficit erased in enough time to pull within two in the game's final four minutes. Not always pretty, but a far cry from some of Penn State's less than inspiring performances.
While it wasn't a perfect game by any stretch, DJ Newbill's 26 point night and Jermaine Marshall's 10 assist, 14 point outing showed how the Nittany Lions are far more capable of the 0-11 record they have amassed. It shows what a team that adds Tim Fraizer, and five newcomers in 2013-14 can look like. However for now, the Nittany Lions aren't quite there yet.
"I was proud of the guys to get themselves in the position to make shots and make plays," Chambers said following the 74-72 loss Thursday. "I wouldn't say it's frustrating. Like I've said, we're close. Iowa's a very good team playing some of the better basketball in this conference right now. We need to make some stops and free throws when it counts. I was proud of the way the kids competed."
"They're resilient, they care and they want to win. They're learning about adversity and learning about challenges. We had a lot of great, upbeat huddles about keeping up the intensity. I felt like they responded to me and to each other."
For Penn State, the challenge moving forward will be to continue to find opportunities to improve in the face of some of the nation's top teams. The Nittany Lions will face Michigan in two of the next three games and as the season comes to its conclusion the road to 0-18 will inevitably become shorter and shorter.
That being said, while the reality of a winless conference record becomes a very real thing, the Nittany Lions' ability to put together a performance like it did Thursday night shows that Chambers might be right, they may not that far from winning either.
"(Friday's) a new day," Jermaine Marshall said. "We need to come in with the same intensity we had in that game and bring it to practice tomorrow and get better. I don't really want to say that's the way our season's gone, but we just have to push through."