Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lion Shooting Woes Continue In 58-49 Defeat To Wisconsin
January 11, 2020 6:20 PM
by Ben Jones
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Penn State basketball's 58-49 loss to Wisconsin was the kind of thing you've seen before, from both the Nittany Lions and the Badgers.

For Wisconsin's part it was the same style of game the Badgers have played for the better part of the last decade. Solid defense, methodical offense and timely shotmaking. You are rarely in the process of being blown out by Wisconsin, but you rarely cut into its lead along the way.

As for the Nittany Lions, it took nearly 10 minutes for the first shot to fall despite tenacious defense to keep Wisconsin within arm's reach. Penn State trailed by nine at the break and had little in the way of momentum to show for it. Lamar Stevens would will Penn State within six with 7:46 to play but the Nittany Lions made just three baskets from the field the rest of the night.

It was hardly a game to write home about, Wisconsin doing enough to win but not much to impress, Penn State doing enough to stay in the game, but not enough to get over the hump. Stevens led the way with 19 points and 13 rebounds while Izaiah Brockington managed 15 points off the bench.

Then there is everyone else.

There are a lot of little things that have gone into Penn State's last two losses from rebounding to foul trouble, but if you were to boil down the Nittany Lions' biggest issue, it's the fundamental function of the game: making shots.

Penn State was 5-of-21 from beyond the arc on Saturday, 17-of-52 from the field overall, the second straight game of a shooting percentage under 37%. Myles Dread was 0-for-5 and has made two of his last 21 attempts from beyond the arc.  Meanwhile Curtis Jones notched an 0-for-8 outing and Mike Watkins logged just three shots, all misses, in 15 minutes of play.

"We've got to make shots," Penn State coach Pat Chambers said after the game. "Let's call it what it is. Look, if you told me we were going to hold Wisconsin to 58 points, I'd say we're going to win the game. We're going to win the game, especially at home. Because we shoot the ball better at home."

For whatever reason the bottom has fallen out on an offense that has the capability to shot the lights out of the gym. Instead the Nittany Lions are left with Lamar Stevens and an uncertain supporting cast that has talent on paper but is struggling to act on it in reality. All of this compounded by an erratic Mike Watkins in the post whose performances vary wildly from elite to pedestrian, sometimes over the span of a half.

In turn you get games like the ones Penn State had on Saturday, defensively sound but offensively inconsistent.

"We haven't really shot the ball particularly well," Chambers added. "And I thought we had some good ones to some open in rhythm. You know really good looks. So we have to do a better job. And then we'll look at the tape and look at the offense and see if we have to tweak some things. Everybody's got to do their job. If you're a shooter, you better make some shots. If you're a driver, you gotta drive the ball with two feet."

The good news at the end of all of this, the ability to click is there. The Nittany Lions have not played particularly well the past two games but have shown the capability of turning things around. On a quest to finish the Big Ten slate at .500, Penn State is one game behind that goal, and with a lot of outings left on the schedule.

So it would be fair to raise an eyebrow at two bad shooting performances in a row, but not quite time to sound the alarm. 

"We need everybody right now," Chambers said. "We hit a little speed bump here, a little bump in the road for us. And we just got to go back to work. There's plenty of time here. A lot of games left. Our goals are all still intact."

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