Penn State-UNCW: Bad Night for the Bottom of the Big Ten

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst INovember 19, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 13:  Talor Battle #12 of the Penn State Nittany Lions drives for a shot attempt against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 13, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Illionis won 64-63. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This is not the way Penn State and Talor Battle envisioned their trip to Charleston.

The Lions are shuffling out of the first round of the Charleston Classic after getting blasted by a weak UNC-Wilmington squad 80-69. Worse yet, Penn State was never really in the game.

Battle attempted to carry the team, scoring 29 (eight-of-23 from the field, including two-of-nine from behind the arc and 11 of 12 from the free throw line) and playing every single minute.

Unfortunately, the team as a whole shot a miserable .323 (.268 on three-point attempts). Perhaps more foreboding, the defense gave up huge numbers to UNCW (.574 overall, .625 on three-point attempts) and lost by 11 despite having just five turnovers to the Seahawks' 15.

Penn State couldn't even outrebound the diminutive Seahawks; both teams had 30 total rebounds. UNCW had lost previous games at Appalachian State and home vs. George Washington.

The Lions will certainly hope this is just a blip on the radar after wins over Penn and Robert Morris (though those were both very close games in the first half before PSU pulled away).

Combined with Iowa's well-known woes and Indiana's generally expected loss to Ole' Miss tonight, the bottom third of the Big Ten (Northwestern included, and yes I know they've only played one game against a good opponent, and didn't perform horribly) has taken a step backwards from last year. PSU nearly made the NCAA Tournament last year; they were one of the last few left out.

Games like this will not put them in the discussion come March. They have, yet again, a rather pathetic non-conference schedule (the reason they were left out last year), the lone challenge being a home game against Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Their scheduled road game at Virginia isn't what it used to be, though they may not even be favored against the worst of the ACC after this performance.

This year, they appear to have Talor Battle—and little else. Though the scoring against Robert Morris was well-balanced, Battle has scored 27 and 29 in the last two games, getting very little support from his teammates. Chris Babb was non-existent tonight and Andrew Jones needs to step up his game as well.

Otherwise, like Indiana and Iowa (and probably Northwestern), the Nittany Lions are in for a long season.