It’s nice having a player who can make you feel OK about things when you’re down two with a few ticks left.
On the other hand, it makes that same player missing the shot even more painful.
All of that aside, it was quite the game tonight in front of the largest crowd this season and against the best team the Lions will face during their out-of-conference play.
It’s hard to have fun looking back over a game that you’ve lost—kind of like looking for a box of matches after you burnt down your own house, but I digress...
First of all, Talor Battle is trying his hardest to pick this team back up after scoring over 30 points for the second time this season.
The issues are coming from the supporting cast or the lack thereof.
For a few games, it looked like Jeff Brooks was going to be the No. 2 man, as odd as that seemed, and then DJ had a coming out party.
But besides the occasional 15-point-plus game nobody has truly stepped into the role as the go-to No. 2 guy.
For a good 90 percent of the Big Ten season, that just isn’t going to fly.
Tim Frazier looks young, Chris Babb is streaky shooter, and Andrew Jones isn’t putting up the numbers we need in the post.
This very well could be the most talented team Ed DeChellis has ever coached, but also the most unorganized.
Your guess is as good as mine, but we might be better served just setting a rotation in stone and working with that for the rest of the season.
If nothing else, it helps define the roles on the team and gets the guys in the habit of coming in with the mentality of stepping up where somebody has been having an off night.
A lot of this season has been like watching DeChallis at a make-your-own-mixed-drink party, and he doesn’t know which combination works until he tastes it and finds out that isn’t the answer.
So back to Virgina Tech.
Looking at the numbers, one thing stands out: free throws.
Now that is something that your casual Penn State basketball fan is used to; and last season it was the sticking point in almost every game.
This year, however, the Lions have shot the free ones really well and have allowed me a moment or two to rest my heart rate.
I guess we were about due for a bad game, as the Lions shot 13-22 from the line, almost exactly how last season's average would have had those shots pan out.
Talor Battle despite his strong performance shot 3-10 from the line. You win and lose as a team, but it couldn’t have hurt to have made a few more of those.
Off the bench, we got almost nothing with Cam, Babb, and Edwards, who combined for a dismal 0-9 from three-point land.
They did pull down 14 boards, but also added eight personal fouls.
I imagine that those are a bit off if you take into account end-of-game fouls, which isn’t the same thing as playing bad defense.
Either way, this bench has looked both as deep—and as shallow—as any in the Big Ten.
The key is going to be finding the right time to put those guys in, but I suppose half the fun of coaching is having to admit that half the time you’re actually guessing.
The fact of the matter is that you can’t have three of your five starters combine for 11 points.
You’re not going to win many games that way, and Talor isn’t going to put up 32 every game to save you.
Somebody needs to step up—that is the key that this team is missing—somebody besides Talor to step up and be a leader in the box score.
I love Drew, I love his intensity before the game, but that doesn’t score you points.
The defense has gotten much better over the course of the season, and even though the shots haven’t been falling, they’re still finding ways to be in the game.
The thing this team needs is somebody to step up, I don't know who, but they need to find him.
So where do we sit exactly? The team is 6-4 with American and Gardner-Webb left before Big Ten play starts.
It isn’t unreasonable to expect the Lions to come out on top of those two games, even if it seems like no game is an easy win so far this season, let's just assume that they win those.
That puts them at 8-4 on the year and headed into the Barn to start Big Ten play. Is that what we expected?
When I first went over the out-of-conference portion of the season, I guessed without much thought that the Lions would be 8-1, not including the Charleston Classic (the bracket hadn’t been set at the time).
Looking over the schedule, you could have realistically expected the Lions to lose to VT, Temple, Miami, South Carolina, or American.
All five of those teams have been in the NCAA tournament in the past five years and have solid teams.
While the Lions didn’t get the chance to play Miami or South Carolina, the traded those expected losses to UNC-Wilmington and Tulane.
It is true that in the grand scope of the season losing to those teams hurts our RPI and SOS, but from the standpoint of wins and losses, this team has done exactly what has been expected of it.
They are 6-4 with two more games to go.
So let's go out and support the team, pick up these two wins, and see what we can do in the Big Ten season.