Reshuffling the lineup hasn't made it any more effective.
Penn State coach Ed DeChellis made some big changes to his starting five last week, removing junior forwards Andrew Jones (who had made 57 straight starts) and Jeff Brooks and inserting junior forward/center Andrew Ott and freshman point guard Tim Frazier.
The end result was two more close losses for a team that has accomplished little since the start of the Big Ten season. The Nittany Lions, who fell to 0-5 in conference play with Saturday's 67-64 loss at Iowa, can't seem to find a lineup that enables them to give star guard Talor Battle the offensive and defensive support he needs to come up with victories. Penn State is suffering from a lack of front-line scoring and is allowing opposing big men both talented (Michigan's DeShawn Sims) and moderately skilled (Iowa's Aaron Fuller) to do lots of damage in the paint.
Penn State will enter Thursday's home game against Indiana seeking answers to numerous questions, the first being who besides Battle will score. Sophomore guard Chris Babb had been picking up his offense until dislocating a finger on his shooting hand last week and going 0-of-6 in Iowa City. Small forward David Jackson has shown the ability to score from inside and outside but rarely takes more than a handful of shots. Freshmen Tim Frazier and Bill Edwards are having turnover problems and can't seem to get in rhythm.
Further lineup changes could be in order in the future, but few of DeChellis' options seem very inviting.
--Penn State is the only team in the six major conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and SEC) that does not have at least two players with a double-digit scoring average. Talor Battle averages 18.4 points per game; no other Nittany Lion averages more than 7.9.
--The Nittany Lions are averaging a Big Ten-low 8.6 made free throws per game in conference play and are the only team in the conference connecting at less than 66 percent (.597).
ON THE SPOT: Junior forward Andrew Jones, expected to increase his production from last season following the departure of Jamelle Cornley, has struggled to even meet that production this season. He's averaged only 2.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in his last four games. Penn State coach Ed DeChellis tried to light a fire under Jones by removing him from the starting lineup in each of Penn State's last two games, but he managed only two points and five rebounds in 35 total minutes.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know everybody makes a big deal about starting, but it's more about who gets in there and gets something done when they get the opportunity." -- Penn State coach Ed DeChellis, after making two changes in his starting lineup last week.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The Big Ten's lone 0-5 team continues to self-destruct in a number of ways. Penn State has held double-digit leads in two of its five conference losses and leads of at least five points in four of them but hasn't been able to finish anyone off. Part of the problem has been a lack of consistent scoring from anyone other than junior guard Talor Battle. Another part has been the spotty defense that has allowed those big leads to evaporate rapidly. Turnovers on key possessions and poor shot selections have also contributed. The Nittany Lions are playing with little confidence or cohesiveness.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F David Jackon, F Andrew Ott, G Tim Frazier, G Talor Battle, G Chris Babb. Key Subs -- F Bill Edwards, F Jeff Brooks, F Andrew Jones, G Cammeron Woodyard.
Michigan 64, Penn State 55
Illinois 54, Penn State 53
Iowa 67, Penn State 64
Vs. Indiana, Thursday, Jan. 21
At Wisconsin, Sunday, Jan. 24
Vs. Illinois, Wednesday, Jan. 27
At Purdue, Sunday, Jan. 31
At Ohio State, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
IN FOCUS: Penn State's next chance for its first Big Ten win of the season might be one of its best. Indiana visits the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday, and the Hoosiers are still searching for their first conference road win. Tom Crean has an improved Indiana team playing hard, but the Hoosiers are allowing 69.2 points per game, the most in the league.
--Freshman forward Bill Edwards can't find his touch. Edwards is 5-of-21 from the field in his last five games and has missed several attempts badly.
--Sophomore guard Cammeron Woodyard has made three of his last six 3-point attempts in the last two games after connecting on only one of his previous 11 3-point shots.
--Penn State's best free throw shooter this season has had few opportunities to prove it. Sophomore guard Chris Babb has shot only 20 free throw attempts this season in 429 minutes. He's made 17 of them (.850).
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