Next Up: PSU Practicing Better Than Playing

Penn State has been practicing with good effort, but that hasn't translated to games. They'll try to change that Wednesday in the last week of Big Ten Conference play.

There's no disputing the fact that Penn State can't measure up with Big Ten opponents when it comes to overall talent and ability.

But that shouldn't stop the Lions from playing hard for 40 minutes — or at least until they run out of gas. Head coach Ed DeChellis regularly sees his team come out with a tremendous effort in its practice sessions, but that has not been translating in Big Ten games.

Penn State has put a number of awful performances on the board in the last few seasons, but its hard to come up with one that was worse than its first-half effort against Iowa on Feb. 26. In that game, the struggling Hawkeyes built a 47-20 halftime lead before cruising to the win in the second half.

Iowa scored 16 fast-break points and shot 65 percent against the sleepy Lions in the first half, capping it off with a four-on-two break in the final five seconds. Greg Brunner's pass to Haluska bounced off his hip directly into the waiting hands of Horner, who laid it in just before the buzzer.

"We really didn't execute the things we talked about needing to execute," DeChellis told the Centre Daily Times, "and I think that's the most disappointing thing to me."

What made the game most difficult to accept was that it was the Nittany Lions' seniors last game at home. DeChellis apologized to the seniors for not giving them a better final game. "But what can you do," DeChellis asked. "When you are winning and playing well, the momentum builds. Unfortunately, the same thing happens when things are going wrong.

The Nittany Lions will try to reclaim a little dignity in the regular season's final week against Minnesota and Michigan State.

  • Penn State has a 5-5 record at home in 10 games against Iowa. Penn State has lost three of its last four home games to the Hawkeyes.

  • Penn State struggles in many areas, including free-throw shooting. Penn State made just 11-of-20 free throws in the Feb. 26 loss to Iowa and the Nittany Lions rank seventh in free-throw shooting in the conference.

  • Penn State turns the ball over 14.9 times per game — a figure that ranks ninth in the Big Ten.

    PROBABLE LINEUP: Guard Danny Morrissey, guard Ben Luber, swingman Geary Claxton, power forward Aaron Johnson, center Kevin Fellows.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "You've got to play this game with some energy and some emotion and we didn't have any energy and emotion in the first half at all. I thought we played harder in practice than we did during the game." — Head coach Ed DeChellis on his team's lack of emotion in the Feb. 26 78-56 home loss to Iowa

    UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Minnesota, March 2; at Michigan State, March 5

    KEYS: Coming up with a win in the final week of the regular season will not be easy. The Gophers are much improved and have a great shot at going to the NCAA tournament. If they suffer a letdown and lose to Penn State, it could hurt their chances. If the Spartans want to play, they could name their score in the home finale. Penn State can only hope that Tom Izzo has a bit of sympathy for the downtrodden Lions.

    ROSTER REPORTS: Freshman swingman Geary Claxton is the team's leading scorer with an average of 12.3 ppg.

  • Guard Ben Luber comes off the bench to lead the team in assists with 5.4 per game.

  • In this disastrous season, power forward Aaron Johnson may be one of the few bright lights. He leads the Big Ten with 9.7 rebounds per game.

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