Two years ago, the Penn State Nittany Lions were unstopable, all the way to the sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. They rewarded their coach, Jerry Dunn with a big contract extension, but its been down hill ever since.
Part of their problem is attrition - of that Sweet 16 team, Center Marcus Banta flunked out, Jon Crispin transferred to UCLA, and Daren Tielsch, a top recruit also transferred. Forward Jamal Tate had some unknown health problem and sat out this season.The Coach
The Pittsburg Post-Gazette recently wrote an entire story about the fall off on the Court for the Lions - In a recent game they counted fewer than 2,000 fans in attentance. - to watch what they call "Jerry's Kids" play basketball.
But it seems like turnovers and shooting have been plauging the Nittany Lions . They had 21 turnovers in the recent game with Purdue - not a good thing, when you are facing a team with three master pickpockets. [T.J. Parker, Jitim Young, and Mohmed Hachad]It's killing us," guard DeForrest Riley [right] said [Centre Daily]. "You can't win when you're not shooting at the basket. You might as well come down and shoot from halfcourt. That would be better than turning it over."The [Penn State] Collegian calls it turnoveritis. The Lions Coach has a different explanation about the problems at Purdue.They were the best defensive team we have faced all season. In the half court, sometimes we had a hard time getting into what we wanted to run. We just lost our poise.PSU only took 17 shots in the first 20 minutes for a 35% average from the field. Purdue shot better than 60% in the game,Purdue pressured us, and we didn't handle it. It created many easy buckets for them. [Jerry Dunn in the Digital Collegian]So the morning line on Penn State might just be to put on that old full court press...something the 'Cats might be a little too short handed to do for 40 minutes, but something that just might work.We played very tentative especially in the first 10 minutes of the game," coach Jerry Dunn told the Penn State radio network. "We knew Purdue was going to come out and pressure us fullcourt and also in the halfcourt area, and we certainly did not handle it, obviously.Then there's the attitude among the fans, that Dunn should be fired, and they've brought little signs to the games expressing their discontent. Some of the players, particularly Chicago Native, Senior Guard Brandon Watkins [left] think its time the fans got back on board. "Man, all the fans have to stop that negativity" [Post-Gazette]
And Watkins is ready for his teammates to take a little responsibility for the season too.With what's going on with the program, [Dunn's] especially taken some heat because he's the coach. We've got to take some responsibility.Watkins needs to take some of this to heart - he's had 11 TOs in the past 2 games, and an 89-86 assist to TO ratio this season.
One last thing, Penn State could pull themselves out of the cellar of the Big 10 by winning in Evanston. They've got one win, beating the Wildcats would tie us in the win column. the Lions would then be #10 in the Big 10 by virtue of the head to head play.
Jerry Dunn has been the coach at Penn State for the past 8 years and has a 116-117 record with the Lions and a record 4 post season appearances [2 NCAA, 2 NIT] during his tenure, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2000-01.The Big Guns
He's been coaching at Penn State since 1983, starting off as an assistant.
6-1 Junior Guard Sharif Chambliss [left] appears to be the man, averaging 34+ minutes a game, with 14.8 points. He's also a 92% free throw shooter.The Starters
The Big Man off the Boards is a sub - #25 6-9 Freshman Aaron Johnson averaging 7.8 rebounds a game. The starter with the best average is #22 Soph C/F Jan Jagla who's right behind with 6.8.
From the Arc: Chamblis takes the most 3s [77-205/.376] but #33 6-6 Freshman Guard/Forward DeForrest Riley has the best average [41-102] at .402.
Over the last 3 games, the Lions have started the same 5 players, but in different positions as Dunn seems to experiment with his lineup as he's played a traditional 2-1-2, a 3 forward and a 3 guard lineup. The Game notes from Penn State project this lineup:Off the BenchForwards:
#21 Robert Summers [6-11 Frosh, 4.2ppg/3.9rpg]
#22 Jan Jagla [left - 7-0 Soph, 8.3/6.8]
#33 DeForrest Riley [6-6 Frosh, 8.5/2.2]
#10 Brandon Watkins, [6-1 Sr, 13.5/2.7]
#13 Sharif Chamblis [6-1 Jr, 14.8/2.0]
The Lion Starters average 49.3 ppg - the whole team averages 62.2, 61 even for Conference play.
The Super Sub off the Bench is #25 6-9 Freshman Aaron Johnson [right] - scoring 7.7 ppg and getting 7.8 rebounds - he's playing 21.9 minutes a game from the bench.
#44 Ndu Egekeze [6-6 Jr, 2.8 ppg/10.2 mins], and #2 Cameron Brandon [6-0 Frosh, 1.5/9.7] have played in all 24 of Penn State's games this year