An Un-Bear-able Loss

Maine mops the floor with Penn State in a pre-holiday matinee at the Jordan Center. The Lions falls to 7-4 heading into the Big Ten.

The kid with the mop couldn't quite see the wet spot on the Jordan Center floor. So Penn State guard Talor Battle grabbed the handle and went to work soaking up the sweat.

The dead-ball scene late in the Nittany Lions' Tuesday matinee against Maine allowed the home crowd a rare chance to laugh and applaud, because otherwise the Black Bears of the America East Conference wiped the floor with PSU, pinning a 74-64 loss on Ed DeChellis' squad.

“You don't make baskets, you don't guard on the other end, it's going to be very, very hard,” DeChellis said afterward.

The Nittany Lions fell to 7-4 on the season heading into their holiday break and went a long way toward popping their own NCAA Tournament bubble even before the Big Ten season starts at Indiana Dec. 27.

Adding injury to insult, Battle -- the one-man gang who led Penn State (again) with 26 points and seven rebounds -- was taken to the hospital after the game for X-rays on his left hand. He injured the hand on a steal and dunk with 1:36 remaining but played until the final buzzer.

Immediately after the game, DeChellis was not sure of Battle's status. But he accurately noted that Battle and senior forward David Jackson (18 points) were the only Nittany Lions who showed up against Maine.

“We didn't have much else,” he said. “That's the disappointing thing.”

The game was decided in the first half, when Penn State -- after a long layoff for finals -- looked like a team that had not played in a week and a half. And it wasn't just that the Nittany Lions were rusty; they were being outhustled all over the court.

Despite holding a considerable size advantage over the Black Bears, Penn State was outrebounded 15-8 in the opening half. Starting big men Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones were so out of it that DeChellis eventually benched them both.

The Lions were lazy on defense, too. On consecutive inbounds plays, Maine forward Murphy Burnatowski popped free for open 3-pointers from the same spot in the left corner. He made both -- part of a 4-of-5 showing from the arc in the half -- and soon after DeChellis gave Brooks a seat on the bench.

“Some of it is energy level, just getting out and crowding the guy,” DeChellis said, adding that preventing Burnatowski from getting wide-open looks from the arc was a key part of State's game prep.

Unfortunately, no one off the pine was any better. The Lions had zero bench points in the first half, with Cammeron Woodyard missing all four of his shots. Billy Oliver had no points and two turnovers in 11 minutes.

All that, along with an inability to get anything going against the Black Bears' token 1-2-2 pressure falling back into a passive 2-3 zone, led to PSU being in a 31-24 hole at the break.

“I think we were just too much on our heels instead of attacking,” Jackson said. “Kind of going more east and west than north and south. We should have been going toward the basket and not away from it.”

As bad as PSU was on offense, it was even worse on defense, and that carried over to the second half. Main attempted only 38 shots in the game but made 20. The Black Bears converted 57.9 percent (11 of 19) of their 3-pointers.

The lead reached double-digits early in the second half and hit 15 on multiple occasions. Every time the Lions appeared to be making a run, Maine had an answer, whether by bombing in a triple or driving hard to the basket to draw a foul.

“We just can't do that,” DeChellis said. “We can't let a team come in here and shoot 52 percent from the floor and 58 percent from three.”

Especially a team like the Black Bears. Though deep, Maine entered the game at 5-5, with losses to Quinnipiac, Brown (at home) and Delaware State (at home).

As tough as Tuesday's debacle was, though, Jackson tried to lend some perspective. The Big Ten is on the horizon.

“It's a whole new season coming up,” he said.

Unfortunately, that may not be a good thing.


• Brooks scored the first two points of the game for Penn State and went 0-4 the rest of the way. He has scored a total of four points in the Lions' last two games.

• The PSU bench was outscored 30-10.

• The Lions were outrebounded 35-27.

• Jones, who goes 6-10, has not blocked a shot in seven games. He has four blocks in 11 games this season, and three of them were against Fairfield.

• Though he has started every game this season and logged 328 minutes, Jones has yet to reach double figures in scoring or rebounds.

• Starting guard Tim Frazier played only 21 minutes Tuesday. Like Jones, he has started every game this year but has not reached double figures in scoring.

• Woodyard is now 4 of 14 from the arc and 5 of 29 from the field this season. He has two assists in 10 games.

• Redshirt freshman guard Jermaine Marshall played a season-high nine minutes and contributed six points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

• See the box score:

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