Penn State coach Ed DeChellis wasn't happy watching Wisconsin's Jason Bohannon drain open 3-point shots in Sunday's loss to Wisconsin. But he was even more annoyed with how the Badgers' perimeter sniper got open -- fellow guards Trevon Hughes and Jordan Taylor were beating the Nittany Lions off the dribble.
"That's just containing the ball," DeChellis said. "That's part of what we have to do, be able to contain the ball so they can't drive and get other guys shots."
The Nittany Lions have had trouble containing the ball all season, which has led to open layups, 3-pointers and prevented them from getting run-outs on steals or long defensive rebounds.
Up next is a playmaker who can create for himself or teammates with the ball in his hands -- Michigan guard Manny Harris, who will bring the Wolverines to the Bryce Jordan Center on Jan. 7. Harris, who leads the Big Ten in scoring, will get himself and teammates DeShawn Sims involved unless Penn State can provide some solid defense.
Some help, defensively and offensively, from the bench wouldn't hurt, either. Penn State has gotten inconsistent (and foul-plagued) defense from freshman reserves Tim Frazier and Bill Edwards this season, and the two were held scoreless as Penn State's bench went 1-of-11 from the field against the Badgers.
-- Junior forward David Jackson has been very efficient offensively for Penn State. Jackson averages just 8.4 points per game but is making 50 percent of his field-goal attempts and 45 percent of his 3-pointers. He is averaging only 5.4 shot attempts per game, though -- the Nittany Lions want to see him more involved in the offense.
-- Freshmen Bill Edwards and Tim Frazier have had a rough introduction to Big Ten conference play. The pair combined for nine points in a 75-70 loss to Minnesota and a total of zero points (and eight personal fouls) in a 63-46 loss to Wisconsin.
ON THE SPOT: Penn State's free-throw shooting continues to be an issue. The Nittany Lions missed 12 of their 19 attempts from the line in Sunday's loss to Wisconsin, dropping their season average to 70.8 percent. The team's best free-throw shooters, David Jackson and Talor Battle, have both been hot and cold at the line.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They've always played well and we've always played badly." -- Penn State coach Ed DeChellis, describing what is now an 11-game losing streak to Wisconsin.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Penn State continues to have trouble finishing in close games. The Nittany Lions dropped close contests to Temple and Virginia Tech in the non-conference season, making mistakes and failing to come up with points at key moments down the stretch, and late a late five-point lead slip away in their conference opener at Minnesota, eventually falling 75-70. Penn State, which fell to 8-6 with Sunday's 63-46 loss to Wisconsin, is also having trouble generating offense in other situations, shooting just 43 percent from the field.
Penn State 76, American 57
Minnesota 75, Penn State 70
Wisconsin 63, Penn State 46
Vs. Michigan, Thursday, Jan. 7
At Illinois, Tuesday, Jan. 12
At Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 16
Vs. Indiana, Thursday, Jan. 21
At Wisconsin, Sunday, Jan. 24
IN FOCUS: Penn State has recently had consistent if not exciting success in Champaign's Assembly Hall, where it faces Illinois on Jan. 12. The Nittany Lions have won in each of their last three visits to Assembly and have beaten the Fighting Illini in each of the last four meetings overall.
-- Penn State's second-tallest frontcourt regular hasn't come up big on the glass this season. Six-foot-eight junior forward Jeff Brooks is averaging 3.6 rebounds per game and has pulled down 30 fewer boards than 6-foot point guard Talor Battle.
-- Sophomore guard Chris Babb, a 3-point specialist, is getting other players involved in the offense. Babb has 32 assists in 14 games this season but has recorded three or more assists in three of his last four games.
-- Penn State reserve guard Adam Highberger made an early return from a broken bone in his right hand, playing four minutes against Wisconsin. The 6-2 sophomore could provide Penn State with depth behind point guards Talor Battle and Tim Frazier.