There have been some bad losses under coach Painter, but not too many. His first season with very little talent gets a pass, as the two best players were on the bench rehabbing torn ACLs. The Wofford game during the first year of the Baby Boilers was bad, but at least there was effort in that game and we simply got beat. Northwestern on Senior Night in 2009 was pretty bad, but it was a close game with a lot of bounces that went Northwestern's way in the final minutes.
Then there is tonight. Aside from the first five minutes of the second half, where we cut the lead from 32-18 to 36-32 and we had the ball, we were flat out awful in every phase of the game. Instead of cutting it to two or one, Terone Johnson committed an offensive foul. We had the ball for all of eight seconds with a chance to get the lead under four, and we couldn't even get a shot off.
That was at the 14:36 mark of the second half. In under five and a half minutes we had cut a 14 point lead to four and had the ball. The chance was there to take control of the game in quite frankly the worst home court advantage in the league. The crowd was not a factor and would never be a factor, yet we completely and totally collapsed. Here is what happened after TJ's foul:
- Jermaine Marshall basket with an assist from Matt Glover
- TJ missed three
- Billy Oliver three-pointer after an offensive rebound
- Lewis Jackson missed shot, Jacob Lawson rebounds, only to have it slapped away by Glover
- Tim Frazier jumper
In just two more minutes, the game was over. In reality, it was over almost before it began. Robbie Hummel and D.J. Byrd were the only players that realized we were scheduled to play a game tonight. Hummel continued to struggle with his shot, but at least he willed us to the run to start the second half. Kelsey Barlow did attack some, but not enough. Byrd remembered that maybe, just maybe, we should attack the basket instead of trying to shoot over the zone. Everyone else was worse than awful.
Some of the lowlights:
- We scored fewer points (13) after that 14:36 mark than before it (14) in the second half.
- Terone Johnson was abysmal
- Anthony Johnson, Lewis Jackson, and Lawson were complete and utter non-factors
- Ryne Smith couldn't hit anything.
- We were outrebounded 35-25, but it is easy for the opposition to rebound when we refuse to get our hands up when the ball is in the air, much less coming off the rim. Also, when you can be shoved in the back by the opposition that discourages rebounding.
I do have to credit Penn State. Yes, we should be kicked out of the Big Ten for letting Billy Oliver hit seven threes, but it is our fault for refusing to cover him after he hit the first three. Of course they went back to him. Penn State's defense was excellent all night, but it is easy to look good when we refuse to attack the basket despite learning in the last game that is exactly what we need to do.
It cannot get any more simple than this, and the results will not change unless we change our attitude. As long as we refuse to attack the basket, especially when teams play zone against us, we cannot have success. Penn State looked good because we never once changed to make them not look good. Teams know what they need to do to beat us: play a zone, clog the middle, and wait for us to settle for threes. Our offense is a motion offense, but tonight it was a "stand still and pass the ball around until we shoot another bad three" offense.
Other journalists and coaches will spin some crap about, "Penn State is a good basketball team and blah, blah, blah." Well, why lie? Penn State is not a good basketball team, but they took advantage of us playing an abysmal game and us looking completely unprepared. They did what any competent athletes would do: They played to their strengths and when we never tried to take those strengths away, they kept going to them.
This loss really, really stings now. I came into today legitimately thinking we could start 6-0 in the Big Ten, have some road wins banked, and the tournament was a foregone conclusion. Well, we lost a game that we had absolutely no excuse losing to a team that is one of the worst on our schedule. That means we have to pull off an upset somewhere else down the line. It won't happen unless things change drastically. the magic number of 10 wins still gets us in, but the Big Ten title I was hoping for is a pipe dream and the remaining 15 games are going to be a fight to pull out 8 of them.
I can stomach losing. I don't have to like it, but at least if we get outplayed or the opposing team has more talent I can live with it. Tonight, however, was an embarrassment because it seemed like outside of DJ and Robbie, we weren't even trying. Even then, DJ and Robbie nearly pulled us all the way back to start the second half (with some credit to Barlow for his drives). They chose to have a lack of effort tonight and not fix some easily fixable errors (refusing to cover Oliver, settling for dumb shots, etc.). It is now up to them to choose to move forward and get better.
Finally, to those calling for coach Painter to be fired or that he is overpaid, do me a favor. SNAP OUT OF IT! Is it coach Painter's fault we stand around on offense? Is it his fault we don't get our hands up or even look prepared to rebound? Is it Painter's fault we couldn't shoot worth a damn tonight? Painter is going to stay for awhile and should stay for awhile. He has done NOTHING in the 16 games since he signed a massive extension that WE ALL WANTED to be worthy of getting fired. Any suggestion he should be let go is completely and utterly absurd.