The last time Penn State’s men’s basketball team went on a three game Big Ten winning streak was in March of 2011, when Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks, and co. led the Nittany Lions to the finals of the Big Ten Tournament championship game and a birth in the NCAA Tournament.
It’s been a while since Penn State hoops has had any kind of success in what is considered one of the best basketball conferences in America. Because of this, we decided to look at Penn State’s recent winning streak by the numbers.
20: Points per game for redshirt junior guard D.J. Newbill over the last three games, including 25 points in Penn State’s upset of Ohio State in Columbus. Newbill turned his recent form into being named the Nittany Lions’ first Big Ten Player of the Week since Talor Battle in January of 2011.
6: Assists per game for Tim Frazier, which has actually brought down his average for the season. However, he still leads the Big Ten in assists per game, because he’s the best point guard in the conference. Frazier has also averaged 12.3 points and 8 rebounds during the streak, which for a point guard who is considered by some to be a scorer, is just absurd.
14.6: Minutes per game over the last three games for Ross Travis. The junior forward went to the bench against Nebraska with an illness, and has come off of the bench all three games due to the emergence of Graham Woodward in the starting lineup. Hey, speaking of him…
23.3: Minutes per game over the last three games for Woodward. While the freshman guard hasn’t put up jaw-dropping numbers in that time — 5.3 points, 2 rebounds, and 0.3 assists per game — he has given the team another ball handler and a threat from downtown, along with the usual grit and effort that Pat Chambers loves. He has also started all three games in place of an established starter, which isn’t unheard of, but is a bit unusual.
15, 46.7: Points per game and three point field goal percentage for sophomore forward Brandon Taylor. While he struggled to find his stroke at the beginning of Big Ten play, Taylor has turned into a marksman from downtown and has become the team’s third scoring option.
37.6: Field goal percentage of Penn State’s three opponents — Nebraska, Ohio State, and Purdue — during the Nittany Lion winning streak. On the season, opposing teams are shooting 40.4 percent against Penn State. One of the Penn State’s weaknesses has been field goal defense, but the Nittany Lions have clamped down in the last three games.
41.6: Penn State’s field goal percentage over the last three games. The surprising thing about that number is it has actually been a bit down from the team’s average this year of 44.6 percent, which is a testament to how well the team has been defending over the last few games.
+22: Penn State’s point differential during the second half of games during the winning streak. How many times this year did it seem like Penn State was either in the game or leading at halftime, only to completely fall apart in the second half? The most impressive thing during the winning streak is that Penn State has found ways to win, which was unheard of earlier this year.
8: Total blocks by big man Jordan Dickerson in the last three games. That number is a bit misleading, however, because it does not include the number of shots Dickerson has altered but not blocked. The transfer has made a major impact during the winning streak, and has proven that he can be the team’s defensive anchor.
1: Win against a ranked opponent, 23rd ranked Ohio State. The game was on the road and snapped an 18 game losing streak against the hated Buckeyes. It was also the game that Newbill made a lot of basketball fans around the country very happy by embarrassing Ohio State’s Aaron Craft when he crossed Craft up and canned a jumper to seal the game for the Nittany Lions.
2.5: Games back of the conference’s third best team, Iowa, who is currently 6-4 in Big Ten play. With how much parity there is in the Big Ten this year, the Nittany Lions could make up that difference in no time. It also really makes you think how different things would be if Penn State found a way to win its three games against Minnesota, Indiana, and Purdue, which the team lost by a combined total of seven points.
9: Games remaining on Penn State’s schedule. The team currently sits at 12-10 with a 3-6 record in Big Ten play. Luckily, the Nittany Lions’ schedule sets up nicely down the stretch, with only two games against ranked opponents. If the team can go 5-4 down the stretch, it will likely make it into some kind of postseason tournament. Anything better and the Nittany Lions will almost definitely make it to the NIT or, if they’re really lucky, the NCAA Tournament. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, and a lot that can happen in nine games. Stay tuned.