Penn State Hoops Desperate For Offensive Production As Big Ten Play Continues
Following another loss to a top-tier Big Ten opponent over the weekend, Penn State men’s basketball head coach Micah Shrewsberry still wants plenty more from his team and himself.
“Fran McCaffery outcoached me,” Shrewsberry said Monday. “[Iowa]’s starters outplayed our starters. Their bench outplayed our bench…From top to bottom, we all need to be better.”
The Nittany Lions fell by 17 points to a talented Iowa squad in a tough Carver-Hawkeye Arena environment Saturday. Due to a COVID-19 cancellation on Minnesota’s end, the trip to Iowa City was Penn State’s first chance to bounce back from a five-point loss to Ohio State in Columbus the previous weekend.
Instead of bouncing back, however, Shrewsberry’s group never got its footing on the offensive side of the ball. The Nittany Lions failed to reach the 60-point mark for the second consecutive game, as they shot a dismal 17-for-51 from the field against the Hawkeyes and turned the ball over 17 times.
It’s no secret Penn State has relied on its defense all season, but at some point, it’ll need to find more balance to hang around on a consistent basis in the Big Ten.
“[Our defensive mindset] is what’s helping us stay in games,” Shrewsberry said. “Right now, the problem is our offense hasn’t been very good. That’s where we’re gonna get to work here in the next few days — trying to improve that.”
Shrewsberry added that upon the return from Christmas break, the Nittany Lions were around No. 80 in the country in both overall offense and defense. They’ve now climbed to No. 59 on defense, but the offensive scoring has fallen all the way to No. 105.
“We’ll go on stretches where we’re really guarding and we’re getting stops, but we’re not scoring,” Shrewsberry said. “Then it flips where you start scoring but you can’t get stops. That’s what the Iowa game was…The consistency of continuing to guard even through the good times as well is what we need.”
As much as Shrewsberry and his staff can draw up offensive success from the sidelines, however, it’s apparent that Penn State doesn’t necessarily have talent quite like some of its Big Ten counterparts.
Shrewsberry has been around and coached some dominant players in both the NBA and college. As he noted Monday, sometimes those kinds of players can “bail you out.” The fact of the matter remains that, despite bursts from Sam Sessoms or even Seth Lundy, the Nittany Lions don’t have that type of player they can always turn to during offensive ruts.
“I love our team, but if we were drafting, where’s our first guy get picked? We’re going through the Big Ten and drafting people — Who’s getting picked in the Big Ten?” Shrewsberry said. “We’re not at the top of the shop in terms of talent level, so we need to do what we can to stay in it.”
As far as doing what they can to stay in games, one of the first pieces Shrewsberry points to is transition offense. He noted that in the last Indiana matchup, a three-point win over the Hoosiers at the BJC on January 2, the Nittany Lions cashed in on corner threes in transition thanks to that kind of hustle. However, he hasn’t seen that kind of pace in Penn State’s last few losses.
“We’re not attacking enough in transition when we have the opportunities,” Shrewsberry said. “We’re getting a lot of stops, but we’re not running. We need sprinters.”
Hustle on defense leading to points on the other end was something Penn State certainly leaned on through its first three wins of the new year, and it will have a chance to get back to that with a rematch against the Hoosiers on Wednesday night. The Nittany Lions will tip off at an always-tough Assembly Hall at 8:30 p.m. in Bloomington on the Big Ten Network.
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