Familiar script nets familiar results for Penn State
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In conference play this year, against what Penn State coach Patrick Chambers calls the best competition in the country, Penn State has done exactly what it wants to do in the majority of games.
Opponents come to the Bryce Jordan Center and run into a swarming defense.
The visiting coach will call it one of the most tenacious he has seen all season.
The effort of Penn State, he will say, is unimpeachable.
The latest example: "I don't know if there's a team in the Big Ten that plays harder," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "They're going to be a team to be reckoned with."
There's always that compliment and always the promise of the future, but there's also always the final score, which never has favored Penn State in Big Ten play. It didn't Saturday, either.
The Nittany Lions lost to 14th-ranked Ohio State, 65-51.
One sentence describes Penn State's downfall, a very familiar sentence: The Nittany Lions (8-12, 0-8 Big Ten) didn't make shots.
They shot 29 percent in the first half, which included an 11-minute stretch without a field goal, allowing Ohio State (15-4, 5-2) to gain a double-digit lead, and 36 percent for the game. Players remain steadfast in how they can start winning Big Ten games.
"Stick to our staple -- defense and rebounding," guard Jermaine Marshall said.
But they've said that for weeks, and the formula has not worked. Penn State, though not a great rebounding team (it was outrebounded by 14 by Ohio State), often has held teams below their scoring average.
Ohio State, for instance, averages 73.4 points per game this season.
Its star player DeShaun Thomas averages 20.5 points, and he scored 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting.
After the game, Chambers suggested that discovering a consistent third scorer could help Penn State start winning. That's been difficult all year.
Marshall and D.J. Newbill almost certainly will score. But after those two dependable players, no one has solidified as a scorer. Freshman Brandon Taylor, who had a strong start this season, made only one of his eight shots Saturday, and Chambers frequently shouted at Taylor to keep shooting.
"What I think is happening is we're getting a little more sped up against more athletic, physical players," Chambers said.
"I like the shots we're taking."
Chambers claimed that after the game he didn't see a dry eye in the locker room.
The implication was clear: He believes the team still cares. He believes the season is not lost even if postseason play is out of the picture.
Newbill reiterated those points. He said he wouldn't want to be anywhere besides this place.
Penn State is eight tough games into conference play, with eight remaining. The Nittany Lions will need that optimism if anything good is to come out of all the effort and building toward the future.
"I feel like we're close," Chambers said.
First Published January 27, 2013 12:00 am