Through the early portions of Big Ten play, Penn State Basketball is currently in ninth place at 2-3 in the Big Ten with a recent 74-70 loss at Indiana. Tony Carr did his part for the Nittany Lions as he scored 28 points on the night to lead all scorers.
Lamar Stevens was the driving force for Penn State in the first half against the Hoosiers as he was able to consistently get to the rim against his defenders. The two sophomores combined for 48 points on the night with both players hitting nine shots as they went 18-35 from the floor.
Penn State’s dynamic duo have been impressive throughout the season as they have sometimes carried the team on their backs, like the final of the Progressive Legends Classic against Texas A&M in Brooklyn. The one thing holding the Nittany Lions back in the Big Ten is bench play as the bench has failed to get into double figures in all conference games.
The main reason for the lack of scoring punch could be attributed to playing time as Patrick Chambers likes to play his starters for 30 minutes or more on a nightly basis. The shortage of minutes for the bench players means that they have few opportunities to get up shots to help out the Nittany Lions when it matters most.
Jamari Wheeler has been Penn State’s best bench player, but he has consistently struggled scoring the ball throughout the season. His defensive capabilities make him a valuable asset on the floor as he is clearly the Nittany Lions’ premier on-ball defender.
Carr is the starting point guard for Penn State, but he needs a backup that is capable of stepping up offensively. Wheeler has not been able to score consistently for the Nittany Lions as he is only averaging 3.5 points per game this season.
A Lack of Scorers
The bigger problem for Penn State is a backup big man as the Nittany Lions struggle defensively when Mike Watkins leaves the floor. Julian Moore has been the primary backup for Watkins, but he has been inefficient this year to say the least. He has only scored 30 points this season and has struggle defending his counterparts in conference play.
Moore’s lack of offense mixed with this defensive issues is a problem as he is essentially a player without a purpose on the court. Virginia Tech transfer Satchel Pierce was supposed to add a scoring punch from the bench, but he has only scored 31 points so far this season. Pierce has also struggled on the defensive end, leaving Penn State liable when Watkins has to leave the floor.
All three players have struggled with shooting the basketball with Moore having the highest percentage at 47.8 percent. That number at first glance is not terrible, but it is low for a player that shoots from 10 feet and in.
The inefficiencies from the bench offensively will plague Penn State and could cost the Nittany Lions an opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Chambers.