The score is not the story, though. Sure, if you look at the final score only, you will see a thrashing. A 17 point loss is never a good thing, obviously. But for Penn State, the real takeaway from tonight is that the Nittany Lions have enough to compete with top teams, for a bit. I do not mean that they will be able to beat top teams consistently, if at all. Instead, I believe that they showed an ability to stick with really good teams.
Forty five seconds in to the second half the score was 37-30, in favor of the Wolf Pack. This was the closes the game was after the first several minutes of play. Penn State had stuck around enough through their first half shooting woes (2-9), and was within range of one of the most talented teams in the country. It all slipped away quickly after that, as NC State went on a 10-0 run.
Now, just sticking around with the 6th ranked team in the country is not all that impressive on its own. A Big Ten team should be expected to at least keep it close with ay team in the land. But for Penn State, an unproven group, this performance should create confidence, while also be troubling. They played somewhat successfully the only way they can, with terrific guard play. Star player, Tim Frazier, scored 23 points, along with 5 rebounds. DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall added 13 and 11 points respectively.
The aspect that killed them Thursday was something that will bother them all year. The rest of the team. More specifically, the fact that the rest of the team is hot garbage, to put it nicely. The three guards (Frazier, Newbill and Marshall) scored 47 of the team’s 55 points, 85%. There was a combined 90 minutes played by the other six players that saw the floor. In those 90 combined minutes, the equivalent of 18 minutes of basketball, those six players attempted 16 shots, making just 3.
NC State, on the other hand, had six players score 7 points or more, with three in double-digits.
Now you can see why Frazier, Newbill and Marshall have to carry so much of the load. That is the only way Penn State can stay in games with good teams. They need spectacular nights from their big three. Unless, they are going to be replaced with the big three of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, they will not be able to win these games. Against lesser opponents the Nittany Lions will be able to hold their own and win most games, but against good teams they will struggle. Three guys can only keep a team in a game against a really good team for so long, about one half on Thursday. Imagine if even one othe guard trio struggles in a game. A mediocre offense will become anemic.
Something has got to give. Either the rest of this Penn State team has to start contributing, which is unlikely, or the Nittany Lions will continue to be a mediocre team.