Penn State coach Patrick Chambers can’t really explain it.
In two Big Ten games, the Nittany Lions have been outscored 86-45 in the second half of losses to Michigan State (79-63) and Illinois (75-55). Penn State players shot a combined 14 for 49 (28.6 percent) in those 40 minutes.
“We’re getting good shots,” he said. “They’re just not falling. ... That’s what happens in basketball.”
The Nittany Lions (9-6 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) will be looking to heat up at home Wednesday as they host Minnesota (12-3, 1-1) at 7 p.m.
Heading into the conference season, offense wasn’t a problem for Chambers’ charges. The Nittany Lions had topped 75 points in 10 of their 13 games. In league play, they are averaging 59 points per game and shooting 34 percent from the floor.
“We’ve played two really talented Big Ten teams,” Chambers said. “Obviously when you get to the Big Ten, the defenses are much better. They scout you. You’ve got to be really disciplined. You’ve got to move the ball. You’ve got to be in the proper position. You’ve got to set screens. You’ve got to do all of the little things.”
Chambers said his club could be a little out of rhythm with transfers John Johnson and Jordan Dickerson working into the mix after sitting out the first part of the season. Johnson, though has led the Nittany Lions in scoring two of the past three games, including 18 off the bench against the Fighting Illini.
“I’ve got to get us right,” Chambers said. “We’ve got to get a little more chemistry going, a little bit more cohesion. I feel like because of adding two players, it has put us off kilter a little bit. We’ve all got to get on the same page.”
Penn State’s standout guards Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill have struggled so far in the two league games. They’re a combined 14-43 from the floor and are combining for 20.3 points after averaging nearly twice that much in non-league play. Frazier, the leagues league’s leader in assists (6.9), had just one against the Illini.
Newbill (18.0) and Frazier (16.9) still are the nation’s second-leading scoring guard tandem.
The Nittany Lions face a Minnesota squad that regrouped from a three-point loss to Michigan in its conference opener to edge Purdue 82-79 on Sunday. Austin Hollins had 18 points to lead four Golden Gophers in double figures. Andre Hollins added 17 as Minnesota turned back a Purdue rally.
“I thought for about about 35 minutes that was the best defensively as well as offensively we’ve played this year,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said.
Defensively, center Elliott Eliason set the tone with six blocks against the Boilermakers. Eliason is second in the conference, averaging 2.5 blocks per game.
“(Blocking shots) is about knowing when to get aggressive, and you just have to pick your spot and knowing when to wall up when you need to,” Elias said.
Andre Hollins leads the Gophers with a 15.9 scoring average. Austin Hollins (13.0) and DeAndre Mathieu (11.3) also score in double figures.
Penn State will certainly be hoping for a better result than its last matchup with the Gophers. Minnesota crushed the Nittany Lions 73-44 last March. Penn State shot just 27 percent in that contest.
Notes: Tonight’s game will be televised on the Big Ten Network and broadcast on WQWK 1450-AM. Minnesota leads the all-time series 29-10. ... The Gophers lead the Big Ten in steals per game (8.5) and free throw percentage (76.3). ... Penn State is second in the league in free throw percentage (74.7). Brandon Taylor has made 90 percent of his foul shots. ... Penn State is one of five teams that has opened league play with two losses. ... Penn State is 109-250 all-time in Big Ten play.