Two defenders waited in the paint, ready to pester Penn State’s guards at practice Monday.
One by one, the guards dribbled straight into the double team composed of assistant coach Dwayne Anderson and a manager. Anderson stayed active and reached for the ball, while the manager handed out hits with a pad to make life harder on the offensive player.
The guards pivoted through the contact and protected the ball before kicking it back to the perimeter to restart the cycle.
The Nittany Lions (14-8, 2-7) are looking to take better care of the ball heading into their Big Ten matchup at No. 17 Maryland (18-4, 6-3) at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Penn State committed a season-high 19 turnovers in a two-point loss to Illinois on Saturday after turning it over 16 times in a five-point win over Minnesota last Wednesday. Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said the turnover issues have been largely self-inflicted.
“I think Penn State’s hurting Penn State,” Chambers said. “It’s something I’ve been using in the locker room. We have to stop beating ourselves or almost beating ourselves. Minnesota did press, but I felt like those were some careless turnovers there.”
The Nittany Lions turned it over nine times in the second half to allow the Golden Gophers to stay alive.
A turnover on an inbounds pass by D.J. Newbill led to an uncontested layup that pulled Minnesota within two points with 43 seconds to go. Chambers said Newbill has to make every decision late in games and the star guard has committed 10 turnovers in the last two games.
Eight different players gave away a possession in the loss to Illinois.
“We definitely have to cut down on the turnovers,” Newbill said. “You can’t go on the road and get 19 turnovers and expect to win the game. Even then we still had a chance to win.”
The coach said his players need to relax rather than allowing their nerves to speed them up and lead to poor decisions. That’s crucial on the road as freshman guard Shep Garner and junior college transfer Devin Foster try to stay calm and steady the team. Garner has six turnovers and Foster has five in the last two games.
Chambers, a former point guard, is focused on cleaning up the turnover problem heading into the game against Maryland.
“We just got to make better, sound, solid decisions with the basketball,” Chambers said. “I’m a point guard. I took such great pride in taking care of the basketball. I’d get mad when a ball got deflected. I would be mad at myself. That’s lazy. How could you let your ball get deflected, and I just need to instill that into our guards.”
Chambers said he’s looking for his team to cut its turnovers to 10 or 12 moving forward — closer to its season average of 13 — giving the Nittany Lions more shot attempts and more chances to attack the rim and get to the free-throw line.
That’s why Chambers can’t help but feel his team handed away a chance to beat the Fighting Illini.
The Nittany Lions managed just four assists compared to the 19 turnovers Saturday.
“We got to just take care of the ball,” Newbill said. “Some of our turnovers are kind of our mistakes. We’re just shooting ourself in the foot. But we come back to practice (Monday), work on our cuts and everything and hopefully it will work out better at Maryland.”
Notes: Maryland leads the series against Penn State 9-8. The Terrapins beat the Nittany Lions 62-39 in their last meeting in the 2010 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. … Maryland is coming off a 24-point loss to Ohio State and has lost two of its last three games. … Maryland freshman guard Melo Trimble is averaging a team-high 15.7 points. Trimble was limited to three points and went 0 for 8 in Maryland’s loss to Ohio State. … Trimble is leading the Big Ten in free throw shooting percentage (134 for 153; 87.6 percent). His 134 made free throws rank fifth in the nation. ... Newbill is 25 points away from tying Pete Lisicky (1995-98) for fourth on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,605.