Rewind - Six Minutes
The supervillain behind our website troubles - the one who took away Craig's ability to publish articles - has now taken away the ability to comment on any of Tyler's articles. His final move, probably right after a bowl victory, will likely be to eliminate my ability to publish anything at all.
But while I still can, I'll publish Tyler's articles so that you can comment on them. LIke this Rewind post...
I really wanted the first Rewind of the 2022-23 season to be a fun one. That was the plan anyway. After the exhilarating overtime win against then #2 Texas last week (which - oops - may not end up as the resume' builder we all thought at the time), my idea was a fun little puff piece. "November and December's Greatest Hits!!" or some other similar fluffy nonsense.
Penn State, of course, had other ideas. They laid a beating on us, Brad Underwood made fart noises in the post game press conference, and now everyone is grumpy. Underwood literally wished misery upon his players for this entire week. There is nothing worse in sport than an unexpected and wholly frustrating loss followed by a week off stretch. It's like triple bogeying the 18th hole.
Of course, no one was grumpier than Brad Underwood. Although, one might wonder if his post game press conference was performance art. He seems to always have a tantrum at the ready for the inevitable November or December clunker (Miami in 2019, Missouri in 2020, Cincinnati last year) which always seems to tarnish our preseason slate.
Underwood was deeply troubled at his perceived lack of leadership shown by his team - and specifically his upperclassmen - this week. A lousy and uninspired stretch of practice after returning from New York segued into a lousy and uninspired game performance on Saturday. Three upperclassmen. Terrence Shannon, Jr., Matthew Mayer, and Coleman Hawkins. All of them had truly forgettable moments on Saturday which went well beyond poor shooting and a few sloppy turnovers.
I tweeted afterwards that the game was lost in the first five minutes. Nothing has changed that opinion after a rewatch. Let's take a look back at those first five minutes (let's make it six actually) in this rather sad edition of Rewind...
It started on the very first Penn State offensive possession...
Mayer tries to hand off his man (Andrew Funk) to Hawkins - but Coleman is full on facing the other way. This might be the laziest attempt at a switch I've ever seen. Mayer then compounds the lapse with an astoundingly bad closeout. Funk came into the game on a 5/19 stretch from three. He gets a wide open look in rhythm off the ball fake and splashes his first shot of the day. Tone. Set. Funk would finish the day 6/9 from the arc - including two back to back daggers in the second half which basically ended the game. Maybe he goes off regardless, but for my money you have to make a struggling shooter earn his looks early in the game.
Underwood had every reason to lament his team's immaturity on Saturday, but in addition, I'm not sure he did his guys any favors with the full court pressure we dialed up to start the game. He has talked about not needing the press to force turnovers, but that it can be effective in burning shot clock and disrupting the offensive flow of teams with ball-dominant guards. That's all fine and dandy, but if you're trapping in the full court - that kind of seems more about forcing turnovers. The problem on Saturday is that the veteran Nittany Lions just don't turn the ball over. They came into the game sporting a miniscule turnover rate of just 14% - one of the best percentages in all of college basketball.
Yet after Mayer scored to put us up 5-3 - we apply the press with Hawkins and RJ Melendez trapping the single ball handler (Camren Wynter) off the inbounds.
However, as you can see in the clip, they are kind of stuck in no-man's land. They aren't trapping aggressively enough to force Wynter into any real trouble, and yet they are still too far up to floor to be able to recover back to the half court. The result is that Wynter has a relatively easy bounce pass to Jalen Pickett in the middle of the floor and we're already beat. It's a simple numbers game at this point. Mayer sort of steps up to stop the ball, but Pickett has an easy pitch to Myles Dread wide open in the corner.
Prior to the game, Underwood talked about the importance of communication in order to minimize what he calls "scouting report errors" on the defensive side of the floor. He specifically mentioned Penn State's penchant for slipping screens - which can wreak havoc on a switching defense if the communication lines break down. As they do here...
For starters, Melendez and Skyy Clark don't execute a clean switch. You can see Clark call for it, but he and RJ both follow the ball. Now Pickett is clear to the rim and TSJ has to leave Dread to help. Mayer was just kind of standing there initially, but he does get low enough to cut off the baseline pass to Dread in the corner - but he had to leave Funk to do so. But now check out Coleman Hawkins. He's just kind of content to watch everything unfold. Instead he should have known to rotate over to guard Funk on the wing or Mayer should have been screaming at him to do so.
It was the only passing lane Pickett had, and yet somehow we allowed that pass with zero resistance. And again - it all started with a lapse in communication. "A quiet team is a losing team" as they say.
We lead 11-9 after another Mayer three and once more we show press. Here again, though, we don't really commit to the trap and get burned by a pass over the top. Once that pass is made, the two point men on the press have to SPRINT back to recover. Neither TSJ nor Hawkins do so which sets the wheels in motion for Penn State.
Skyy Clark has to leave Lundy on the wing to stop the ball and Mayer is way too slow to recognize and close out to prevent the drive and dunk.
That's two full court presses and we allowed a wide open three on one and a dunk on the other. Take a glance at Underwood at the end of this clip as he appears to signal call off the press. Probably a good idea.
Dain Dainja is now in the game, which dictates that we shift out of our switching defense and into drop coverage to protect against Dain getting matched up on the perimeter against a guard. Of course this is all predicated on Dainja knowing who he is supposed to guard...
Of course that was the first made three of the year for Evan Mahaffey - but if you leave guys unguarded, even guys shooting 0.0% can make shots.
So after six minutes of play, Penn State leads 14-13. 14 points on four uncontested threes and a dunk. We were shooting 5-6 from the floor - on pace to score 87 points in the game - had only turned the ball over twice...and were losing?? We would eventually take a four point lead around the 10:00 minute mark of the first half, but the lead should have been 14 by that point.
The game see-sawed back and forth for a bit, but the damage was already done. The Nittany Lions took the proverbial opening punch and returned it to sender. They had all the juice in this game and they knew it. The tipping point came with 8:00 minutes left in the half...
Mayer commits an egregious turnover on the offensive end and kind of decides he's done for the moment - while his man Myles Dread sprints to the corner (shooters can sniff out numbers in a heartbeat) and hits a wide open three to put Penn State up 26-24. I especially love Mayer making a cameo appearance in the clip as the ball is swishing through the net.
We would not lead in this game the rest of the way.