Final: Penn St 73, Drexel 68
Player of the Game: Tavon Allen
Key to the game: Sharing the Ball
Key to the game: Sharing the Ball
Next Game: Sunday December 28 vs Iona @ the DAC
Drexel bigs took only _(14)_ of the teams shots, Tavon struggled from the field so while he scored __(15)__ points he took__(10)__ shots to get there. Officiating wasn't great but didn't effect the outcome. Bru totally blew it by letting Brandon Taylor shoot in the first half and by not going to the four guard lineup.
The mad libs above was fun this time. It was fun because while yes, the bigs should have gotten more touches, Bru didn't blow this game. Tavon took better shots this game. This game wasn't as close as it looks in the final box, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't some good takeaways as we creep along towards conference play.
First the negative: The pregame post mentioned how tough of a matchup Brandon Taylor would be and how DU always struggles to cover bigs on the perimeter. In case anyone was worried that Bru reads this blog, he closed the case on that by allowing Taylor free reign in the first half as Bru and the Gang watched him scored 14 points including 4/6 shooting from behind the arc. At halftime, adjustments were made and Taylor went scoreless in the second half, with just 3 three point attempts. If that adjustment was made going into the game or during the first half, this game may have had a different outcome, and yes, you could see it coming, especially since it was in writing right here.
The big matchup that never panned out was Lee vs Newbill. Newbill's line looks good, but he only hit 5 field goals. Lee could learn a bit watching Newbill on tape as DJ made his money from the foul line in this one. Lee on the other hand was kept quiet as Pat Chambers kept switching defenses on him. The one thing that is discouraging is the push out of the locker room in the beginning of the second half that led to Lee throwing up multiple blocked shots. If a 6'6" guy is having 3 pointers blocked, he wasn't open. DU was forcing the ball and trying to get him involved and that plan backfired badly and led to PSU running away with the lead. Damion has to find a better way to use his teamates (again, passing to the bigs is a problem with this squad) at times like those.
The last negative is a bit of the elephant in the room and will be expanded upon with a later post, but Rodney Williams hasn't been living up to expectations. Admittedly, it must be difficult and frustrating when you have his kind of ability and are put in a position to just watch your guards play offense instead of being involved. At the same time, he hasn't been putting the ball in the bucket this year when he does get opportunities and that's a problem. Whether this is a "shooters gotta shoot" problem and the issue is that the coaches haven't involved him enough, or whether this is a talent problem we just don't know, but his hands look good and the smart money would seem to be on his lack of involvement being a problem.
The good news was really good. For the first time this season Drexel had a better rebounding percentage and less turnovers than their opponent. While DU spotted the Nittany Lions 10 early points off of turnovers, the remainder of the game was fairly sound. Penn State had to earn this win and they did so by getting to the line (an issue for DU) and shooting the ball really well. While the score was pretty lopsided at times it was nice to see a Drexel opponent need to win a game rather than Drexel giving it to them. That progress is significant.
While speaking of progress one must also speak of Sammy Mojica's 14 points on 10 shots. The fact that he took 10 shots is the story there. Mojica has ability, and in the past when Bru has chosen not to use guys with ability it was usually an issue with the players work ethic. I can't speak towards Sammy, but it's something worth keeping an ear out for if you're a DU fan, because if he figures things out it looks like he could add a nice touch to the offense. Related: DU had 4 players who scored double figures this game. That may have taken some pressure off of Tavon which led to Allen's (by far) best line of the season. He took open shots, he took only 10 shots, and he still led the team in scoring. That could be huge if it's the start of a trend, so keep your fingers crossed.
Defensively, Drexel got back into this game by applying pressure. While the bench isn't deep right now, this roster is the most athletic that Bru has had in years and maybe ever at DU. They should have pressed against Buffalo, but it seems clear that this team isn't hurt, and is possibly helped by playing uptempo. The fact is, as bad as Bru's offense is year after year, this team needs easy baskets to survive, and pressure and uptempo games help out with that. In Saturday's game, they almost wiped out a 20 point deficit in the blink of an eye with a combination of pressure and hitting quick, open looks. It's well past time to see this become a part of the DU repertoire.
One last note: Austin Williams was back and dressed for play, well ahead of when he was projected to return. A very welcome sign for him, the team and the fans.
We'll be back with an Iona pregame after Christmas, and then some pre-conference season analysis, including the annual "Beers of the CAA" league preview. Thanks again for reading, and have a happy and joyous holiday.