Sports & Leisure Column
Written by Nathan Mattise
I was on a Lackawanna League winning freshman team and I watched (SU / Scranton icon) Gerry McNamara from the sidelines for a year in high school – that’s the extent of my first hand basketball experience. With that on my resume, I had 12 points in a 46 to 34 win for my intramural team last week. If I pulled those stats two nights later, I could’ve been the high scorer in a Division I, major conference basketball game featuring a Top 25 team. It doesn’t take John Wooden or John Thompson Jr. to see that something abnormally bad happened.
The Penn State men’s hoops team defeated the 16th ranked Illinois Fighting Illini 38-33 just one week ago. This naturally lends itself to the “defensive stuggle” storyline where analysts can proclaim how tough the Big Ten is. Maybe there is some validity to this but consider the following:
- ESPN Research shows this was the fewest points scored by Penn State since 1952 and the fewest by Illinois since 1947. Not even the two head coaches are old enough to have lived through that.
- Talor Battle (PSU) led all scorers with 11 points. Two Illinois players led their team with 7 (did I mention I scored 12 against a vaunted Showtime defense just two nights earlier?).
- The game featured more total minutes (40) than either team had points. They scored less than a point per minute and you get at least 2 points for everything besides free throws (which the teams shot a combined 9 for 11 on).
- The teams combined to shoot under 30 percent for the game (FYI: 2 out of 3 ain’t bad but less than 1 out of 3 is quite bad).
Clearly the game speaks for itself but (because sports are great for stat nerds) here’s a bit of context to help understand this:
- Amare Stoudemire scored more points than either team did (42) and he played against professionals (if you can call the Clippers that). His team also scored more points in the fourth quarter (41) than either team did in the entire game (the Lakers also outscored both teams with their 39 point fourth quarter). AND his team scored more points in the second half (34+41=75) than both teams did in the entire game (38+33=71).
- Two NBA players besides Amare (D. Wade with 37 and C. Paul with 36) were within one basket of outscoring the victorious Nittany Lions. Six more NBA players (S. Telfair 30, K. Heinrich 31, R. Jefferson 32, K. Martin 32, A. Thornton 33 and K. Bryant 30) were within one basket of outscoring Illinois and one college player was too (Eric Maynor  at VCU is quite good).
The bottom line is both of these teams will somehow finish with 20+ wins and make the tournament this year. Everyone has a bad day I guess – I’m just not sure I’ll tune in to see if they have a good one next week.
(Links today from ESPN.com, The Centre Times Daily, Yahoo Sports and Wikipedia.)