Penn State is the early Big Ten surprise, Ryne Smith's emergence and more basketball notes
For much of the non-conference portion of the basketball season, Penn State coach Ed DeChellis searched for scoring beyond his star guard Talor Battle.
Two weeks into the Big Ten season, Penn State is playing better than almost anyone expected - mainly because the Nittany Lions found those options.
Penn State is 2-2 in the league after knocking off Michigan State on Saturday, 66-62. It also has something most teams not named Purdue, Ohio State and Illinois will crave this Big Ten season - a road win after beating Indiana in the conference opener, 69-60.
“That was probably the most important game for us, and we were somehow able to win that thing,” DeChellis said.
DeChellis pointed to senior forward Jeff Brooks, who is averaging 13.7 points a game but has scored double-digits in all four Big Ten games, as a reason for the success.
Brooks had 23 points to carry Penn State against Indiana and has two straight double-doubles (15 points, 10 rebounds against Purdue and 17 points, 12 rebounds against Michigan State).
“He’s shown flashes over the years, but he’ll admit it, it wasn’t a whole lot of consistency,” DeChellis said. “He’s shooting the ball with confidence from the perimeter, and he’s driving to the basket and getting fouled.”
Not that it gets easier for Penn State. Five of the Nittany Lions’ next six games are against teams in the Top 25, including two games against Illinois and road trips to Ohio State and Purdue.
Riding The Ryne Purdue has maybe the best inside-outside combination in the nation in senior forward JaJuan Johnson and senior guard E’Twaun Moore. And that isn’t going to change.
But what Purdue needed to find was a consistent third option. It may have in junior guard Ryne Smith.
The Toledo, Ohio, native scored in double figures once before conference play. Yet since his 17-point effort in the Big Ten opener against Michigan, he’s reached double-figure scoring in each game, including 20 points at Penn State and 18 against Iowa.
“Our point guards have done a better job of looking for him and he’s done a better job of moving without the basketball,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Just got on a very good roll here and got some rhythm to his shot. ”
Smith was named co-Big Ten Player of the Week along with the prohibitive favorite to win Player of the Year in the league, Ohio State freshman forward Jared Sullinger.
Reaction to the trip During the Indiana-Northwestern game on Sunday, Indiana’s Derek Elston was whistled for an intentional foul for tripping the Wildcats’ Alex Marcotullio as he drove through the lane.
At the time, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody had choice words for Elston, according to reports.
On Monday, Carmody said he didn’t see it - although the Big Ten Network camera clearly caught the incident and the aftermath.
“I haven’t looked at it,” Carmody said. “But I will when I get off this (conference) call.”
Instead, Carmody said he watched most of the first half of the Northwestern-Indiana game when he went home Sunday night.
This and that The Chicago Tribune is reporting Northwestern coach Bill Carmody received a multi-year contract extension. Details, because it is a private school, were not disclosed. Sullinger, unsurprisingly, won Freshman of the Week honors again.