Borovnjak picking up pace for Lions

Watching forward Sasa Borovnjak fill up the scoring column during the last two games has been an enjoyable -- if surprising -- treat for Penn State fans. It has also been part, according to Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers, of an on-court development by the big Serbian that goes well beyond game nights.

Borovnjak has more than doubled his season scoring average over the last two games.

"From the time I got here until today, an amazing transformation has occurred," Chambers said Tuesday.

Borovnjak, the 6-foot-9, 240-pounder who is playing his final season as a Nittany Lion, has improved his play, in part, by watching extra film.

Not just game film. Practice film.

"I just think I'm a visual learner," Borovnjak said. "By watching practice film, I could learn a lot and correct my mistakes, especially if I feel like I don't have a good practice. I can go home, watch film and take notes, then email Coach or an assistant coach and tell him what I think. I can write down the things I'd like to work on and didn't do well that day and then try to fix it the next practice."

Borovnjak's renewed dedication hasn't been limited to the practice floor, either.

"He lifted (weights) Friday night when we landed in Michigan," Chambers said. "That should tell you why he's finding success. He's finding success cause he's finally realized 'I've got to put the extra work in. I've got to do the little things.' He's doing the little things, and he's seeing 14, 17, double-digit scoring."

Borovnjak had only reached double figures in three games this season prior to last week's home game against Iowa. He had 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting against the Hawkeyes, then 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting in Sunday's loss at Michigan, increasing his season field-goal percentage to .528, which would be seventh-best in the Big Ten if he had enough attempts to qualify. More importantly, he looked like the third scorer -- behind D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall -- that the Nittany Lions, who visit Illinois tonight, have sorely missed this season.

"I think I just came out the last couple games I've been more aggressive with the ball down low," Borovnjak said. "I just try to find the open area on the floor when D.J. and Jermaine drive, so they can dump the ball when my man steps up and helps.

"That's something I've been working on almost every day in practice -- catch the ball in an open area when somebody's penetrating and just finishing with both hands."

Many of Borovnjak's buckets during those last two games came off of well-executed pick-and-rolls with Newbill or Marshall.

"They're so worried about D.J. and Jermaine that Sasa's open," Chambers said. "And guys are looking for him now."

Borovnjak is making the bunnies he missed earlier in the season. He has also provided Chambers with a way of alleviating some of the constant pressure on Newbill and Marshall to make plays and get the Lions into the offense every time down the floor.

"He has a very high IQ," Chambers said. "We put the corner offense in -- which is an NBA offense -- because of his skill and IQ and he can handle the ball a little bit. He makes pretty good decisions for the most part."

In recent games, the Nittany Lions have fed Borovnjak the ball between the foul line and the top of the key, leaving him with a number of options.

"It's a great offense," Borovnjak said of the new sets. "I like it because I get a lot of choices. I can hand off the ball to the guards or I can face up for a jump shot or take him off the dribble, or get a dribble handoff. We made a lot of good decisions from that and it's working so far."

Borovnjak's rebounding numbers (2.9 per game in conference play) still leave much to be desired, and he, like Penn State's other big men, has had a tough time staying out of foul trouble. But he's shooting a team-best 80 percent at the line in Big Ten games and his production was a big reason the Nittany Lions topped 70 points in back-to-back games for the first time since conference play began.

Now, the Nittany Lions want to see more.

"He's gotta keep it going," Chambers said. "By no stretch has he come full-circle."

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