In college basketball, "It's only an exhibition game" is usually a phrase uttered to temper expectations following a blow out in a throw-away preseason game. For Penn State, it carries a more ominous tone heading into its season opener against Lehigh on Friday night.
The Nittany Lions defeated the East Stroudsburg Warriors 66-52 on Saturday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center in their first and only exhibition game this season. In a tilt that was tight until about the final ten minutes, the Lions looked shaky in many areas, and hardly looked inspiring ahead of their first "real" game.
Talor Battle led Penn State with 16 points. Forward Billy Oliver and guard Tim Frazier followed with 10 each and heralded freshman Taran Buie added nine in his blue-and-white debut to go along with seven rebounds. The senior trio of David Jackson, Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks contributed a combined 18 points.
And so it begins for a Penn State team hoping to shake the bad memories of an 11-20 finish in 2009-2010...
- Billy Oliver really mixed it up in his 18 minutes, not only scoring a surprising 10 points, but hitting a couple of three pointers, looking positively Kevin Pittsnoglish. Penn State definitely needs to replace some scoring on the perimeter following the departure of Chris Babb, so if Oliver can regularly step up and deliver a trey or two every once and a while it'll be a nice boost for the offense.
- Talor Battle didn't get hurt.
- The defense was pretty solid. In addition to holding the Warrors to 52 points, the Lions generated 19 turnovers...which would have been even better if they didn't cough it up 16 times themselves.
- Ten offensive rebounds is a nice total, although Penn State was hardly inspiring on the glass overall, beating out East Stroudsburg 40-34.
- Tim Frazier ran into some foul trouble, but his 10 points weren't cheap and he looked like one of the few Penn State players remotely interested in attacking the basket.
- Taran Buie turned the ball over three times almost immediately after entering the game early in the first half.
- Jeff Brooks escaped total goat status by adding six late points, but took only three shots from the field in 22 minutes. Of course, it's only an exhibition game, so it's hard to expect the senior to agressively attack the basket too much, but it would have been nice to see him mix it up inside a little more.
- The offense was just too sloppy at times. Sixteen turnovers will get this team beat regulalry in Big Ten play. Of course, say it with me, it's just an exhibition game, but Penn State needs to tidy up fast, or it'll be in a dog fight Friday night.
- Like the football team, the basketballers made things more interesting than they had to be by allowing East Stroudsburg to take a lead into halftime. The Lions won the second half 41-26, which is about what you'd expect, but the first half seemed like a sleep walk. Good thing the players woke up.
- Penn State was 11-19 from the free throw line. Battle was 4-7 and Jones was 2-4. Free throw shooting doomed Penn State on multiple occasions last season, and this is hardly the start they were looking for in that department.
- Several "We Are...Penn State!" cheers turned into "We Are...ESU!" cheers thanks to a large contingent of East Stroudsburg fans and a seemingly apathetic Penn State crowd.
- Lady Gaga songs dominated timeout entertainment.
In Scores of Better Games
- The Lady Lions played an exhibition game themselves on Sunday and pasted Gannon 91-58. Alex Bently and Mia Nickson led Penn State with 18 points each. McDonald's All-American recruit Maggie Lucas has 14.
- Ali Schaefer's goal with :17 left in the second overtime gave the women's soccer team a 1-0 win over Michigan on Sunday, clinching the team's 13th consecutive Big Ten title.