These late December games historically have been drags. And why wouldn't they be? The fall semester is over, the stress of finals lifted, all of your peers are at home, and the holidays are just around the corner. What normal human being wouldn't have trouble getting up for a game of shooty hoops against the New Hampshire Wildcats? Especially when that games starts at 11:00am on a Sunday morning!
But Penn State didn't seem to care when this game was played. Under Chambers' tutelage, the Attitude Club was on full display by everyone who was in a white uniform. Dives, deflections, steals, and blocks were a plenty as Penn State frustrated the Wildcats' attack all game long. The Nits were able to take advantage of their stringent defense by working their offense and converting open looks. Overall, it was this young team's most complete performance of the season as the result was never in doubt. After taking a 25-point lead to halftime, they didn't let up in the second half on their way to a 72-45 win.
Penn State's embattled frontcourt treated fans to their best play this year. Sasa Borovnjak continued his strong play of late, solidifying himself as the starter heading into conference play with 11 points and 7 rebounds in 23 minutes. Jon Graham also had a positive performance, scoring 7 points of his own to go along with 3 rebounds. And last but not least, true freshmen Donovon Jack continued to show glimpses with 6 points and 3 rebounds in 13 minutes. Combined, that's 24 points and 13 rebounds on 8-11 FGs (73%) and 8-10 from the foul line (90.9 free throw rate!). If you want to include freshman 4-man Brandon Taylor in the front court, then the production is simply that much better (10 points and 5 rebounds). It should go without saying that Pat Chambers will take that any day of the week from this group.
It would be a travesty to not mention their strong interior defense. New Hampshire's Chris Pelcher, the transfer from Iona, came in averaging 11.4 PPG with a 115 ORtg while shooting 61% on his 2's. Surely this had to be one of his worst games of his career as he finished with just 1 point, going 0-6 from the floor with 5 turnovers. Penn State had him scouted perfectly. The bigs consistently forced him to his left while the double-team was effective on nearly every one of his touches.
Not only did Pelcher struggle, but so did the entire New Hampshire team. They didn't have one player reach double-digits. For the game, they only mustered 0.69 points/possession on just 27.4% eFG% shooting. Penn State forced 15 turnovers (23.3% TO rate), thanks to 5 steals by Jermaine Marshall and 3 from Nick Colella. Obviously New Hampshire's offense isn't the Indiana Hoosier's, but this was one of Penn State's more dominating defensive performances under Chambers.
The Lions have another extended break for the holidays before facing Duquesne Saturday at home. Then the big boy games begin with the Big Ten schedule, which starts with a lovely road-trip to the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Jermaine Marshall had a very good game with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and just one turnover in addition to those 5 steals.....Ross Travis played with a sprained left knee he suffered in practice on Thursday. He only played 21 minutes but didn't seem limited by grabbing 6 rebounds....Pitt transfer guard John Johnson witnessed his first game on the bench as an official member of the team....Bill O'Brien had a kickass segment during the beginning of the broadcast.....Kevin Montminy was the fans' hero for his Big Mac-clinching 3-pointer with under a minute to go...Want more proof of Penn State's great play? Chambers' had his jacket on for the duration of the game. Not once did it come off.
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