For the past eight days, the Penn State players and coaching staff had the epic collapse against Princeton at Rec Hall following them around, eating at them like vultures on a rotting carcass in the desert. Surely, a matchup with a 3-7 Mount St. Mary's squad right before the Christmas break and the beginning of the brutal Big Ten slate was just the antidote they needed....
Of course, this is Penn State basketball that we're talking about, which means that the team picked up where it left off from its late-second half performance against Princeton, allowing an MSM squad that averaged 31% from three-point range on the season to knock down 8-of-12 attempts in the first half via guards Byron Ashe and Sam Prescott, almost all of them completely uncontested. Furthermore, PSU failed to score a single point outside the paint or at the free throw line in the first half. This, coupled with a shaky ability to break MSM's full court press, allowed The Mount to build up a 46-37 halftime lead. PSU finally got its act together in the second half, as MSM's hot three-point shooting cooled off, the defense got a few key stops, and the newly eligible John Johnson imposed his athletic will to the tune of a team-high 20 points. In addition to Johnson, DJ Newbill (18), Tim Frazier (15), Ross Travis (14) and Brandon Taylor (10) also reached double figures in scoring.
The outcome of the game was very much in doubt coming out of the under-four minute media timeout, as MSM's Julian Norfleet had a chance to complete an old-fashioned three-point play and give his team the lead once again, after tying the game at 80 while being fouled on a layup. Norfleet however, missed the free throw, and PSU would go on to outscore MSM 12-2 in the game's final 3:56 to pull out the 92-82 victory.
Four Factors Analysis
|Mount St. Mary's||-||1.10||63.0%||23.3%||21.5%||40.7%|
As you'd expect from such a high-scoring game, both teams were well over 1.0 for PPP. The difference-makers in this one were turnovers (MSM had 16 to PSU's 10) and free-throw shooting (MSM was a mere 14-for-22, and had some ill-timed misses at the line, while PSU nailed 24-of-30 from the charity stripe). Still, this type of overall defensive performance has to leave you concerned about how ugly it could get against the top half of the Big Ten.
Player Of The Game
John Johnson, of course. Not since Glenn Sekunda has an incoming transfer provided such an immediate shot in the arm for PSU from a pure scoring perspective. While his defense could use some work, his athleticism and shooting abilities provided another guard for MSM to worry about, which opened things up for just about everybody else.
- 2 Newcomers, 1 Sequence - As raw as Jordan Dickerson looked (a 7-footer getting posted up by a 6'7" guy is never a good sign), he and Johnson teamed up for a solid block-to-layup sequence in the first half. Hopefully, there's more where that came from....
- Holy Metaphors, Batman! - BTN's analyst opposite of Shon Morris dropped numerous historical and cultural references during the course of the broadcast. Perhaps the most notable being when he compared MSM's interior defense to the French during World War II. Thankfully, things didn't descend towards Hitler references.
- Paging Allen Roberts - The key sixth man has been noticeably absent from the box score over these past two games. After going scoreless against Princeton, he only managed 5 points and once again, failed to hit a three-pointer (his specialty). Hopefully, this is only a temporary slump for him.
Penn State has nine days to enjoy Christmas and prepare for a visit from Michigan State at the BJC on New Year's Eve to open up the Big Ten slate. If PSU somehow, some way, figures out how to pull off the upset, it would be a hell of a way to close out 2013 and would likely shift momentum to the polar opposite of the spectrum from where it was following the Princeton game.