Penn State overcame a very slow start to this one, to overpower the Bears of Morgan State. Although it took the team longer to put the nail in the coffin than you would like, at least they got there. They certainly didn't do it alone though, as Morgan State played a very poor game, for their part.
DJ Newbill mostly played like the player that Penn State needs him to be to succeed this season. He created shots for himself, he drew defenders, and played solid defense. Aside from Newbill, Geno Thorpe and Shep Garner played extremely well. Garner showed the ability to run the point effectively, showing off a more impressive shooting touch than many of us were expecting. Geno was his usual Geno self, driving to the hoop, slamming one home on a breakaway, and playing with a defense prowess that would make Gary Payton proud. Altogether, the three guards accounted for 42 of Penn State's total points.
Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor both had inconsistent and somewhat disappointing nights. Travis was his usual rebounding-centric self, but failed to show much improvement on the offensive end. Taylor played a different kind of game than we're used to seeing from him, which may have been due to his own self-assessment of his game. After missed a few threes early on, he became more of an inside player, getting the bulk of his opportunities in the paint, which showed up in his rebounding as well (he had 9 on the night).
The final result was a win, but the Nittany Lions have plenty to work on. The 18 total turnovers will be a point of emphasis for Pat Chambers and the staff this week, as will the slow start. All in all though, considering it was the first game of the season, things were okay for Penn State.
Four Factors Analysis
The high number of turnovers showed up big time in the statistical breakdown for both teams, as that number is way too high for a Penn State team hoping to make noise this season. The Lions did to a good job of getting to the line, although they probably committed more fouls than Chambers would have liked, to go along with that. Both teams left somehting to be desired on the offensive end, although at least Penn State's offense looked like a team, whereas Morgan State looked more like five strangers playing pick up for parts of the game.
Player of the Game- Shep Garner
Garner certainly didn't look like a freshman playing in his first college game. He did everything you could have asked of him in the game. He showed that he has the quickness to drive to the hoop, converting on a few beautiful lay-ins in traffic. He drained a pair of three point shots. He channeled his inner Tim Frazier, and drove into the paint before kicking it out to open shooters on the arc. He was extremely effective all night, and was even able to stay under his predicted number of turnovers, with just 3. He may have only had two assists on the stat sheet, but with the way he was dishing the ball around tonight, don't be surprised to see him be a leader in that area. Not to mention the great defense he played. Obviously DJ Newbill is the key to this team, but when Shep and Geno are guarding the three point line, offenses won't have much room to breathe.
It was a fantastic first showing by the potential point guard of the future.
- Morgan State is not very good. Between the terrible shots, the numerous walks, and the centers that looked like defensive tackles who got on the wrong team bus, there was a lot wrong with the Bears. Penn State should have been able to roll that squad, and pull away early in the second half. These are the types of games that the Nittany Lions need to show a killer instinct in, because they'll need to be able to take advantage of those openings in their conference schedule.
- Not a ton has changed yet with the known commodities on Penn State's roster. Although he started slowly, DJ Newbill is still one of the best offensive threats in the Big Ten. Donovan Jack has potential, but can't not foul. John Johnson is Penn State's version of JR Smith, although he did seem slightly more inclined to pass the ball today. Jordan Dickerson is tall and can do tall person things like block shots and dunk. Geno Thorpe is a defensive wizard. Ross Travis is an excellent rebounder who has trouble with being a consistent offensive presence. Known knowns.
- Playing time in the game was not quite what I imagined it would be. Julian Moore got a lot of run time in the first half, notably during the hot streak. Brandon Taylor spent a lot more time on the bench than I envisioned. Chambers went with a lot of smaller lineups, and three guard looks. Devin Foster did not make an appearance. I'm not complaining about the lineups that I saw, but they were interesting.
Next up, the Nittany Lions will take on Fordham, at 5:00 PM on Sunday, November 16th, in the Bryce Jordan Center. As I write this, Fordham leads NYIT at halftime by a comfortable margin, so it will be a clash between 1-0 teams. Coming off of a rough 10-21 season, Penn State should be able to handle business again on Sunday, but it is Penn State, so anything is possible. Get out to the BJC if you can to support the team!