Loving Penn State basketball in the Pat Chambers era has meant embracing the fact that defeat will come frequently and, at times, furiously. It means looking for the sparks that will ignite the future, because everyone knows the present is a transitional stage. There's nothing wrong with that, and it's a patience and respect for #TrustTheProcessWest that good fans get. Tonight, the demons of the past, the change in the present, and the glimpses of the future were all on display at Rec Hall.
Let's make one thing clear: this was an ugly game. Pat Chambers acknowledged as much in his post-game press conference, but expected as much. Canisius' press coupled with Penn State's strange, consistent inability to inbound the ball was certainly a factor in what would be a 21 turnover performance for the Nittany Lions. This was a game played very well by three guys (Josh Reaves, Julian Moore, Payton Banks) and pretty poorly by the rest. It's certainly one of the ugliest games anyone has seen in recent memory, but it's another mark in the win column, and some vengeance for that Princeton game. And Penn State is not a team in any position to take a win for granted.
The traditional downsides were there, from foul trouble for Dickerson and Jack and a lack of offense from both as well, to giving up 18 offensive rebounds, to Shep's shot selection, and of course, the turnovers. But the run of play was far uglier on the floor than in the box score. Penn State allowed Canisius to push the pace on them, and paid the price in several areas. It was a game the Nittany Lions should've put away ten times before the clock expired, but never really did. Canisius was a mess everywhere except on the offensive glass, which enabled Penn State to scoop up a double-digit win. But make not mistake, this really should've been a 20-plus point win for the Lions.
You might be thinking, "I've seen this movie before," but there were some new scenes. And those scenes have legitimate high-major basketball upside. The numbers paint a prettier picture than what anyone who was paying attention saw on the court, but there were some beautiful performances. Josh Reaves throwing down thunderous dunks ignited a Rec Hall crowd that, by the end of the game, was far fuller than it seemed it would've otherwise been around 6:45. Julian Moore showed that his post game is legit, going 4-5 from the field and 6-6 from the free throw line, and his inside-out game will be vital going forward. Oh, and he did all of that in 20 minutes. Payton Banks was the man breaking the press more often than not, as Chambers said they design a fake to the point guard on the inbounds to allow a wing or forward who comfortably dribbles to break. He tossed in 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists in 30 minutes. The story of the night, though, was Reaves.
Four Factors Analysis
As mentioned above, this game looked a lot prettier on the stat sheet than it did on the floor. Penn State shot well (especially in the paint), created second chances, and got to the free throw line. Canisius' second half press forced some ugly turnovers that kept the Griffs in the game, but it never got too close for comfort. -CM
Player of the Game - Josh Reaves: 8 pts, 10 reb, 7 ast, 4 stl
Josh Reaves just put together one of the most complete games a Penn State player has put together in the Chambers era. He was hyper-active on both sides of the ball, with elite athleticism Penn State basketball has never really been known for. Reaves stuffed the stat sheet, with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals in 33 minutes. It was the type of performance you'd expect from a healthy Tim Frazier on a good night. Reaves did it as a freshman (showing that in chipping in five turnovers on a few bad long passes), and if his offense continues to perk up, watch out. If starts hitting his shots consistently, he is by far Penn State's best two-way player, and that should get everyone excited.
- Davis Zemgulis hit a three! Drink!
- Jordan Dickerson hasn't improved nearly as much as one would've hoped over the last year plus, the curse of the Penn State big man. He still looks lost on offense, often gets caught flat-footed down low, and for some reason won't extend his arms. You have the wingspan of a condor, Jordan. Use it.
- Why can't Penn State inbound the ball? It's such a strange phenomenon over the last few years, and it's hard to understand. Maybe a lack of athleticism, but it's strange.
- I understand why Pat Chambers uses his matchup zone as much as he does, but this was an interesting time to deploy it. Penn State's switching on defense was so bad at times that it didn't really matter, though.
- Penn State should play all of its home games at Rec Hall. Period. Even a 2/3rds full crowd was louder and more pumped than any in the BJC since Talor Battle graduated. Brandon Taylor acknowledged the crowd's energy in the post-game press conference.
Penn State will Return to Rec for the second time in in three days, as they take on UL-Monroe. The Warhawks are KenPom's 153rd team, one spot ahead of Penn State. Saturday's tip is at 2 p.m.