This was expected to be a close game, and a close game it was. Where Penn State had talent, Grand Canyon had experience. The Antelopes were not at all intimidated by playing this Nittany Lion squad, and showed it by keeping pace from the opening tip.
Penn State came out swinging from the start, opening up the scoring by making back to back threes. Also, unlike the previous two games, they didn’t find themselves in a hole, like they did against Albany. Save for a cold stretch to start the second half (a very cold stretch), this was the most balanced game so far this season. Every player who saw the floor in this game ended up scoring at least one field goal (Deividas Zemgulis and Isaiah Washington are both out with injury).
At some point, the game turned into a three point contest. Penn State couldn’t find a way to stop Joshua Braun, who made five threes on the day. The Lions didn’t help themselves by fouling early and often, putting Grand Canyon in the bonus with a little over 13 minutes left in the first half. Payton Banks was tagged with two fouls in the first two minutes of the game, and had to sit for the majority of the first half.
Something that was very notable and very different from the first game was Penn State’s willingness and ability to share the ball. The steady, yet noticeable improvement is starting to show on the floor, and it’s only the third game. As the team continues to share time on the floor, they should continue to clean up the little things (the team had 11 turnovers on the day), which will lead to even better play.
Four Factors Analysis
There’s no way around it. Penn State is getting killed on the glass so far this season, and tonight was no different. The Lions have been outrebounded in all three games so far this season. The good news is that Penn State limited its turnovers and had a substantial eFG% difference to make up for the missed opportunities. The Lions will really need to shore up the fouling situation, as a team with a better FT rate will eat the Penn State alive in the future.
Player of the Game: Shep Garner; 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists.
It appears Garner’s funk has now been shaken. He played a pretty good game that was only stained by his two late turnovers. The balance on the team has lowered his point production somewhat, but the reality of the matter here is that he doesn’t need to carry the team anymore. Honorable mention goes to Lamar Stevens, who scored 19 points in the game.
1) These kids are running. - Pat Chambers wasn’t playing when he said he wanted 80 points a game. This is the third straight game where the lions have scored more than 80 points.
2) Gotta stop fouling. - Most of the fouls, luckily enough, did not come against the big men. However, putting a team in the bonus with 13 minutes left in a half is still too dangerous. That will come back to bite the Lions if they don’t clean it up.
3) The freshmen are adjusting. - They didn’t stuff the stat sheet like they did against Duquesne, but you can see that the freshmen are starting to get more comfortable with the speed of the game.
4) Bostick Sighting. - Rumor had it that Nazeer Bostick was going to redshirt this season, but with both Josh Reaves and Isaiah Washington’s injuries, maybe Chambers felt like he couldn’t afford to do so. Bostick had himself a decent game, too.
5) We can has good Moore? - Julian Moore doesn’t get a pass just yet, but this was his best game since maybe the middle of last season. He seldom made any mistakes (none off the top of my head), stuffed the ball on rebounds, and was all around serviceable. Most importantly, he did not get into foul trouble. This is the Julian Moore we need to see the rest of the way.
Penn State travels to Connecticut to face the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday. This will be the stiffest test of the season for the Nittany Lions, as Duke is ranked number one in the nation. Game is scheduled for 12:30 PM and again will be on ESPN3.