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Penn State beats Georgia Tech 67-60 in a B1G/ACC Challenge Match-Up at the BJC

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The Nittany Lions win their 3rd straight game, and improve to 5-3 on the year

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Again, this Penn State team struggled defending the glass, still giving up too many offensive rebounds (16) to the other team. Fortunately, Georgia Tech was unable to take advantage of second-chance opportunities, and shot just 36% from the field. Penn State will have to get better at boxing out as a unit, because this is a team built to play smaller than their opponents (especially when we get to conference play).

Turnovers were also an issue for the Lions as they struggled to beat the zone early, and thus had 6 TOs in the first 9 minutes of play. They responded incredibly well from that point forward, only turning the ball over once in the final 11 minutes of the 1st half.

It’s still the sloppy Penn State offense that we’ve become accustomed to, seemingly forever, but there is reason to be excited about the offense. Lamar Stevens perhaps is the most emphatic player on the team when it comes to finishing around the rim, but he’s not the only one on the team who does their best work while driving the paint.

This team may benefit from driving more, and trying to get to the FT-line, rather than always looking first for a 3. Tonight they went 4-15 from beyond the arc, with Shep Garner making 3 and Josh Reaves making 1.

The team did a fantastic job of shutting down Georgia Tech’s star center Ben Lammers from the onset: he had more fouls (2) than buckets (1) in the first half. He did get more involved in the second half, finishing with 12 pts and 10 rebounds, but was limited due to foul trouble.

Reckless drives into the paint leading to turnoves, and the lack of a single point of focus through which to run the offense meant that Penn State’s offense continued to sputter throughout the 2nd half. This allowed the Yellow Jackets to hang around until the final minute.

Oddly, despite the score, this game never felt in doubt. Georgia Tech’s largest lead of the game was 5 points, and Penn State led for almost the entire second half. That allowed this game to be a little less nerve-wracking than similarly close games in the past.

Four Factors Analysis

Team Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 70 0.96 45.9% 28.9% 17.2% 24.6%
Ga. Tech - 0.86 41.7% 37.2% 24.4% 10.6%

Penn State's struggles on the offensive glass resumed after a one-game hiatus against George Washington. The team did a great job avoiding fouls, although they would have benefited from getting to the line more themselves. It was an ugly offensive game, as the score suggests, and the PPP for each team is telling.

Player of the Game: Mike Watkins - 12 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks

The Big Ten leader in blocks was at it again. #Swatkins handled his match-up against the talented junior Ben Lammers as well as we could have hoped, notching his first career double-double. He stayed out of foul trouble, and was a constant presence in the paint. He’s still getting the timing down with his teammates, but we can look forward to a lot of highlight finishes from the big-man.

Random Observations

  • Staying out of foul trouble. - The team committed only 4 personal fouls in the first half, staying out of the bonus for the entire half. This is serious progress. Even though Stevens, Watkins, and Moore were the offenders, they weren’t hampered by foul trouble which allowed them to stay on the court longer (Stevens played 16, and Watkins 12).
  • Win the games you are expected to. - This, along with grabbing one of two against Pittsburgh or St. John’s, would complete a successful non-conference schedule in my opinion. Georgia Tech was the most difficult of the team’s 4 remaining home games before hosting Northwestern, and they did well to take care of business.
  • Yearly reminder that Penn State looks good in pink (and black). - The Nittany Lions remain undefeated in their throw-back uniforms. Word is Franklin and the football team will unveil theirs on Saturday (jk).

Looking Ahead

Penn State will take on Wright State (6-1) on Saturday. The game will be played at the Bryce Jordan Center and tip-off has been moved up to 5:00pm to accommodate fans who want to watch the Big Ten Championship game later that night.