Penn State (8-5) came out with a purpose to start the game. This was a match-up that favored the Lions, playing at home in the final non-conference game of the season. It didn’t take long to notice that Pat Chambers’ squad was the more athletic team.
Lamar Stevens took the ball inside and got fouled on the first possession. He hit both foul shots. Josh Reaves stole the ball on the ensuing Morgan State possession and finished a layup. The next time down the court Shep Garner hit a three-pointer. It was the fastest seven-point lead in recent memory for the Lions. With just 55 seconds off the clock, Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman was forced to call time out.
Penn State dominated the action for the next few minutes but after allowing a third three-pointer, Pat Chambers called timeout to talk to his team. Each team came out hot from behind the arc, with PSU hitting 4 of its first 6 and MSU sinking 3 of 5. Morgan State seemingly only had that going for them. After the heart-to-heart talk Penn State tightened up the perimeter defense.
The intensity level wasn’t nearly as high as it could have been, but the Lions were able to maintain a lead of roughly ten points for the first ten minutes of the opening half. The Lions became much more efficient toward the latter part of the frame and as a result the lead slowly began to stretch, reaching 34-19 with just under 6 minutes remaining.
Just a couple of minutes later, following a series of tough defensive stops by the Lions, the score was 40-19. Penn State used its athletic ability to force bad shots and errant passes and was able to finish on the offensive end. It was the second game in a row that Penn State was able to gain a lead of more than 20 points in the first half. Morgan State missed 7 consecutive shots, going scoreless for nearly 6 minutes in this stretch.
The score at the half was Penn State 49, Morgan State 29.
The second half was more of the same. Josh Reaves played intense defense all night and in the early part of the final half he was all over the place. Midway through the final half the Lions were coasting with a 25-point lead. Five minutes later the lead was 37 points for Penn State. At this point the teams emptied their benches.
Grant Hazle, a 6’5” freshman forward from Texas, scored for the first time as a Nittany Lion. He was unable to contain his joy as he ran up the court afterward, wearing a smile that wrapped around 3⁄4 of his face. On the final possession of the game Penn State tried to get the ball to Alex Zhao, the only player not to score in the game to the team. Zhao had the ball on the wing with 20 seconds left to play but passed up a three point attempt. He never got the ball back, although the team was trying to set him up.
The game ended with a lopsided 96-55 score.
Four Factors Analysis
Penn State dominated in all facets of the game. The rebounding advantage was the most glaring and it appeared that the Lions were more interested at gaining the loose ball. As fast as the game was played, from end to end, it was nice to see the Lions keep their turnovers down, having just 8 while forcing 17. The PPP was very nice for the Lions but not so much for Morgan State.
Player of the Game: Josh Reaves (6 pts, 4 rebs, 1 blk, 6 asst, 4 stls)
Reaves was unstoppable. He filled out the stat sheet, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. There were times during the game that his pressing stymied the Morgan State team, forcing turnovers and one ten-second violation. While other players had better scoring statistics than Reaves did, it is hard to argue that he wasn’t the most dominant player on the court today.
Reaves seems to have found his groove after missing time early in the season.
- Julian Moore got playing time early and often. He initially missed a layup but was able to get comfortable after that. He had a pair of free throws and a dunk in the first half while playing 9 minutes. Moore finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in 18 minutes played. Hopefully this will give him some confidence and allow him to find a way to contribute productively for the team.
- The rotation of players for Penn State was once thought to be 10 strong. It appears that the primary group is 8 players deep. Washington, Bostick and Zemgulis may still provide support at times, but it appears that they have fallen out of the rotation. That leaves Banks, who has been hot and could just as easily be a starter, and Samuel, as the primary guards off the bench. Samuel has played well and the team would be fine if he were forced to start. Moore is the only low-post backup on the team, and PSU really needs him to play the way he did tonight. He may not get the same results, but if he can play fast and confidently, he may yet be able to add productive depth behind Watkins.
- Lamar Stevens looked very comfortable. He scored the first couple of points on the night and was consistent throughout. Stevens has displayed what is expected out of a young, talented player. He has shown his upside, but has also had times where he appears to be searching for his game. Tonight he asserted himself and the results were great. He had 20 points and 8 rebounds in 23 minutes.
The Lions will have six days to enjoy Christmas before it begins Big Ten conference play. Next Tuesday Pat Chambers’ squad will host Northwestern at 3 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2. Follow along in the open thread if you are not able to watch the afternoon game. That’s a good way to kill the final couple hours of your workday!