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Tune-Up Complete: Penn State 79, Columbia 65

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No Tony Carr or Josh Reaves? No problem!

NCAA Basketball: Columbia at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With two key starters in Tony Carr and Josh Reaves being held out of the game to get to 100% health before the Legends Classic, the Nittany Lions would end up testing the quality of their bench against Columbia by starting Nazeer Bostick and Julian Moore with the usual suspects of Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins, and Shep Garner.

Things started off a tad slow as Columbia opened up a 5-0 lead in the first minute. Nazeer Bostick got the crowd excited when he threw this dunk down after missing a three-pointer.

Thanks to a flurry of threes from SH3P, who would go on to score 18 points in the first half, the Nittany Lions swiftly went on to score 14 unanswered points after trailing 8-7 to take a 21-8 lead at the halfway mark of the first half. Here’s a look at Garner’s stroke and also the protective mask that he wore during the game.

The push was aided in large part by holding Columbia to just 13% shooting from the floor and forcing ten turnovers. It sure felt like this game was going to be over before halftime and we would all enjoy a comfortable second half. Without warning though, a switch went on for Columbia, as they suddenly couldn’t miss from downtown and PSU couldn’t stop turning the ball over. Before anyone knew it, this was a ball game at halftime with the Nittany Lions leading by just three points, 38-35.

The second half saw Columbia with a couple of opportunities to further cut into their deficit, but a missed layup on a steal that would’ve cut the PSU lead down to one would end up becoming the closest those other Lions would get to improbably reclaiming the lead. Shep continued to conjure up that mask magic by picking up where he left off scoring-wise, but it was Watkins who, after being held scoreless in the first half, asserted his will in the paint and scored 11 points to go with his 12 rebounds and five blocks. Here’s two of his points, with a celebration afterwards.

Stevens, Satchel Pierce, and Bostick would also hit double figures scoring with 11 points each, as PSU would ultimately keep Columbia at bay, reaching a lead as high as 19 points before ultimately closing out with a 79-65 win and preserving an undefeated record as they prepare for a step up in the quality of opponent starting on Monday (presumably, with a healthy Carr and Reaves in tow).

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 76 1.14 54.9% 25.0% 14.5% 45.9%
Texas A&M 1.29 65.5% 41.7% 22.4% 52.7%

Turnovers, offensive rebounding, and free throws were the difference makers in this one. PSU forced 20 turnovers on Columbia, made ten more attempts at the free throw line (18-for-22 compared to Columbia’s 11-for-12), and grabbed 14 offensive boards. In a game where both teams ultimately shot around the same (PSU 41%, Columbia 40%), those other categories become magnified in a double-digit win like tonight’s.

Player of the Game

Shep Garner (26 points, 10-for-18 shooting, 5-for-11 3-point shooting, 3 steals) - Maybe Shep should just wear that mask for the rest of the season, because he sure seemed to be channeling his inner Rip Hamilton. After nailing some improbable shots late in the game against Montana to hold off a pesky Grizzlies squad, Shep seemed to pick up where he left off. This is a very positive development, considering the fact that he recently went scoreless against Fairleigh Dickinson. Let’s hope that FDU goose egg was an aberration and games like tonight’s are closer to the norm for him.

Random Observations

  • Seeing Pierce and Bostick step up and provide double-figure scoring, as well as some defensive prowess was a comforting reminder that this may be the deepest team Pat Chambers has fielded in his Penn State tenure. In years past, PSU would’ve barely eked out a win or perhaps even lost a game like this without two starters in the lineup. This will also do wonders for Chambers’ confidence in terms of not hesitating to go deep into his bench when Carr and Reaves are back.
  • Following up on Pierce: I made a comment in our first roundtable earlier this week that Watkins was the only post player capable of truly producing for PSU, and I was glad to see Satchel prove me wrong.

BONUS: Press Conference Tidbits

Up Next

The Nittany Lions (4-0) will take on Pitt this coming Monday (November 20th) in their first of two games in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, NY. That game can be seen at 9:30 PM ET on ESPN3.