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Penn State 72, George Mason 54: A Comfortable Win on the Road

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The Nittany Lions took care of business with Tony Carr on the bench.

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

After a week off to focus on finals, Penn State returned to non-conference play short-handed. Suspended for a violation of team rules, Tony Carr had to watch this one from the bench. In his place, Nazeer Bostick slid into the starting lineup, with Shep Garner getting the start at point guard. In the early minutes is was clear that the game plan was to work through Lamar Stevens.

The team started slowly without their leading scorer, but strong defensive play kept George Mason in check while Penn State figured out how to create points. Proving their ability to win in one-on-one matchups, Watkins and Stevens helped build a 18-10 lead at the ten-minute mark.

It took some time for the team to figure things out, but in the final ten minutes of the first-half, the Nittany Lions were able to pull away from the home team. Lock-down defense helped the team loosen up on offense, and it was apparent that the Patriots didn’t have answers at either end. A 38-18 lead at the half gave this game a similar feel to the game against George Washington last week.

In the second-half it felt like the team was running in place. The defense stayed strong, but the offense was unable to develop much rhythm. Fortunately, their 20-point half-time lead was enough to keep the Patriots at bay.

Four Factors Analysis

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 67 1.32 61.4% 35.5% 15.0% 40.4%
Coppin State 0.64 36.4% 11.8% 27.0% 30.4%

Again, Penn State’s defense was the story this afternoon. They prevented George Mason from staying in the game during the first half, and ensured a Penn State victory. The team shot well, and most notably won the game at the 3-pt line shooting 6-19 compared to 0-14 for the Patriots.

Despite a significant size advantage, Penn State failed to dominate in terms of rebounding and FTs. I would’ve liked to see the team take advantage of their size and get easy opportunities at the line, but it’s hard to complain otherwise.

Player of the Game

Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins led the team through the first-half, but in the second-half it was Lamar who carried the team. Playing against an undersized George Mason team, Stevens dominated on the glass, finishing with 12 rebounds. His 23 points led all scorers, and helped pace Penn State’s offense through a sputtering second-half.

In Carr’s absence Stevens had the opportunity to step up and deliver. Seeing what he’s capable of, it’s frustrating that he still has a tendency to disappear at times and let his teammates take the lead. We’re going to need Stevens, Watkins, and Carr firing on all cylinders come January.

Random Observations

Supporting Cast - I’m not sure Tony Carr has been dominant enough to warrant calling Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens his supporting cast, but it was encouraging to see them step up in his absence.

Taking Care of Business - Good teams don’t allow games like these come down to the final minutes. So far, the team has dispatched their opponents with ease in the final stretch of their non-conference schedule, when Penn State can’t afford to lose another game.

One Nagging Issue - Penn State continued to struggle to get quality production off the bench, especially in the front court. Wheeler and Bostick contribute enough defensively to challenge Big Ten teams, but they lack the ability to score consistently. Julian Moore didn’t see the court at all, and Satchel Pierce was ineffective in his 6 minutes of playing time. We’ll see how far the starting five can carry them in conference play.

Wheeler Stealer - Jamari Wheeler added 6 steals off the bench for the Nittany Lions earning fair praise from Pat Chambers in his post-game interview. Wheeler played 27 minutes, and scored 5 points, proving that he has a central role in this team’s success.

Looking Ahead

Penn State returns to the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday, December 19th to take on Binghamton. The game starts at 7:00pm.