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Penn State 76, Jacksonville State 61

It may not have been perfect, but it was a win at home.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Final-Penn State vs Utah Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t as easy as some people would have liked it, but Pat Chambers collected his second win of the season. In a game that was competitive throughout, the Lions got contributions from eight players. When Mike Watkins and Satchel Pierce return, the team will have a tremendous amount of depth.

Jason Burnell hit the first shot of the game, a three-pointer, and added a field goal for a quick 5-2 Jacksonville State lead. Lamar Stevens answered with a pair of baskets and two free throws and the Lions were up 8-5. Burnell hit a basket and free throw to tie it soon after.

Josh Reaves picked up his second foul very early and had to go to the bench at the first timeout four minutes into the game. He would not return until the second half. Rasir Bolton and Trent Buttrick were first off the bench for Pat Chambers, entering for Reaves and John Harrar.

Myreon Jones entered the game at guard for Penn State and missed his first four shots. Fortunately for him, Harrar, an offensive rebound machine, was able to grab three of the misses. It’s clear that the team wants to get Jones going, but the freshman is 1-12 from the field this season. The Lions trailed 13-12 at the under-12 minute break.

Trent Buttrick made two consecutive offensive rebounds and then dove to the floor to keep the ball alive on his on his own miss on the next possession. Lamar Stevens hit the floor as well to retrieve the ball.

The hustle play resulted in a Rasir Bolton 3-pointer. On the next trip down the floor, Buttrick hit a three to tie the game at 20.

Bolton hit another three to give the Lions a 25-22 lead with five minutes before halftime. Lamar Stevens added a deep ball from a few feet behind the arc on the next trip down the floor then Bolton drove through the lane for two, forcing Jacksonville State to call timeout to try to stop the run, down 30-24.

Myles Dread hit a 3-pointer on the final Penn State possession to give the team a 37-32 lead at the half. Jacksonville State tied the game at 39 two minutes into the second half.

Josh Reaves hit a three to break the tie and then he and Jamari Wheeler combined on a trap, forcing a timeout call to avoid a turnover with 15:56 to play. Myles Dread hit two baskets in a row to give Penn State a 49-43 advantage.

Lamar Stevens hit a three to extend the lead to seven a couple of minutes later. He added a free throw the next time down the court, on a play where he drew the fourth foul on Jason Burnell. Burnell went to the bench with 12 points. Stevens got the hoop and the harm, completing a three-point play on the next possession to stretch the lead to 11 with 8:24 to play.

John Harrar got an offensive rebound and put-back to get the lead back to 8 after it was cut down by a Jacksonville State rally. Josh Reaves hit a 3-pointer to get the lead out to 11 with three minutes to play.

Jacksonville State continued to play hard, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap.

Four Factor Analysis

The Lions didn’t exactly shoot the lights out but it was able to get the win. Offensive rebounds were clutch, allowing the team to get second-chance points after their missed shots.

Player of the Game

Rasir Bolton played a heck of a game and received consideration, scoring 25 points, but Lamar Stevens was the best player on the court tonight. He was also the only player on either team to stay on the court for the full 40 minutes, not getting a single breather on the bench.

His statistics are nice, but he also got the points when the team needed them. His ability to get high-percentage shots, and to get to the line, is an asset that could help avoid scoring droughts. Stevens added 2 steals and 3 assists to his stat sheet.

Random Observations

  • The Penn State defense is stacked with talented players. With Mike Watkins out for now, Trent Buttrick is seeing more playing time at center. Buttrick’s hustle is reminiscent to the days when Nick Colella and Kevin Montminy were diving from behind to try to make a steal. If Buttrick and other players can continue to bring intense defense off the bench, opposing teams will have a long night.
  • The three freshmen guards all look like they have been playing for a couple of years. While Bolton and Dread are producing, Myreon Jones looks like he is going to be a good player once he settles down. Dread is a scorer and even when he isn’t having a great night, his 6-foot-4 frame is helpful on the defensive end of the court. Dread shot 3 for 12 but had some timely shots, and added 5 rebounds and an assist to his 7 points.
  • Offensive rebounds were a big part of Penn State’s success on the night. While Jacksonville State does not have the height that some of the opponents on the schedule will have, hustle can make up for that. If the Lions continue to work hard on the boards, it will be able to overcome some of its disadvantages.

Up Next

Penn State will travel to Chicago to take on Depaul on Thursday night at 9 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.