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Penn State 87, North Florida 72: Takin’ Care of Business

Lamar Stevens’ double-double led the way for the Nittany Lions in their season opening victory over the Ospreys.

NCAA Basketball: NIT-Penn State vs Mississippi State Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a thriller of an exhibition win at West Virginia, a well-packed Legion of Blue student section greeted the Nittany Lions at the Bryce Jordan Center for their first official game of the regular season against North Florida, one which saw a second NIT championship banner adorn the rafters of the BJC during a pre-game ceremony.

Perhaps the surrealness of that NIT banner raise rubbed off on PSU, as they utilized a bevy of three-point shooting (8-for-21 from downtown) and timely defense to go on a pair of runs that kept PSU ahead by low double digits for the majority of the game, ultimately leading to an 87-72 victory over the feisty Osprey.

Lamar Stevens led all scorers with 22 points and 10 rebounds, picking up precisely where he left off from last season and further asserting himself as the team’s go-to guy. Josh Reaves did the same, allotting 19 points, four assists, and four steals.

Meanwhile, the freshman duo of Myles Dread and Rasir Bolton showcased why they were so hyped upon committing to the program, as they put up 17 and 13 points, respectively. Dread and Bolton nailed a combined 6 of 11 3-pointers.

Four Factors Analysis

Shooting and getting to the free throw line (PSU had 35 trips compared to North Florida’s 25) were the difference-makers, here. North Florida misfired on their first 19 three-point shooting attempts and while they would ultimately hit five of their last eight attempts, the damage had already been done. Had they made a few earlier in the game, this would have been a much closer contest as the game seemed to waffle between low double-digit point leads for PSU.

Player Of The Game

Lamar seems to have taken the mantle from Tony Carr as the guy who wants the ball in his hands and seeks to create scoring opportunities for himself. He’s also stepped up as a rebounder in the absence of Mike Watkins, which is a welcome sight. Here’s to seeing plenty of more of that during the course of the season.

Random Observations

  • Welcome, Freshmen - Myles Dread, Rasir Bolton, and Myreon Jones all saw playing time tonight. We’ve already touched on the former two’s performance, but a shout-out also has to go to “MJ” (as Steven Jones referred to him during the radio broadcast) who had a lovely steal and layup to score his first collegiate points. The biggest concern going into this season was how PSU would replace the scoring production in the backcourt that Carr and Shep Garner provided and this group of frosh went a long way towards quieting such concerns.
  • Ain’t No Buttrick Pony - Trent Buttrick has perhaps been the most pleasant surprise of the season. He tremendous job running up and down the floor, always seemingly in position to be a menacing defensive presence for North Florida’s players as showcased by his three blocks and a steal. He also had one of the game’s best sequences where he blocked a shot and then proceeded to nail a three-pointer on the other end. It will certainly be interesting to see if he can continue to be a factor for this team going into Big Ten play. If so, PSU may surprise some folks this season.

Up Next

Penn State (1-0) hosts Jacksonville State on Monday night at the BJC. Tip-off is at 7:00 PM ET on BTN, so you’ll actually be able to watch this one on TV.