clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Alabama 73, Penn State 64: Basketball is a Game of Runs

Depending on when you tuned in, you may have expected a blowout win for either side

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Alabama Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State was in command early, despite early foul trouble for Mike Watkins. A 24-0 run midway through the first half enabled Alabama to erase a 14-point deficit and take a six point lead into halftime. In the second half the Crimson Tide got rolling on offense, dominant inside, and making a high-rate of their three point attempts.

Both teams flirted with running away with this one, but after double-digit leads for both sides, we were back in a dead heat with 8 minutes remaining as PSU took a one point lead into the under-8 media timeout. Buttrick and Myreon Jones led the charge for the comeback. Watkins was effective when on the court, but his fourth personal foul opened up the interior for Dante Hall (17 points). Alabama was able to take control over the final 5 minutes of the game, and while Penn State hung close, they weren’t able to break through and steal this one on the road.

Mike Watkins picked up his first foul 31 seconds into the game, and was riddled by foul trouble all night. He looked good: knocking down a beautiful turnaround jumper, and adding a block… but then he picked up his second foul prior to the first media timeout. Three pointers by Dread and Bolton built a 10-7 lead early for the Nittany Lions. Off the bench, Trent Buttrick started off hot and never cooled down, adding his own 5-point run in the midst of a 10-0 run for the team to put Penn State up 20-9, forcing an Avery Jones timeout. The lead would grow to 14-points, and then came the drought.

About midway through the first half Penn State went cold on offense, a stretch that lasted over seven minutes. A 24-0 run for Alabama put them up by double-digits, before Mike Watkins came off the bench for Penn State to end they dry spell. The Nittany Lions trailed by six at the half.

To begin the second half Alabama remained in control of the game. Back-to-back threes, followed by Watkins’ third personal foul, gave the Crimson Tide a 12-point lead and a chance to break the game wide open. Chambers sensed this, and put two of tonight’s best players back in: Trent Buttrick and Mike Watkins. Immediately, Watkins added a touch layup and a defensive board which led to a Buttrick 3. Watkins picked up his fourth foul with 11:12 remaining, setting the stage for Penn State’s ultimate downfall. With Watkins on the bench, it was Myreon Jones, along with Buttrick, Reaves and Stevens who led the charge to close the gap and give Penn State a lead at the under-8 timeout.

Unfortunately, with Watkins on the bench, Alabama was able to impose their will in the paint. Donte Hall finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds (4 offensive rebounds). Missed 3s for Penn State allowed Alabama to build a lead yet again, only this one they would hold on to.

Four Factors Analysis

It’s pretty clear where this game was won, but hey, we all wanted a better free throw shooting percentage, right? Penn State was impressive on the offensive glass against a strong rebounding team, but part of that is because they missed so many shots. Myles Dread hit all 5-FTs for the team tonight, but other players need to start to make an effort to get to the line.

Player of the Game

Buttrick was outstanding tonight. He went 5-5 from the field, showcasing his dribble-drive ability, and hit 3-3 from 3-pt range. It will be interesting to see if he usurps Harrar’s role, or find himself in the starting lineup for an scoring-starved team. I’m also fairly certain he had a steal that didn’t show up in the box score.

Final Thought

This game may feel like more of the same with the extended scoring drought and foul trouble to key players, but their are some positive takeaways that have been less common features of Pat Chambers tenure. Two players, Myreon Jones and Trent Buttrick scored double-digits off the bench. The depth of this team enabled them to go toe-to-toe with a quality opponent on the road, when it appeared Rasir Bolton just didn’t have it in him. The ability to mix-and-match lineups will continue to grow throughout the season, and it allows Chambers to tailor his lineup based on what his opponents’ weaknesses are.

Random Observations

Living and Dying by the Three - According to SECN Announcers, Penn State has hit 13 more 3s than at this point in the season last year. Their reliance on perimeter scoring was evident throughout their scoring first-half drought when shots weren’t falling and no one could score inside.

Free Buttrick – Trent isn’t the rim protector that Watkins is, or the rebounder that John Harrar is, but his versatility and scoring ability should lead to a playtime increase. He’s shown flashes of being a difficult to guard player who can cover three positions, and tonight he was crucial to keep the offense affloat.

Watkins is close - Limited again due to foul trouble, Watkins’ absence hurt badly in this one. He was effective when he was on the court, looking like his old self. It would have been nice to have him on the court more tonight, but it is encouraging that he’s getting back in form with conference play looking.

Looking Ahead

After a week off, the Nittany Lions will resume play at home against UMBC on Saturday, December 29th, at 1:00 PM. The game will be televised on BTN.