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Penn State 74, UMBC 52: Michigan Awaits

A twenty point victory to close out 2018

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Trent Buttrick made his first career start for Penn State, joining Watkins, Stevens, Reaves, and Bolton in the lineup. In a change from what we’ve seen up to this point, Josh Reaves got the start at point guard, a move that seemed to work out well. UMBC kept it close in the first half, mostly by slowing down the game. Even during their early “struggles” on offense, Penn State was shooting well, they just weren’t getting many possessions. Mike Watkins played well, especially with regards to fouling.

You may have turned the game off in frustration with just over six minutes to play in the first half when the game was tied at twenty-three. At that point the Nittany Lions took over with an eight point run, fueled by two Myles Dread 3s and a Reaves layup assisted by Stevens. They controlled the game for the final six minutes, scoring 17 points and building a comfortable 40 - 27 halftime lead.

Rasir Bolton opened the second-half scoring with a terrific finish at the rim (see below). Penn State built upon their lead in the second half, and never gave UMBC an opportunity to get back in reach. The way UMBC struggled to score made even a 15-point lead seem insurmountable. Stevens and Bolton paced the offense with 16 and 18 points respectively, with Reaves adding 9 points and 5 assists. Buttrick was involved, but didn’t experience the same success as a week ago.

With over 3 minutes to play, Daniil Kasatkin checked into the game, quickly followed by Kyle McCloskey, Deivis Zemgulis, Grant Hazle and Taylor Nussbaum. McCoskley scored on a tip-in for his first collegiate basket, coming in his first game.

Four Factors Analysis

Points per possession immediately jumps out, as it is very difficult to lose a basketball game when averaging greater than 1.2 ppp. Penn State got to the line a lot in the second half, still struggling from the charity stripe as a team. The offensive rebounding will give Pat Chambers plenty to talk about in practice over the next few days.

Player of the Game

This was a tough choice. Lamar Stevens was deserving as well, playing in control and taking advantage of the defense when the slacked off; and Bolton had a case with his 18 points. Ultimately, it was Reaves switch to point guard that changed the feel of the game when the Nittany Lions had the ball. Don’t be surprised if we see him there again soon. Reaves’ can impact the game at every level, as he showed on the box score today.

Final Thought

Nine threes were made by Rasir Bolton (4), Myles Dread (3), and Myreon Jones (2) leading Penn State to the first 20+ point win of the season. The schedule now gets much tougher with Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan State looming. A difficult non-conference schedule should benefit the young team, and they’ll be tested right away when conference play resumes.

Random Observations

Josh Reaves at Point Guard – The ball moved better with Reaves at point guard, and he looked more comfortable on offense as well. With Bolton’s scoring ability, and Wheeler’s lack thereof, could Reaves see a more permanent position change?

Watkins Still Limited – It didn’t impact the outcome of the game, but Watkins playing time was kept around 20-minutes again today. It might be a move that lasts the season, or one that ends once the team is lining up against Top-25 opponents twice a week. Either way, it’s something to watch going forward.

Wheeler Too – Jamari only played 4 minutes tonight after a quiet outing in Alabama. There have been a few players limited due to illness over the past few weeks, and he might just be the latest to have caught something.

Looking Ahead

On Thursday, January 3rd, Penn State will travel to Ann Arbor to take on the undefeated Michigan Wolverines. The game will be televised by ESPN at 7:00pm.