Penn State came right out of the gate ready to play. After winning the opening tip, Mike Watkins scored the first basket of the game a few seconds later. After a Jamari Wheeler steal that led to a Lamar Stevens dunk, Maryland Eastern Shore was forced to take a timeout, down 9-0 in the early going.
John Harrar, who entered for Watkins, was the first player off the bench for Pat Chambers 3 minutes into the game. Izaiah Brockington came in for Jamari Wheeler at the next whistle. Curtis Jones Jr. entered shortly after. Jones assisted on Brockington’s first Penn State basket, a foul line jumper.
Here are a few highlights from the opening minutes. You can click the gif controls to switch to high definition, pause, or slow the play.
The Lions began making waves of substitutions. Four players entered at once, including Trent Buttrick, making it 9 players to see the floor in the first 6 minutes of the game. Chambers will be able to use the talent on the bench as the season goes on, using the skills of each player as needed against each opponent. Tonight the Lions could have put any combination of their top 10 players in the game and it likely would have been enough for the win.
Penn State brought the starters back in midway through the opening half while holding a 20-10 lead. The Lions had 5 steals and a block to that point and the team defense was suffocating Maryland Eastern Shore.
Seth Lundy made his first appearance with 9 minutes to play before the half, entering for Lamar Stevens when he got his 2nd foul. Having Lundy and Buttrick on the bench to gobble up minutes when Stevens needs a breather will come in handy as the season wears on.
Lundy forced a turnover on his second defensive trip down the floor, reaching in to help Mike Watkins, forcing a travel call on the Hawks. At 6-foot-6 and 219 pounds, Lundy has great size to go along with his mobility. It is easy to see why he has drawn comparisons to Stevens, as they bring similar talents to the court.
Curtis Jones Jr. made a nice save to complete a steal that was forced by a great team effort. John Harrar caught the ball and immediately made a nice pass to Brockington for the finish.
While the offense was inconsistent at times in the opening minutes, the defense did not slump at all, forcing the pressure from the opening tip.
Lundy deflected a pass to Curtis Jones Jr. that led to a breakaway for Jamari Wheeler with 3 minutes to go before the half. On the next trip Lundy was fouled while attempting a 3-point shot. He made two, his first career points in Happy Valley. The lead was 37-17 at the half.
Stevens got his 3rd foul just a minute into the second half but he stayed in the game as the Lions were pulling away, 42-17 at the time. A couple of minutes later Stevens hit a 3-pointer and then had two dunks in a row, forcing a timeout by the Hawks, down 51-19.
Izaiah Brockington stepped in front of Jamari Wheeler for a steal that led to a Stevens dunk.
Jamari Wheeler then made a nice steal and took the ball the length of the court, banking a pass to Stevens for the finish.
Myles Dread hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to make it a 12-0 run in 1:30 of game time. With a 62-22 lead and 13 minutes to play, the starting lineup was on the court together for the final time.
Even though the lead was substantial that did not mean that Penn State was ready to relax on defense. Jamari Wheeler shocked the Hawk player with his speed, chasing him the length of the court and getting a clean block on what initially looked like a breakaway chance. Wheeler was a good 20 feet behind when he put his head down and ran.
Trent Buttrick had a clean block, the team’s tenth of the night that led to a Myreon Jones deep ball. Curtis Jones Jr. hit another on the next trip down the court and the lead stretched to 72-24.
The bench was emptied for the rest of the game, getting players that normally would not see the court a chance to play. As a result, MES cut into the lead a little bit. It was 84-46 at the final.
It has been a long time since we have seen such a lopsided score, so the numbers represent what happened on the court. For Penn State, a team turnover total of 15 will be something that coach Chambers will emphasize on cutting down. Otherwise it was a great effort.
- Curtis Jones Jr., the transfer guard from Oklahoma State, was granted an eligibility waiver just a few hours before the game. He made his first appearance with the team early and looked very comfortable. He showed great offensive awareness and facilitated the ball around the perimeter very well. On the final possession of the first half, he wisely dribbled off the final seconds of the clock before driving and finishing in the lane.
- Lamar Stevens, Izaiah Brockington and Myles Dread all had 2 fouls with 5 minutes to play in the first half. It was the first game and a couple of the fouls were due to players being slightly out of control.
- The team defense was more than MES could handle and they won’t be the only team to have trouble against Penn State. While the Lions have some players that can score with ease, every player on the team could be considered a defensive specialist.
- Myles Dread was 5 of 6 from 3-point range. He also drove to the basket a couple of times, showing that he has worked on adding that to his arsenal when teams run out at him too quickly.
The Lions will host Wagner on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will be sandwiched in between the football game against Minnesota that is at noon and a hockey game that starts at 6 p.m. against Michigan State. With the broadcast only on BTN+ and so much other action happening at the same time this weekend, check our recap after the game to keep up with the team.