We’re Ushering in a new year and with it the second half of what has become a season for the ages. Penn State basketball has had a memorable first half and there is reason to believe that the next few months will be a fun ride for fans.
A sold out date with Iowa in the Palestra awaits on Saturday. We’ll have a complete preview of that match-up tomorrow.
For now, let’s take a quick look at how some of the players have fared thus far.
Future Star Under The Radar
Seth Lundy is being brought along similar to the way that Myreon Jones was used during his freshman season. Jones was a relatively unknown commodity just a couple of months ago, now he is known as one of the most efficient scorers in the Big Ten conference. Lundy may not be getting heavy minutes thus far, but he is well known, and expected to be a team leader in the near future.
Through 13 games Lundy is averaging 10.2 minutes per contest. Jones averaged 10.8 minutes played last season. It is likely that Lundy’s minutes will increase down the stretch. Their scoring numbers during their freshman seasons are almost identical as well. Lundy is averaging 3.8 points per game, Jones averaged 4. Both players scored at a rate of 14.8 points per 40 minutes played.
Last year we heard a lot about Jones but seldom saw the results on the court. His 18 of 65 for 27% from the 3-point line was painful to watch at times as he struggled to find his confidence. Jones finished 6 of 12 from deep during his final 7 games last year, so not only did he figure out his shot, it also means that he shot under 25% until that point.
Lundy has been able to work into the rotation when it suits the team so he has not faced much adversity to this point. Other than the 22 minutes that he played at Ohio State when Lamar Stevens fouled out early, Lundy has played sparingly. With Myles Dread (28.9) and Rasir Bolton (26.9) getting the bulk of the minutes a year ago, Jones was able to be brought along slowly as well.
To this point Lundy has produced at a very high level, shooting 68.8% from the free throw line, 40% from behind the 3-point line (8 of 20) and 46% from the field inside the line. He may not be ready to play 20 minutes per game at the highest level, but he has shown that in spurts he can keep up with the flow of the game on a top-15 team in the Net Rankings.
It should not be a shock next season when Lundy takes a leap forward in his development and production. It could even happen this season, similar to the end of John Harrar’s freshman campaign. All that Lundy might need once he is ready for it, much like Harrar and Jones, is a little more playing time.
It is a far cry from the recent past, when Tony Carr and others were thrust out on the court before they were ready to play the minutes that the team needed them to play. In situations such as those, the players’ development may be negatively affected. With the depth that Pat Chambers has on the current roster, players are able to come into the fold when they are ready, and only have to play in situations that are in their favor.
Odds and Ends
- Jamari Wheeler left the game after playing 8 minutes against Cornell with an injury, having not yet scored a point. The goose egg in the stat sheet for the game will hurt his averages a little bit, but so far Wheeler has done just enough on offense to help the team out. He has scored 4.1 points per game and shot 37% from the 3-point line. His free throw shooting (55%) might see him on the bench late in tight games, but Chambers has multiple options to run the point.
- Izaiah Brockington is quietly having a great sophomore season. His defense has made it easier for the team to move on without Josh Reaves, but his offense has been a pleasant surprise. His 9.8 points per game is good for 4th on the team though he has yet to start a game. He is shooting 56% from inside the 3-point line but just 25% from behind it. While he struggles to find the range from deep, he has been outstanding while driving to the hoop or pulling up for a foul-line jump shot.
- Last season Lamar Stevens played 36.9 minutes per game which is a heavy burden for any player, much less the center of the team. This year Stevens has only played more than 33 minutes 3 times, and has played fewer than 30 minutes in 7 of the 13 games, averaging 29 minutes per game thus far. His production is up across the board, with an increase in blocks, steals, and assists per game. His shooting percentage from 2-point range is 52%, up from 46% a year ago. Stevens had foul trouble early in the season and that contributed to his reduction in minutes, but Chambers has also limited him at times as well. It could pay off at the end of the year to have Stevens’ legs as fresh as possible.
- Mike Watkins is having a great year. Sure, he’s averaging nearly a double-double, with 11.2 points per game and 9.4 rebounds. His defense has been better than usual, if that is possible. He’s averaging 3.5 blocks per game, up from 1.5 last year and 2.3 the year before. He’s been stealing the ball at the highest rate of his career, and his shooting percentage, already among the highest for active players in the Big Ten, is up to 62% compared to 56% last year.
- Curtis Jones has been exactly what the Lions needed to fill out their back court depth. With the departure of Rasir Bolton during the off-season, the team needed a sure-handed backup point guard to fill out the roster. Jones has done that and much more. If you look at his stats, nothing jumps out besides the fact that he is doing a little bit of everything. Jones has provided 18.7 minutes per game but his scoring average of 7.7 per game is misleading. Jones’ 18 points in a two-point win over Alabama were critical, the team would not have won without his performance on that day. Without the win against the Crimson Tide, it is possible that the Lions would be on the outside looking in on the Top-25 of the AP Poll, missing out on the first ranking in decades until later in the year. Instead Penn State fans have had a few weeks of glory, basking in the attention from around the country.