This is day six without a Penn State basketball game, the longest wait we will have to endure for the remainder of the season unless the team makes it to the Final Four. The Lions are back inside the top-30 of the NET Rankings and have made it back into the AP Poll.
With 19 games in the books and 12 remaining in the regular season, we are getting to the point that a usable sample of data has accumulated.
Taking a look at the stats can reinforce what we have seen. It’s easy to forget that just 19 games ago, Myreon Jones was a player that very few people expected to produce at the level he has thus far. One thing that jumps out about Jones’ stat line, in addition to his efficiency, is that he leads the team in minutes played.
Here is a look at some of the team stats to this point.
Jones has handled the ball more than he is probably comfortable with in order fill a position of need for Pat Chambers. His 2.8 assists per game is tied with Jamari Wheeler for tops on the team, which isn’t a surprise since they get the bulk of point guard responsibilities. Jones’ 1.6 turnovers per game is a little higher than optimal but some of those have come while he was pressing to drive the lane, being aggressive, trying to score.
Lamar Stevens played 36.9 minutes per game last season. He is playing much less this year, which is great. His 7 rebounds per game is similar to last year (7.7), his assist numbers were almost identical a year ago (2.1) and his free throw shooting is in the mid-70’s as it has been for his entire career. The one not so good consistent stat line is his 3-point shooting; he shot 22% last year and there hasn’t been the improvement we hoped this year.
- Jamari Wheeler has improved his 3-point shooting to the point that he is no longer a liability. From a percentage standpoint, Wheeler is the third best option, behind Lundy and Myreon Jones. Realistically, the team has more confidence in CuJo and Dread when a deep ball is needed, but a tip of the hat to Wheeler is deserved. He was shooting 17% through two years.
- We may see a little more of Curtis Jones moving forward if he continues to play the way he has recently. His offensive outbursts are hard to miss, but he has made plays in every facet of the game. Notably, his turnover rate is very low, and he seems to remain calm late in the game. With Wheeler struggling to score and also shooting just 55% from the free throw line, a few minutes might come out of his playing time late in tight games.
- Myles Dread has played the third most minutes per game but has struggled mightily with his shooting. After going scoreless for three games and losing his starting job, he has scored 18 total points over the past two games, with 8 coming from the free throw line late in the game. It’s tough to put him on the bench because he isn’t making shots, he does so much to help the team win. It might come down to him shooting only when he is in rhythm until he gets out of the funk. It’s doubtful he will play less than he has, since he brings so much to the court. Last year he played 28.9 minutes per game, so he’s already 5 off that pace this year.
- Mike Watkins has been inconsistent but that is something that the team has dealt with for his entire career. One thing is for sure, any team in the country could use a guy that blocks 3 shots per game and can take over a game in spots. His free throw shooting is up 7% from last year, but is still far less than the more than 60% he shot for his first two years.
- Seth Lundy has started the past 3 games and has averaged over 20 minutes per game as a result. He has gone 6 for 14 from 3-point range in that time, good for 43%, slightly up from his season average. He has scored 9 points per game during the stretch, which is double his season average before he was getting the extra minutes. It’s looking like Lundy’s production will continue to increase with more playing time. That bodes well for the rest of the season and also the coming years.
- With that lineup, it is easy to imagine how the team could match up with any program in the country when it is playing its best. For the remainder of the Big Ten season, Pat Chambers will use the versatility of the team to its advantage. It is the first time in years that the Lions have had a productive sub at all five spots.