Following the game against Michigan State, coach Pat Chambers sat down with the press and he answered some tough questions. One question that was asked by Mark Brennan of 247sports did not get a direct answer.
If you listen to the clip, Brennan asked “Where is he physically” relating to Lamar Stevens. Chambers said what Stevens will have to do, talking about the challenges he faces and the pressure involved, but he did not speak to Stevens’ physical health. It’s not surprising, since we seldom get specifics when a player has an ailment that they are able to play through.
As Brennan mentioned, Lamar Stevens has been missing some shots that he would normally make. You will notice in the montage that many of the misses were defended closely. One thing to remember is that we have gotten used to Stevens hitting most if not all of these shots.
After the game coach Chambers gave Xavier Tillman the credit that he deserves for guarding Stevens and ‘frustrating him all night’ as he put it. Tillman scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds while staying with Stevens on the defensive side.
It brings me no joy to show this many missed shots by one of the best players in Penn State history. The team and program would not be what it is today without the leadership and play of Lamar Stevens. We are used to more than half of these shots going in for him, instead, he shot just 3 of 19 on the night during a tight game.
Stevens missed a transition layup that has become his specialty with 5 minutes to go while trailing by 4 points, then missed the front end of a 1 and 1 on the next trip, still trailing by 4. A completely healthy Lamar Stevens would have come away with 4 points in that scenario instead of nothing.
How tired or slowed by an injury is Stevens? You saw how close Pat Chambers will come to answering that question in the press conference. Chambers said that you would have to ask Lamar Stevens, but Stevens has not spoken to the media for nearly a month.
John Harrar stepped up to the microphone following the game, taking the tough assignment without pause or fanfare as he so often does on the court. Harrar has been a leader on and off the court this year and will be next year. Here is what he had to say about Stevens.
Harrar spoke about the mindset of the team in closing. “I think all of our work ethic and habits give us that confidence. I think this is the most confident basketball team I have played with.”
Let’s hope whatever it is, Stevens will do as his coach suggested; battle through it. It appears that he is healthy enough to get back into a groove, as his defense has remained solid even while his shot has been off. He may be searching to find his shot without the normal power he has in his legs.
His last typical night, from a shooting standpoint, was against Northwestern on February 15. Since then he has gone 3 for 11, 11 for 27, 4 for 13, 8 for 18 and 3 for 19 from the field over the last 5 games, a stretch that saw Penn State go 1-4.
With Myreon Jones back in the lineup and one more game before the Big Ten Tournament, it will be interesting to see if Stevens comes out of the funk on Saturday. He may not get back to 100% healthy until after the season. His effort and leadership, even at partial strength, is enough to give the Lions a chance to beat any team in the country as it was last night.