Outside of the goose egg in the scoring column from Donovon Jack and another high allotment of offensive rebounds surrendered, it was a solid performance from Penn State on Sunday. Four Nittany Lions finished the game with double digit scoring efforts. D.J. Newbill led the way again with 18 points on 7-15 shooting. His efforts were complemented by 12 from Shep Garner and 11 apiece from Brandon Taylor and John Johnson
The Shep Garner show continued again today as the love and infatuation only grows for the young freshman after every game. He was heavily involved in the offense once again and shot the ball with confidence. He wasn't rattled either by any means, committing only 2 turnovers on the night. Just watching his poise and court vision grow in such a short time this year gives you so much confidence that this kid is without a doubt the future at the point guard position.
There were two different versions of Ross Travis that showed up tonight. This one. And this one (visual evidence for your eyeballs here). There was a 50 second window in tonight's game where Ross Travis looked like an All-American, but the majority of the night was filled with more head scratching. God love him for his Kenneth Faried-esque efforts on the offensive glass, but his clock has to start ticking if his offensive production doesn't pick up soon.
Speaking of offense, John Johnson cooked in many different facets this evening. You're starting to see Johnson not chuck up a basketball every time he gets it, and his craftiness around the rim to finish has been incredible. He didn't always get the field goal, but the senior shot 11 free throws tonight. Geno again was able to provide a spark off the bench on the defensive end. He only contributed four points, but the steal that ignited the Newbill slam was all Thorpe.
Four Factors Analysis
The offensive rebounds are still one of the only unsure qualities about this team. Big Ten basketball is predicated on not allowing second chance opportunities. If Jack and Jordan Dickerson aren't going to be threats in the scoring column, they certainly can't allow rebounding to suffer along the way. Pat Chambers said after the game guards have to be much more involved with the efforts to help take some pressure off the big men. With the way the guards are able to push the ball under control as well, they can certainly add another dimension to the fast break opportunities if they do get more involved on the glass.
Player of the Game - D.J. Newbill
Through the first two games, D.J. has answered the call knowing every defense this year will be honing in on him. I've been able to tell he's worked on adjusting his shot more from last year as well. His outside shooting has improved thus far because he is much quicker in his release and he's getting a lot more elevation than last year. He led the team again in assists tonight with 5, which isn't that comforting, but it certainly isn't a complete negative. You'd hope those numbers start to come more from guys like Shep and Johnson, but it can be viewed for now as Newbill taking it upon himself to lead by example.
- Refs - I thought it was funny when D.J. lost his shoe around half court at one point and Penn State played an entire offensive series in a 4 on 5 situation. The referees looked at him like that was completely normal. Why do I even waste my breath trying to justify anything these guys do.
- Lots of Depth - We knew guys like Geno, Johnson and Dickerson would be some of the first ones off the bench, but there seem to be a lot more contributors than expected. All of these guys play a different style and it's hard for other teams to adjust to so many different styles of players on the same team. Payton Banks played six minutes tonight and if Ross Travis's production doesn't pick up, then there is a viable option for a game or two to send a message to Ross.
- Defense - I know Penn State hasn't played Kentucky and Duke in their first two games, but this team plays great defense inside the arc. It helps when teams are shooting a lot of outside attempts because it's more than likely one shot opportunity. Fordham had 27 shots from outside and that should lead to a lot of one-and-done opportunites. That's what makes those offensive rebounding numbers even more imperative to trim down.
Next up for Penn State will be a great test to see how this team matches up on a more prominent stage. The Charleston Classic kicks of Thursday for the Nittany Lions as they will play Charlotte on Thursday at 5 p.m on ESPNU and will then play the winner/loser of the Cornell/South Carolina game. The 49ers opened up their season tonight with a 73-60 win at Elon. Let's see what the Nittany Lions can do down south!