Penn State overcame an ankle injury to Tony Carr on Wednesday night and defeated Montana, 70-57. Next up is a clash with Columbia on Friday night that will be the Nittany Lions’ last game before next week’s Legends Classic in Brooklyn, New York. Based on Pat Chambers’s comments from two days ago, it sounds like Carr will be able to play against Columbia, but I’m sure the head coach would love to limit his star guard in order to keep him as healthy as possible. That shouldn’t be a problem if Lamar Stevens has another 25-point performance or if Shep Garner keeps hitting three-pointers.
Scouting the Opposition
It’s hard to get a handle on Columbia so far, as the regular old Lions have lost to one of Division I’s best team’s in Villanova and defeated one of its worst in Longwood. However, in both games, shooting guard Mike Smith was aggressive from beyond the arc. The Illinois native has dominated Columbia’s possessions so far and is averaging 20.5 points and eight three-point attempts per game for the young season.
With point guard Kyle Castlin out with an elbow injury, second-year head coach Jim Engles has turned to Quinton Adlesh to handle the floor general role, and the junior responded with a terrific performance against Longwood. Adlesh knocked down five three-pointers to score a career-high 23 points and added four assists to boot. Together, he and Smith should provide an adequate test for Penn State’s perimeter defense.
On the inside, Columbia has big shoes to fill with Luke Petrasek and his 15.1 points per game graduating over the summer, and it looks like junior forward Lukas Meisner will help fill the void. After a quiet game against Villanova, he grabbed 16 of Columbia’s 40 rebounds and scored 12 points in the win over Longwood. He’ll be someone to watch for sure after Penn State was beaten on the boards by Montana this week.
What to Watch for
How much will Carr play? Penn State played almost the entire second half against Montana without Carr, and the Lions found a way to hold off their opponent. If Chambers doesn’t want to risk his point guard against Columbia, it will be up to Stevens and others to pick up the slack.
Is Stevens heating up? After scoring just 20 total points in Penn State’s first two games, Stevens looked like a star against Montana with 25 points on 8-for-14 shooting. If Penn State is going to make a run at the postseason this year, fans are going to need to see this version of Stevens more consistently, and there’s no reason why he can’t put up a similar performance against Columbia.
Can the bench step up? Even with Carr out, the bench scored just six points on Wednesday, with four of those coming from backup big men Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce. It’s cool that Jamari Wheeler handed out three assists in his 17 minutes, but he and Nazeer Bostick ought to look for their own offense more often on Friday.
No matter how much Carr plays, the Nittany Lions have the talent to move to 4-0. Look for Stevens to lead the team in scoring again while Shep Garner continues to heat up from beyond the arc. Penn State 76, Columbia 65