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Is Lamar Stevens Penn State Basketball’s Best Player?

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The power forward has risen to the occasion in Big Ten play.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Carr is going to get a lot of credit for Friday night’s big overtime win against Nebraska, and I can’t blame anyone for giving it to him. The dude scored nine points in overtime, including the game-winning shot with mere seconds remaining in the 76-74 triumph.

However, Penn State wouldn’t have even gotten to the extra period without a strong effort from Lamar Stevens, who scored 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. It was another outstanding performance from the sophomore, who has now scored at least 20 points in four out of six Big Ten games. It’s not all volume, either, as Stevens has shot above 50 percent in each of his last four contests, using a combination of drives to the hoop, mid-range jumpers, and three-point shots to confound his opponents.

Carr talked about how hot Stevens has been after the Nebraska game.

His confidence, man. I feel like when Lamar has three-point shot’s falling, I feel like he is unstoppable because he’s bigger and stronger than most guards are supposed to be. When his threes are falling, it’s kind of like pick your poison.

Despite his heroics in that game, Carr hasn’t been playing nearly as well as Stevens lately. He’s doing a good job distributing the ball and putting up points, but Carr has shot above 35 percent in just one Big Ten game this season. It’s good to know that Carr can still come up big in the clutch — and that’s all some fans are going to care about — but the difference in play between him and Stevens since the start of January is enough to make me wonder who the top dog on the team is.

Carr is going to have the ball in his hands the most since he’s the starting point guard, but if so many of his shots continue to miss, then Pat Chambers is going to have to shift more attempts onto Stevens’s plate. It just doesn’t make sense for Carr to take most of the shots when Stevens is converting at a much higher clip.

Last year we saw Stevens develop confidence in his long-range game late in the season, and in 2018, he’s getting more comfortable from all over the court. It seems like he has a better idea of when to take his man off the dribble and when to pull up and take a jumper. Like Carr, he’s become a threat to score from anywhere, but it’s Stevens who has made scoring look a lot easier lately.

Coming into the season, it looked like Carr was the most critical player to Penn State’s postseason hopes, but more and more it’s Stevens who has to have the ball in his hands when the team needs a bucket.