Penn State took care of business in its final preseason tune-up against Lock Haven on Friday night, though it won't definitively answer any lingering questions about a squad that defeated the Bald Eagles 91-65. Poor shooting plagued the Nittany Lions, just as it has for the past five seasons under Pat Chambers, but the head coach must've enjoyed seeing the fruits of his recruiting labors finally producing on the BJC floor.
Showcasing the athleticism touted by Chambers early and often, the Nittany Lions bullied and bruised an obviously outmatched opponent all night. Philly freshmen Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr opened PSU's scoring and both flashed the abilities that earned their lofty recruiting rankings. Stevens scored 14 points and was active on the glass to the tune of 12 rebounds to lead the team - a great sign considering Penn State desperately needs that from him in his freshman year. Carr added 15, tied for the team high with Mike Watkins and Josh Reaves. Despite just two assists, his pacing and passing set the tone for the night in a 83 (!) possession game. That's a typical pace Chambers wants to play at this season, and the 6'4" point guard looks to have the chops to run such an attack. It's just an exhibition, but it's hard not to be excited about these two.
Here's what else we saw in the first glimpse at the part two of the Chambers era:
Shooting issues will continue, but it's fine. it's fine.
Penn State has never shot better than 34% as a team from three-point range under Chambers. Don't expect that to change this season, at least based on this contest. The Lions shot just 3 of 18 on the night, a paltry 17%. What's worse, Shep Garner was the only Lion who made a triple on the night, going 3-8. That's a worrying sign, but it's not a death sentence for this team like it would have been the past few seasons, if this game is even a slight indication.
The Lions forced 17 Lock Haven turnovers, which was actually two fewer than they forced a considerably more formidable Seton Hall team into in their secret scrimmage last Saturday. Reaves led the way with three steals, a quarter of the team's total on the night. It only led to 19 fast break points, but Penn State's 17 offensive rebounds can account for any such discrepancy. Easy buckets will come easier in 2016-17. Though it would be nice to get Payton Banks (hamstring) back in the rotation and shooting well to help space the floor.
Battle at the five
Watkins, in his BJC debut, had himself a night in 20 minutes of game time. The redshirt freshman poured in 15 points and nine rebounds, four of which came on the offensive end. He showcased his secondjumpability (trademark Jay Bilas) on an alley-oop from Carr deep into the second half, missing the dunk but collecting the ricochet and laying it in before a Haven defender could challenge him. Watkins looked the part (granted, Lock Haven's tallest player is 6'7" Ra'eese Hunt) and should be in for a big season.
Watkins' overstudy, Julian Moore, should be concerned about his starting role. The redshirt junior was far less productive in his game time, posting six points and five boards in 19 minutes. He looked more tentative than his backup, but Moore did run the floor just as well. Compare yams below:
Due to the lack of bodies in the frontcourt, neither will see their playing time diminish much this season. But it seems like it's only a matter of time before Watkins supplants his elder in the starting five.
Amir Hinton Can ball
The star of the night did not don the Blue and White, however. Lock Haven's Amir Hinton poured in 32 points on 10-20 shooting, most of which came on contested jumpers. Penn State could sure use a scorer like him (this is not tampering, I'm pretty sure), but in the interim his performance was not symptomatic of poor defense on the Lions' part. The rest of the Eagles combined to shoot just 28%, and the aforementioned steal and turnover numbers indicate just how active PSU was on that end.
Penn State's season will officially begin a week from Friday as they play host to Albany, their first non-bracket opponent in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. Keep it locked to RLR all week for more season preview content and a scouting report on the Danes.