Young teams are prone to sloppy losses, but seeing that young team get dismantled on its home floor after a four-game winning streak is a little harder to swallow than reading about it. Penn State was completely outworked by George Mason on Wednesday night and justly fell to the Patriots, 85-66. 6'2" Mason guard Marquise Moore posted 25 points and 13 rebounds and led a second half tear that will give Pat Chambers plenty to review in the film room on Thursday.
Despite some uncharacteristically sloppy defensive play, Penn State led by two at half, 38-36. Payton Banks ended the night with a season-high 21 points and did most of his damage in the first period on four triples. Offense was far from an issue early for Penn State. Mason's ability to get into the lane was much more troubling, and it foreshadowed what was to be a total dismantling of a top-100 KenPom defense.
George Mason hasn't been a great three-point shooting team this season, and they didn't need to be on Wednesday. Their four-guard lineups shredded Penn State's 1-2-2 three-quarter court defense to the tune of 48 points. That defense is primarily used to aid in the forcing of turnovers - PSU did force eight of them in that second half, but Mason torched the nets at 1.2 points per possession, with 22 points in the paint. Mike Watkins blocked eight shots last Saturday against Wright State, but he obviously can't be expected to do that every night. His teammates were far too content to let their center clean up their on-ball defensive errors tonight. Fixing that should be among Chambers' top priorities in the coming days.
There's not much advanced numbers can add here, other than to illustrate Penn State's poor second half. The Lions scored just 0.70 points per possession in the second frame, and after the game Chambers said that he felt the sight of the ball rimming out affected the team's effort on the other end. There will be no disagreements with that assessment here.
Chambers: "It's been a long time since I saw missing shots dictate our effort."— TDC Men's Basketball (@TDC_MBasketball) December 8, 2016
- Tony Carr's calming presence on the ball was sorely missed as the freshman played just 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Terrence Samuel played well in his stead, even hitting two triples, but this is a different team when Carr is on the floor.
- This is Penn State's fourth loss of the season. With two more high-major opponents looming on the non-conference schedule and neither game at home, it's probably a safe bet that Pat Chambers will be watching postseason basketball from the couch once again. This was always going to be a transition year. That sentiment hasn't changed, but you wonder if Chambers would like to reconsider his "NIT or bust" comments from the preseason.
- The good news for Chambers? The Big Ten is kinda butt. Ohio State lost at home to a legitimately bad Florida Atlantic team on Tuesday night. Iowa lost to Nebraska-Omaha. Rutgers, while better than expected, is still Rutgers. If we don't find out what this team really is this weekend against Pitt in Newark, we'll know after the first two conference games: home vs. Northwestern and at Rutgers.