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There was something surreal about watching Penn State basketball on a Sunday afternoon in August. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, a livestream surfaced on YouTube that allowed fans the opportunity to soak in the Nittany Lions' wild 109-105 double overtime victory over the New Providence Basketball Association All-Stars. The dramatic come-from-behind victory gave PSU a 1-0 start in the Bahamas' Summer of Thunder tournament.
It's not worth the effort to form any serious judgments about this year's team when they're playing in a foreign country against unknown competition using FIBA's rules. But it was undeniable that yesterday's contest played out like so many from last year. The Lions were sloppy on both ends of the floor, rushing ill-advised shots on offense (if they didn't turn it over first), while failing to string together consecutive stops.
They lost each of the first three periods to start the fourth quarter down 11, but it didn't take long for PSU to mount a comeback. The Lions went on a 13-2 spurt in two minutes to get right back in the game. NPBA would respond, but it wasn't until Shep Garner hit a go-ahead three with 2:03 remaining did the Lions grab a lead late. However, they failed to execute down the stretch in regulation and Tony Carr's game-winning three rattled in-and-out at the horn.
The overtime periods led to more bizarre moments, as neither team played great basketball down the stretch. It looked like Penn State was going to hang on in the first overtime until a 8-0 run by NPBA pushed the Lions to the brink of defeat. Then Tony Carr took over. He erased a five-point deficit in 30 seconds with two buckets and an assist, and then he sunk two back-to-back threes in the final minute of the second overtime to win the game. Carr finished with 26 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 6 steals, while Shep Garner scored 24 points off the bench.
We took the liberty of running the tempo-free numbers from this box score, although the numbers aren't completely accurate. The game was played at a frantic pace by both teams, but there were times when NPBA flat out cherry-picked on made baskets. There was also a combined 36 steals (aka live ball turnovers) that led to numerous run-outs. If NPBA could have hit anything from the outside (they finished 2-30 from three), Penn State would've likely been the loser in this one.
1. Interior defense non-existent without Watkins, Moore
Penn State was down two players who figure to be part of the rotation this season. Mike Watkins didn't make the trip altogether, while Julian Moore didn't check into the game. Moore had microfracture surgery on his knee following last season, and it appears he's not yet fully recovered. Their absences were apparent as NPBA was able to attack the rim with ease, and the Lions were out-rebounded in the game.
2. Jamari Wheeler and Satchel Pierce impress in debuts
The two newcomers who figure to see the most minutes this year left favorable impressions in their debuts. Pierce, the transfer from Virginia Tech, logged a double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds) in over 33 minutes of action. Meanwhile, freshman point guard Jamari Wheeler has already earned the trust of the coaching staff apparently. He saw extensive minutes in overtime and finished with three steals and three assists to only one turnover in 20 solid minutes.
3. Careless turnovers almost doom Lions
The official tally from this game was 28 turnovers by the Nittany Lions, including six-a-piece from Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Josh Reaves. Penn State simply needs to be better at handling the basketball if they are going to be a successful, up-tempo unit. NPBA got their hands in the passing lanes on the perimeter far too many times.
4. Big threes from Garner and Carr seal victory
Believe it or not, but it was the three-ball that helped save Penn State in this one. Garner's hot shooting (8-14 from three) kept the Lions within striking distance, while Carr's late threes sealed the win. For a team that's always struggled from distance, shooting 15-33 as a team is always noteworthy.
5. It's good to win
Well that goes without saying, right? But with so many of these type of close games ending in defeat last year, it had to feel good for the coaches to see their players persevere. Chambers was especially pleased with the winning effort, judging by his quotes on GoPSUSports.com's recap.
“We battled all the way back,” Chambers said. “We didn’t put our heads down and we were able to get it to overtime, and then grind it out to get to the second overtime. I felt like our guys showed the pride, what the alums, the pros who visited with us about a week ago, that they instilled in them, pride in the program, pride in the name across the jersey. A lot of different guys stepped up today.”