|1st half||2nd half||Final|
Disruptive defense has been Penn State's defining characteristic this season, and the Nittany Lions got back to basics in a big way against George Washington on Saturday evening with a 74-54 win. Pat Chambers employed a 1-2-2 press from the opening tip which suffocated the Colonials guards and allowed Penn State (8-3, 1-1) to open up an insurmountable lead after just a few minutes of action. Mike Watkins remained in good form, completing his double-double four minutes into the second half and anchoring a dominant defense.
A flurry of early turnovers and dunks put the game well out of reach. Watkins and Josh Reaves (three first-half steals) were as disruptive as they've been this season, and the pressure defense had George Washington on #SingleDigitWatch for much of the half. It took the Colonials 15 minutes and change to get into double-figures. Naturally the game was never in doubt, and it allowed Chambers to experiment with lineups with Nazeer Bostick suspended for a violation of team rules. Trent Buttrick was actually the first substitute off the bench, spelling a temporarily injured Lamar Stevens. Davis Zemgulis had been Stevens' direct backup prior to today.
It was also a nice bounce-back game for the Nittany Lions' offense, which struggled mightily against Wisconsin until it was too late. Watkins finished with 15 points and 12 boards - as with most mid-major opponents, GW had no answer for Big Mike down low. Tony Carr rediscovered his efficiency with 19 points on 6-12 shooting, and Stevens shook off the early injury to shoot 5-10 from the field. Shep Garner made four triples including an off-balance bank shot to beat the first-half buzzer that sent Penn State into locker room up 48-19.
Maurice Joseph's team did not quit, however, and GW actually won the second half by seven points. Yuta Watanabe was the lone offensive bright spot for the Colonials, exceeding his season average with 18 points on 8-15 shooting. But GDub could only muster two three pointers on the day on 15 attempts, a credit to Penn State's swarming perimeter defense.
If there's one downside to today's win for Penn State, it was the bench production. Jamari Wheeler played well in his standard 18 minutes, but otherwise it was another dearth of depth. Satchel Pierce got a second-straight DNP-CD today. Julian Moore only played six minutes in his stead as Watkins earned his third-straight 30-minute game. Chambers stated he was seeking more from his bench after Wisconsin game. He didn't get it today.
The Nittany Lions will get finals week off before a trip to Fairfax to face George Mason on Sunday, Dec 17. The games came thick and fast in the early part of the season but Penn State will have time to get fresh legs as they prepare for proper Big Ten play. Mason has struggled this season and the rest of the non-con is very winnable, especially if PSU can defend like they did on Saturday.