|1st half||2nd half||final|
With one game remaining before a daunting January in the Big Ten, starting with five currently-ranked team, Penn State needed to get some kinks worked out after a tumultuous close to their non-conference slate. They did just that in a 74-52 win over UMBC in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions (7-6, 0-2) knocked down ten three-pointers and connected on 50% of their field goal attempts in the easy victory.
For a minute the Nittany Lions looked like they may suffer a similar fate to Virginia, but a strong close out to the second half saw them carry a 13-point advantage to the locker room. Two triples apiece from freshmen Myles Dread and Rasir Bolton over the closing seven minutes blew the game open from a 23-23 scoreline. Lamar Stevens also added 11 points in the first half, two of which came on a breakaway dunk with a nasty landing - the team's leader popped up right away, however, and any worst-case injury scare was avoided.
Speaking of dunks, Bolton showcased his ups to get Penn State on the board in the second half with a vicious slam on a drive from the left wing.
Something we feel confident about:@PennStateMBB's Rasir Bolton isn't getting enough love.
Maybe this dunk will change that. pic.twitter.com/f5YKwuXOb7
— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) December 29, 2018
He followed that up later by pulling up Steph Curry-style in transition and splashing one from 24 feet, his third of four triples on the afternoon. The freshman's highs have been one of the bright spots of the non-conference season - he finishes the calendar year second on the team in scoring behind Stevens, adding a team-high 18 to his tally today.
Penn State saw the game out with ease in the second half. The Retrievers only ever got within 14 points as Myreon Jones got in on the act with a couple of triples and the Nittany Lions put the clamps on a much smaller team, holding UMBC to just 35.7% shooting from the floor for the afternoon. That defensive performance allowed Chambers to empty his bench with just over three minutes to play - Daniil Kasatkin and recently-eligible Kyle McCloskey got their first extended minutes of the season. The latter recorded his first career points with a tip-in to give Penn State a 21-point lead.
Next up for Penn State is a trip to Ann Arbor to face the Big Ten favorites in Michigan. The undefeated Wolverines have been one of the stories of the early season, strolling through a difficult non-conference slate with wins over Villanova and North Carolina. The Nittany Lions will be double-digit underdogs in Crisler Arena as they begin their Big Ten season. More on that game next year.