STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Pat Chambers foresees opponents having a tougher time scouting Penn State if the Nittany Lions keep getting contributions from freshmen while their top rebounder rounds into form.
Rasir Bolton scored a career-high 27 points while Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens posted double-doubles to lead Penn State over Colgate 76-65 on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of guys out there that they’re going to have to worry about,” Chambers said. “And that’s going to create a lot of space for us which is exactly what we need. We need space out there for guys to make plays on the offensive end.”
Bolton took advantage of it early. He started hot from 3-point range and didn’t cool off, sinking 7 of 9 shots from beyond the arc and 17 first-half points.
Watkins, who missed the final nine games last season with a knee injury and sat out the first five this season due to personal issues, added 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds on a season-high 23 minutes. Stevens picked up 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Nittany Lions (5-4) who snapped a two-game losing streak.
“I was disappointed in how we came out for the first 13 minutes,” Colgate coach Matt Langel said. “We let Bolton up for air way too many times. That wasn’t the team we are.”
Will Rayman scored 15 points, Rapolas Ivanauskas added 14 and Tucker Richardson chipped in 13 for the Raiders (7-4).
The Nittany Lions, who led 41-30 at halftime, maintained a double-digit lead until Rayman hit a 3-pointer with 13:14 left to make it 53-44 Colgate used an 11-5 run over the next 5:38 capped by a layup from Jordan Burns that made it a three-point game with 7:36 to play.
The Raiders were within three with 2:44 to go, but wouldn’t get any closer as Penn State closed with an 11-3 run that included a pair of free throws each from Watkins and Bolton and a 3-pointer from Josh Reaves.
Penn State took a quick lead for the second-straight game, going up 7-0 before Colgate scored its first basket just under four minutes in.
Bolton notched 15 of Penn State’s first 32 points, all on 3-pointers, and John Harrar gave the Nittany Lions their biggest lead of the half 32-13 with 7:15 to play before Colgate cut into that lead.
Colgate: The Raiders will finally get a break from the road when they return home in a week. They’ve played their last six away from Cotterell Court and earned a split to keep pace among the top teams in the Patriot League.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions had lost three of their last four and shot poorly over that span making just 37 percent of their field goals. Bolton’s precision from 3-point range helps, but Penn State coach Pat Chambers believes his team is capable of shooting better than the 42 percent it did against the Raiders.
The Raiders haven’t spent much time in Hamilton, New York, due to a grueling road schedule that Langel knows has affected their preparation.
They’ve had less time to practice with six road trips over the last 10 days in which they’ve gotten home twice in the early hours of the morning, sticking around long enough for players to attend classes before heading out again.
“I think that any coach will tell you, when you do that, you tend to build not-great habits,” Langel said.
GOOD ON HIS WORST DAY
From Chambers’ perspective, Stevens looked tired for much of the afternoon.
But Penn State’s top scorer, who’s averaged just over 36 minutes per game and played 39 against the Raiders, still was able to impact the game in ways his teammates have come to expect. Six of his rebounds came in the defensive end and he added two assists.
“On his worst day he still gets a double-double,” Chambers said.
Colgate hosts Marist on Saturday.
Penn State faces North Carolina State in Atlantic City, New Jersey as part of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Boardwalk Classic on Saturday.