In a back-and-forth affair from beginning to end, Penn State’s youth showed.
The Nittany Lions were down by double digits in the second half, but went on a 10-0 run in the final minutes to force overtime. However, it was DePaul that was able to prevail in the extra session against a Penn State team that was thinned out by foul trouble.
Trailing by two points and with possession of the ball with five seconds left, Penn State couldn’t get it done. Myles Dread missed a jumper and Trent Buttrick’s putback wouldn’t go, and the Nittany Lions fell by a final of 72-70.
“We had a couple different looks there,” Pat Chambers said after the game on the Penn State radio broadcast. “We executed it really well, it just didn’t fall.”
The Nittany Lions struggled in the overtime period, failing to score until 39 seconds left to play, but they had a chance to win it in regulation.
Lamar Stevens was at the free throw line with 24 seconds left in regulation and a chance to put his team out front. Stevens made the first, but missed the second. Rasir Bolton came up with a steal in the final seconds, but missed a layup at the buzzer and forced the game into overtime.
Despite the comeback, Chambers wasn’t pleased.
“We didn’t deserve to win that game,” Chambers said. “I thought DePaul played harder than us. We had too many turnovers, we gave up too many offensive rebounds and we let missing shots dictate our effort.”
DePaul guard Max Strus, who was a preseason Second Team All-Big East selection, led the way for the Blue Demons. He led his team with 21 points and chipped in on the glass as well, collecting eight rebounds on the night. An and-1 on an alley-oop dunk by Strus to put DePaul up by 10 in the second half was the exclamation point the Blue Demons needed to ride the home crowd to victory.
Stevens finished with his third straight game of 20 points or more to start the season. The junior forward was once again Penn State’s most reliable offensive player, finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
“He needs some help, he can’t do this on his own,” Chambers said. “He’s going to learn how to play out of double teams.”
Freshmen struggle in first road game
Rasir Bolton looked like a different player than the one we saw a few days ago.
After scoring 25 points against Jacksonville State, Bolton was a shell of himself in his first career road game.
The freshman point guard never got going offensively and was struggling with turnovers as well. Bolton failed to score in the game, going 0-10 from the field including 0-6 from 3-point range, and was forced to sit for a large portion of the second half as he picked up his fourth foul with about 10 minutes left to play.
“You know what I told him? Keep shooting,” Chambers said.
Myles Dread struggled in the first half as well, but he found his shooting stroke in the second half and finished with 19 points and five 3-pointers, but the missed shot at the end of overtime will haunt him.
But the freshmen turned the ball over far too much and that was a big reason the Nittany Lions were never able to regain the lead in the first half. Bolton had four turnovers on the night.
Reaves and Stevens carry Penn State on offense in first half
With Penn State’s freshmen struggling to provide a consistent scoring boost on Thursday night, the Nittany Lions turned to its two veterans, Reaves and Stevens, to get the job done.
The duo combined for 20 of Penn State’s 31 first half points and looked like the Nittany Lions’ only form of offense.
“[Reaves] was terrific,” Chambers said.
Stevens got double-teamed for the third straight game, but he was still able to contribute for his team, even when he wasn’t scoring the ball.
Nittany Lions continue to get dominated inside without Watkins
Penn State was able to survive against undersized North Florida and Jacksonville State to start the season.
But the absence of Mike Watkins was noticeable on Thursday night.
Both John Harrar and Trent Buttrick struggled defensively and didn’t provide much offense, either.
The duo combined for just eight points, but it was on the glass where those two really struggled. Penn State got outrebounded by DePaul, 47-35, which led to 17 second chance points for the Blue Demons.
Harrar fouled out in regulation and the Nittany Lions were forced to play overtime without his presence on the floor.
Penn State will head to Cancun next week for a two-game stretch. The Nittany Lions will face off with Wright State on Tuesday and will face either Bradley or SMU the following night.