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State College, PA – Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Cruise Past UMBC –

Penn State men’s basketball (7-6) scored its first win by 20 or more points this season, taking down UMBC (7-7), 74-52,  on Saturday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Rasir Bolton and Lamar Stevens led the way with 18 and 16 points, respectively. Six different Penn State players scored six or more points, and the Nittany Lion defense held the Retrievers to 35 percent from the field.

How It Happened

The game was competitive from the start, featuring 10 lead changes in the first 15 minutes, with neither team leading by more than four points over that stretch.

Penn State finally caught fire after a media timeout with the score tied at 23. A Myles Dread three-pointer gave his team a lead, and Josh Reaves blocked a shot at the other end of the court. Reaves then fed the ball down low to Stevens, who laid the ball up and in to give Penn State a 28-23 advantage, while forcing UMBC to call a timeout. Dread buried another trey in between UMBC’s timeout and the under-four media timeout, capping an 8-0 run over 1:48 for the Nittany Lions.

The Retrievers finally killed their 3:20 scoring drought, but a mid-range jumper by Stevens and a put-back jam from John Harrar extended Penn State’s lead to double digits for the first time. A triple from Bolton pushed the advantage to 13 points, the largest margin of the half, and the Nittany Lions took a 40-27 lead into the locker room.

Bolton got the second half started with an explosive dunk, a part of his offensive arsenal that hasn’t been showcased much this year.

 

 

A deep shot from Myreon Jones made the score 47-33 heading into the under-16 timeout. The freshman followed it up a few minutes later with another trey, and fellow rookie Bolton hit a triple himself as Penn State led by 17 with less than 13 minutes remaining.

 

 

The game began to get a bit sloppy from there, as Penn State split a plethora of free throws after a flurry of fouls by the Retrievers. Penn State just kept pulling away, as UMBC continued to struggle from the field, making just 12 of its 33 two-point attempts in the game. Bolton and Dread continued the team’s success from beyond the arc with a few more made deep balls, as the Nittany Lions shot 10-for-21 from 3-point range.

Daniil Kasatkin recorded minutes for the first time since the Wright State game at the under-four timeout, and fellow freshman Kyle McCloskey checked in for the first time in his career. Even Taylor Nussbaum and Grant Hazle got into the action at the end of the game, as Chambers played every available player on his bench.

Takeaways

  • Josh Reaves was the ball distributor that Pat Chambers’ team has desperately missed this season. Reaves filled the stat sheet, turning his stellar defense into quick offense by pushing the ball up the floor to players like Stevens and Bolton. He finished with nine points, five assists, two rebounds, two blocks, and a steal against just one turnover.
  • When Penn State faces man-to-man defense, it’s almost impossible to stop Lamar Stevens. Many teams have doubled him in some fashion during the first half of the season, but the Nittany Lions’ offense found a groove early thanks to UMBC’s defensive scheme. Stevens got hot, allowing Bolton more space to create.
  • Trent Buttrick earned his first start on Saturday. The sophomore had a breakout performance at Alabama, scoring 13 points in 20 minutes, and while Chambers may not have been rewarded with a great game statistically from Buttrick, the Bloomsburg, Pa. native seemed to fit into the rotation well. The offense flowed much better than it has with Jamari Wheeler and Harrar in the lineup this season.
  • Jamari Wheeler picked up three fouls in his first four minutes of action, keeping the sophomore guard off the floor for most of the game until it was out of reach. The defensive stopper has been playing pretty well on that end of the floor, but his offense still hasn’t come around since he’s been in Happy Valley. If he starts to frequently get into foul trouble like this, Wheeler will continue to slide down the bench in favor of the freshmen guards.

What’s Next

Penn State heads to Ann Arbor to face No. 2 Michigan after the New Year, as it heads into the thick of its Big Ten schedule. The opening tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 3. You can watch the game on ESPN.

 



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