Penn State men’s basketball(2-0, Big Ten 0-0) tipped off for the 2018-19 season on Nov. 9 against the North Florida Ospreys(0-2, American Sun 0-0) in the Bryce Jordan Center.
North Florida started the game hot, leading against Penn State with 10 minutes into the first half. However, it was the Nittany Lions that had control the rest of the way. The Ospreys did not lead for the rest of the contest.
Junior forward Lamar Stevens had a strong showing, leading both teams in scoring with 22 points. He also went a perfect 8 for 8 from the free throw line and pulled down 10 rebounds. Along with Stevens, junior guard Josh Reaves contributed 19 points, four steals, and went 8 for 10 from the free throw line.
As for North Florida, junior guard Garrett Sams lead the team with 16 points but it was not enough to bring them over the top with a final score of 87-72.
Free throws was the key for Penn State’s victory as they went 25-35(71 percent) compared to Ospreys who shot 59 percent from the line. All other team stats were fairly even across the board.
In the Nittany Lions second outing they stayed in Happy Valley to take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks (0-2, OVC 0-0).
Stevens lead the charge once again for Penn State, scoring 25 points, grabbing nine rebounds and two steals. However, the biggest surprise of the night came from freshman guard Rasir Bolton. The Virginia native put up 25 points off the bench going 50 percent behind the arc. The freshman had the most playing time among the bench players with 30 minutes.
What really set the teams apart was the turnovers battle. Jacksonville State had 16 turnovers to Penn State’s six which really ended up playing in the Nittany Lions favor in the final score of 76-61.
Following this weeks games, Penn State has a lot of positives heading into Thanksgiving, with the first being Stevens. After the departure of guard Tony Carr, the fear for the Nittany Lions was who was going to step into that leadership role.
Stevens has shown he is able to carry a good chunk of the scoring load scoring 47 total points in his first two games.
Another stat to bring attention to is free throw attempts. Between both contests the Nittany Lions were able to get to the line a total of 56 times. This shows that Head Coach Pat Chambers is telling his team to attack the basket any chance they get. Now they must be able to capitalize on these attempts in order for this strategy to be really effective.
As for the negatives, Penn State lacks a three point threat since Carr and former guard Shep Garner are not with the team. Attacking the basket is a great strategy for the team that is currently constructed, but a three point threat would make this Nittany Lions team dangerous. With there athletic defensive play and run and gun style of offense, Penn State will have success against their next three opponents.
Penn State will take the court again on Nov. 15 against the Depaul Blue Demons( 2-0, Big East 0-0) in Chicago at 9 p.m. Following Depaul, the Nittany Lions will compete against Wright State(1-1, Horizon 0-0) in the Cancun Challenge on Nov 20 8:30 p.m. The winner of the contest will take on SMU or Bradley the following day.