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Penn State Basketball: Five Thoughts Following 91-65 Exhibition Win Over Lock Haven

by on November 04, 2016 10:45 PM

Exhibition games are by their very nature designed to be somewhat lopsided. One team gets a chance to face an opponent other than themselves in front of a crowd, the other gets a chance to go up against a squad that is objectively better than them. Everyone knows their role and for the most part aside from the occasional upsets, things go according to plan.

And aside from a few cold slumps in the first half Penn State and Lock Haven did just as that as the Nittany Lions went on to win Friday night's contest 91-65 with relative ease. There wasn't much doubt who the better team was, it simply was a matter of going out and proving it.

So in turn a game story isn't worth much because that really wasn't the point of the two teams playing in the first place and retelling that kind of thing is simply not all that interesting. However a few key observations are worth mentioning prior to Penn State's much more meaningful season opener next Friday.

1. Mike Watkins

Penn State's history with big men is a complicated one. On the one hand there aren't a lot of tall athletic players to go around to begin with, and the ones who are equally large and talented tend to drift to the best program's in the nation. So for the most part Penn State and nearly ever college basketball team in America is faced with some mixture of both tall and maybe not super talented or talented but maybe an inch or two, too small.

Mike Watkins might be the one though. At 6-9 he's a few inches shorter than Jordan Dickerson but is athletic, fast, and savvy around the rim. Friday night was full of plays Penn State's big men just haven't made in past years and he could be a missing piece Pat Chambers has been longing for down low. 7-for-11 shooting and nine rebounds is an excellent outing and perhaps more importantly only two fouls in 20 minutes of play will be key to his impact in bigger and bigger games.

2. Lamar Stevens

Along the same lines it seems as though Lamar Stevens has never seen a rebound he didn't like. Twelve rebounds, five on the offensive end were a huge part of his 14-point night and it seems that he has found himself a nice role banging around inside cleaning up missed chances. It's easy to body Lock Haven players, so his ability to do the same in the Big Ten will be a question unanswered for a few more months. The eye test was an easy A though, and to his credit Stevens certainly looks the part from a physical standpoint as well.

3. The crowd

With women's volleyball hosting No. 1 Nebraska, State College football looking to go undefeated in the regular season, and Penn State hockey playing across the street there were plenty of things to do on Friday night. Penn State's love-hate relationship with the Bryce Jordan Center and its fan base is a horse beaten beyond death at this point, but given the fact this game was the only in town that didn't actually count there was a fairly good crowd on hand. It's hard to deny that Penn State's recruiting has gotten fans interested again, now it's just a matter of the chicken and the egg; do fans show up before Penn State is potentially good, or do they wait to see? As of Friday night it might be the fans showing up first, a long awaited change in the status quo for the program. 

4. Shooters

Penn State shot 45 percent from the field but just 3-of-18 from beyond the arc. It has never been a secret that this team is going to be a drive to the hoop first type of squad but the lack of pure jump shooters could prove to be a problem down the stretch. Shep Garner is the team's best shooter but he's streaky. If he can get any sort of consistency from beyond 10 feet that will go a long way towards spreading out defenses happy to fill the lane and makes the Nittany Lions earn their points the hard way. That aside, Tony Carr, Stevens and Josh Reaves all look the part once again for finding way to get to the line and to get to the rim, so maybe it doesn't matter how you score 91 points as long as you do.

5. Athletes 

Strictly speaking this wasn't unknown heading into Friday night but it's fairly clear that for the first time maybe ever, Penn State's best athlete could arguably be three or four different players. That won't make shooting woes disappear but where Josh Reaves looked the part more than his teammates last season, the vast majority of this roster appears to be at that same level. How is translates on the court is unknown but there is a clear step up in the overall physical abilities of this team from top to bottom. That's rarely a bad thing.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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