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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lion Struggle Without Stevens Against White Hot Buckeyes

by on December 07, 2019 2:50 PM

There are a lot of things Penn State's 106-74 loss to No. 6 Ohio State is and a lot of things that it isn't.

For one, it's a blowout. The Buckeyes are one of the hottest teams on the planet and maybe the best, or at least most consistent team in the nation. Ohio State is very very good at basketball and football this year it appears and much like their football counterparts down the street, unrelenting in every area.

So in the broad spectrum of analysis everything has to be viewed through this particular lens. Ohio State is fantastic, Penn State is just pretty good.

And it showed on Saturday like it has against every team Ohio State has faced. The Buckeyes traveled to North Carolina and blew the doors off the place without much effort against a program that rarely loses, let alone by 25 at home.

Against a stingy defense Penn State struggled to score and with the likes of Kaleb Wesson in the post the Nittany Lions had little in the way of answers to slow down one of the bulkiest and most physical big men in the country.

Then there was the shooting, Ohio State made everything from beyond the arc, officially 14-of-26 attempts. Some of them were wide open, other ones were shots with hands in the face. It didn't matter what Penn State did, Ohio State made tough shots, free throws and jumpers. The Nittany Lions have made their bread and butter holding teams below their scoring average but could do little to slow down a Buckeye offense that has made its bread and butter just scoring because they want to.

There are also the fouls. The nature of a basketball game is that everyone is going to be unhappy when fouls are called, but Penn State found itself trying to survive without Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens in the first half and eventually in the second as well. To Penn State's credit the Nittany Lions had cut the first half deficit from 18 points to just seven before yet another contested shot feel from deep, all without the consistent services of Watkins or Stevens. At the break it was an 11 point game.

Nearly the midway point of the second half it all fell apart. Lamar Stevens picked up a fourth foul, and in turn picked up a technical as he walked away towards his own bench, pounding the ball into the court in frustration. The technical the final straw, and his day was done with 13:26 to play. 

Over the next minute Penn State would cut a 12-point game to just eight points, but the die had already been cast and the Buckeyes, longer, stronger, faster and better, smelled blood and the shots continued to fall, the final score evidence enough of that.

Which brings us to what the game wasn't.

It wasn't going to change if Stevens hadn't fouled out. The final almost certainly would have been closer, Penn State has played Ohio State close on an annual basis but on Saturday the Buckeyes were the better team and were almost certainly going to win.

But the loss also wasn't much of an indictment of what Penn State's season is, or what it can be. The Nittany Lions appear to be quite capable of winning a lot of games and they'll get another chance to do so against Ohio State later down the road. Penn State also appears to be deep and have lots of scoring options, and when its opponents aren't shooting like a cheat code, play quality defense to match it. Equally true, the Big Ten is good, but not made up of 13 other teams just like Ohio State. Penn State couldn't beat a national title contender, but it's also not really trying to win a national title.

When it is all said and done Penn State got blown out and that score will not have an asterisk next to it because Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins only played for 17 minutes, but nothing about the Nittany Lions' season has changed.

So don't jump off a bridge, just go watch some football and check back in on Tuesday when Penn State hosts No. 3 Maryland.



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