Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Balanced And Effective In 98-61 Exhibition Win Over Northwood
It may have only been an exhibition game and Northwood may not pose the same challenges as Michigan State and the rest of the Big Ten, but Penn State looked balanced and effective during Sunday afternoon's 98-61 blowout victory.
After opening the game down 11-2, a quick timeout and a mental restart to the game saw the Nittany Lions blow past the Seahawks on a 28-3 run. The rest of the game was a formality. Penn State took a 52-30 lead into the half and continued to pour it on in the final 20 minutes of play.
While the game itself was more or less a one-sided affair there is still plenty to take away from the contest as fans got a small taste of what is to come in a pivotal 2013-14 season under head coach Patrick Chambers.
If Penn State is going to win this year, the Nittany Lions will need to shoot the ball effectively, have newcomers play well, and get the most out of its stars every night. All three things were apparent on Sunday, which was a positive sign for the program at this early stage of the year.
Here are a few other notes and observations from Sunday's game.
Balance: By the end of the day, seven different Nittany Lions were in double figures. Ross Travis led the way with 17 points and was able to drive to the hoop and play much closer to the rim than he has in the last two years. Travis could pose a matchup issue if he continues to improve his mid-range game and can get to the basket effectively. Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill both contributed 11 points each and Frazier dished out six assists and seemed capable of moving well around the basket. Frazier didn't look to shoot in the first half but was on point with his floater in the second half when he started to turn it on.
The two guards shots a combined 9-of-17 from the field. Penn State also accumulated 34 points off the bench thanks in large part to an 11 point effort by freshman Graham Woodward and 11 points from transfer Allen Roberts.
Overall no single player carried Penn State for the day and each found a way to contribute to the offense and share the ball as was evident by 17 total assists.
Shooting Well: Last season Penn State players would get open looks and miss them. On Sunday many of those same players hit shots they had missed last season. The Nittany Lions shot 44.4-percent from beyond the arc and 47-percent from the field. Penn State also went 24-for-27 from the free throw line led by Travis' 6-for-6, team best effort. Penn State averaged just under 1.5 points a possession, shooting the ball 66 times. Six players shot 50-percent or better from the field and six different players made a three-point attempt with three players making multiple attempts from long range.
New Faces: Penn State adds plenty of new talent to the team this season but new talent doesn't always mean new contributors. That wasn't the case on Sunday though as new faces on Penn State's roster accounted for 30 points on Sunday. Woodward was impressive from three point range, going 3-of-4. Allen Roberts was strong around the rim adding 11 points while going 2-for-2 from long range. Geno Thorpe made his presence known later in the game but seemed to find his rhythm, missing only one shot while collecting 7 points.
Fouls: Penn State fouled a lot last season, and with a new hand-checking rule limiting a defender's ability to make contact with an offensive player, it has been an area of concern for every team. The Nittany Lions did a good job though and collected only 22 fouls over the course of the game, many of which came near the basket in block attempt situations rather than hand-check fouls out on the perimeter. Those issues will iron themselves out as teams get used to the new rule and how it is called, but Penn State has drilled the rule hard all offseason in hopes of having a leg up on teams still getting used to not using their hands on defense.
- Freshman Julian Moore did not dress and is recovering from a concussion. Chambers said he has been cleared and will practice this upcoming week.
- John Johnson, who is eligible to play at the conclusion of out-of-conference play had a boot on his right foot. Chambers said he had a bunion removed and will be fine by the time he is scheduled to play.
- The Nittany Lions starting five: Donovon Jack, Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis, DJ Newbill and Tim Frazier. Allen Roberts was the first player off the bench followed by Woodward and freshman Payton Banks.
- Penn State scored 34 points in the paint, 30 points off of turnovers, had 22 second chance points and scored 14 on fast breaks. The Nittany Lions were also credited with 14 steals while committing 13 turnovers. Northwood committed 20 total turnovers.
- Newbill left the game with a minor knee injury after 18 minutes of playing time. Chambers said he should be fine for Saturday's season opener with Wagner at the Bryce Jordan Center.
- Allen Roberts looks like the perfect fit for Penn State. Needing to replace transfer Jermaine Marshall, Roberts was brought in to give Penn State a senior player and effective scorer. Roberts pulled down 7 rebounds and scored 11 points going 3-of-5 from the field. Roberts is there, in a sense, to give players a rest without a step down in production or an increase in the likelihood that a mistake will be made. Roberts did just that playing a solid all-around game. It seems more and more likely that Penn State fans and Chambers will wish they could have Roberts for more than a year, although the Big Ten will provide a much more thorough test for the entire roster. It's not impossible to imagine Roberts cracking the starting five at some point this year, but with Newbill and Frazier already cemented in there Penn State has almost too many guards for that to happen. Certainly, that's not the worst problem.
Overall: There is only so much you can take away from a game like this, but everything Penn State could have hoped for was visible on Sunday. There was strong shooting, new faces making an impact, consistent play from returning players and Tim Frazier looking like he never left. In the end there was very little to nit pick about Penn State's performance aside from a slow opening two minutes and the occasional mistakes common with a team still getting on the same page for a full 40 minutes.