A third of the NCAA basketball season has already finished up and the Nittany Lions have started off the season with a 7-3 record with a 1-1 mark in the Big Ten. The early season performances look promising as Penn State has played well against Power 5 opponents in the non-conference slate.
Point guard Tony Carr has had a great start to the season as his 20.1 points per game tops the Big Ten, while Mike Watkins has been blocking shots left and right. On the outside, the Nittany Lions look like a team that can create some serious damage in the conference this season.
Season in Review
The seven wins accumulated by the Nittany Lions is a little inflated as they have only beaten two teams from major conferences this season; one of them being against a rebuilding Pitt team. Outside of a road win against Iowa to open conference play, the season opening win against Campbell might be Penn State’s best win.
Patrick Chambers gave his team opportunities to win big games as Penn State opened its matchup with NC State on an 11-0 run, only to lose the game by seven. Carr played well against a tough turnover happy defense.
Texas A&M and Wisconsin were the Nittany Lions’ other losses and both games were winnable at different parts of the game. The final of the Legends Classic was competitive until about 15 minutes left in the second half when the Aggies broke the game open and led by double digits for the majority of the half.
Wisconsin as the exact opposite as the Badgers were up by 17 midway through the second half, but Penn State clawed its way back to be down one with the ball with 15 seconds to go. Carr had an opportunity to win the game, but his forced triple with eight seconds on the clock hit the front rim and Penn State lost.
Coach Chambers likes Carr having the ball late in games, but the team as a whole has failed to finish in big games. The fact the Nittany Lions are in games is very important, but they need to start winning these games as the opportunities that they have been given do not come around too often.
Josh Reaves and Jamari Wheeler have been harassing ball handlers on the perimeter, but 3-point defense has been a problem as opponents have gotten wide open shots against the press. NC State guard Sam Hunt helped pull the WolfPack into the game by himself as he hit three shots from behind the arc to close the gap.
The Aggies made six 3-pointers, but only attempted 12 as they shot over 50 percent from the floor overall. Wisconsin had similar success as it had open looks across the perimeter with the presence of Watkins on the inside.
Shep Garner needs to step up in these games as he is one of only two seniors on the team and is expected to make big shots in the clutch like he did against Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions have a long way to go until Selection Sunday, but need to pick up key wins along the way if they don’t want to be sweating it out.