Freshmen Shine in Bounce Back Win for Men’s Basketball
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – If Sunday night’s performance was any indication of what to expect for the future of Penn State basketball, the future is very bright.
Than freshman tandem of Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins, and Tony Carr paved the way for the Lions in their 82-74 win over the Duquesne Dukes.
The three were firing on all cylinders as they would combine to score 59 out of Penn State’s 82 points in a much-needed win for the young squad.
Watkins, similar to his start against Albany, would start the game off hot as he scored the first three buckets for Penn State.
“Mike [Watkins] is bringing a lot of juice. He is so raw,” head coach Pat Chambers said. “I don’t think he knows how good he actually is.”
Penn State’s two returning leading scorers would get off to a slow start as Shep Garner and Payton Banks were a combined 1-9 from the floor in the first half.
Without their two biggest weapons on offense working proficiently, the Lions would look to their defense to help solve their problems.
The Lions would force six turnovers in a five-minute span against the Dukes with a stingy 1-2-2 trap defense and would score on each of those turnovers. The Dukes were always quick to respond however and kept the game close the entire way.
With 2:01 remaining in the first half, Penn State continued using the trap game and would force Duquesne’s 13th turnover of the first half.
Stevens would then take over for the Lions and would score the next seven points for the Lions including a quick turnaround mid-range jumper by Stevens. After Steven’s jumper, the Lions would take the largest lead of the game at 31-27.
After two made free throws by Duquesne’s Darius Lewis, Penn State held the ball for the last shot and would end the first half with an up-and-under layup by Terrence Samuel. Penn State would head into the locker room leading 33-29.
Penn State would open the second half of the game very similar to how they started the first half: with a Watkins layup.
Duquesne would continue to hang in the game and at the 15-minute mark took the lead for the first time at 43-42.
The Lions and Dukes would go back-and-forth with the score until the Dukes hit a huge three, giving them a four-point lead at 48-44.
Garner would quickly respond with a three of his own from the top of the key, cutting the lead to one. The freshman would then retain the lead again for the Lions after an elbow jumper by Stevens and a three-pointer by Carr.
Duquesne would never hold the lead again as they would trail for the rest of the game. The biggest problem for the Dukes was keeping Stevens from the foul line.
Stevens would shoot 12-13 from the free-throw line and Coach Chambers could not have been more proud of his freshman’s performance.
“Lamar is a continuous mismatch and he shot beautiful free throws tonight,” Chambers said. “He is going to a big player for us, we just need to see consistency.”
Stevens’s lights out shooting from the free-throw line was not the only dagger that Penn State dealt to the Dukes in the second half. After shooting an abysmal 1-12 from the three-point line in the first half, the Lions were 6-9 from the field in the second half.
Carr, Garner and Banks combined to hit six three-pointers in the second half, providing a big confidence boost to the Lions.
Watkins would close out the game for the Lions with two massive blocks around the two-minute mark, giving him five blocks on the night.
Stevens led all scorers with 24 points, followed by Carr who contributed 20 points and seven rebounds.
Chambers was very pleased with the way his team responded to the home opener against Albany.
“I’m really proud of my team and the captains on how they responded after Friday night,” Chambers said. “Going hard at Saturday’s practice really payed dividends in tonight’s game.”
Penn State takes on Grand Canyon University Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center before heading to Uncasville, Connecticut to take on the No. 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils.
Greg Merchlinsky is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in political science. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.