Legends Classic Game Grades
The Penn State men’s basketball team kicked off the Thanksgiving week with the two-game Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
In the semifinals, the Nittany Lions faced in-state rivals the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Nittany Lions never trailed, cruising to a 31-point victory at a score of 85-54.
This dominating victory landed the Nittany Lions in the championship game of the tournament against the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies. The game turned out to be an entertaining back and forth spectacle, played at a breakneck pace. In the end, the Nittany Lions were outlasted by the Aggies by a score of 98-87.
My overall grades for the two games are as follows:
The offensive flow against Pitt was such that every starter wound up in double figures along with Nazeer Bostick scoring 10 off the bench. The players seemed to realize that everyone could have their way with their matchups, and thus left Pitt hopeless to key in on stopping any one offensive threat. This wasn’t the case against an athletic Texas A&M team, yet the Nittany Lions adjusted. Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr took over and the two of them finished with 25 and 31 points respectively.
These two games proved that the Nittany Lions can score in bunches, and have a multitude of players capable of contributing. The A&M game in particular, showed that this is still possible against higher level competition, though it may have to come as a result of a Tony Carr takeover. Going forward, the Nittany Lions should feel good knowing that Lamar Stevens can takeover in big games as well as Carr, and will be looking for Shep Garner to do the same here and there.
The Nittany Lions stifled Pitt mercilessly. They outrebounded them on the defensive end, grabbing a whopping 32 defensive boards, and thus limited second opportunities. They also managed to pick up 10 steals along with five blocks. It was truly a dominant performance.
As far as the A&M game goes, I think the defensive effort was much better than the score would indicate. In my personal opinion, the Texas A&M Aggies are the best team in an uncharacteristically good SEC, and have the best frontcourt in the country. This game was fast-paced and the Aggies were clearly in a zone offensively. Admon Gilder didn’t miss a shot, and Duane Wilson had a very strong game at point guard. The backcourt also did an excellent job of setting the table for their two NBA-caliber big men, Tyler Davis and Robert Williams.
This was possibly the toughest defensive task the Nittany Lions will face all season, and yet they still managed 14 steals and five blocks, which would normally indicate that they had a stellar game. Overall I’d say the defensive effort over the two games was quite good.
Aside from the occasional blips that all college basketball teams are prone to, Patrick Chambers had his team looking like a very cohesive, focused unit. With the degree of continuity in the squad from last year to the current, one shouldn’t be surprised to see this. Yet Chambers still deserves credit.
There hadn’t been all that much for Chambers to criticize his team on heading into this event as the only remote challenge they had faced was Montana. I believe it was critical for this team to finally beat Pitt after losing the last seven, and to do it in such dominating fashion. The every-possession focus that Chambers has tried to instill in this team was instrumental in this playing out.
Looking back at the A&M game, Chambers will leave with a few things he knows he needs to iron out. It's not everyday that you face a team who can afford to bring a lottery pick off the bench, so I’m sure Chambers was eager to see how his team would react. They came in looking more confident than I would have thought they would against a team who will probably wind up a two-seed, and could have won if a few breaks went their way. Chambers will certainly look to tweak the way his guards and bigs switch defending pick and roll situations as Robert Williams managed to punish them a few times during the game with easy flushes at the rim. Otherwise, I’m sure Chambers is happy and likely thinks he has put together a team that should be in serious NCAA tournament contention.
Patrick Murphy is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.