Nittany Lions Hold Off Colgate
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Nittany Lions (5-4) had to dig deep to stifle a comeback effort by the Colgate Raiders (7-4) in the second half, and thanks to some timely baskets late the Lions back from Tuesday’s loss to Indiana.
Penn State started the game strong on both ends of the court looking like the far superior team. On the offensive side, it had things working inside and out.
In the post redshirt junior forward Mike Watkins scored six early points under the basket. Out on the perimeter freshman guard, Rasir Bolton, was the focal point of the offense during the first half scoring 17 points (career-high 27 points for the game) as he was red-hot from three knocking down five 3-pointers.
“We found (Bolton) he had his feet ready, we’ve talked the last couple days about being down and being ready to shoot,” coach Patrick Chambers said. “Prep work that leads to made shots and I felt like we did that today, he did that specifically.”
On defense, the Nittany Lions were swarming forcing eight first half turnovers while the paint was patrolled by Watkins, who deterred many opposing players on their drive and recorded two first half blocks.
Strong defense on the perimeter limited the Raiders to 3-8 from 3-point territory and played a huge part in the Nittany Lions extending their lead to 19 at the 7:15 mark in the first half.
Though the first half offense was mostly highlighted by Bolton, Lamar Stevens started to heat up late in the half making the final three field goals for the Nittany Lions to give them a 41-30 halftime lead.
In the second half though the game would become much less comfortable for Penn State as Colgate’s defense began to disrupt Penn State’s offense, and the Raiders 3-point shots started falling.
“I knew this wasn’t going to be a blowout,” Chambers said. “They’re too lethal from beyond the arc and have too many shooters on the floor.”
This proved to be true as the Raiders shot 54 percent from 3-point territory in the second half and because of a mixture of defensive looks, the Nittany Lions momentum from the first half was gone as the Raiders were able to pull the game within three with 2:44 remaining in regulation.
The Lions offense began to unravel after their perimeter shooting went cold, shooting just 27 percent from distance in the second half.
The Nittany Lions looked very sloppy during the second half committing nine turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
“I thought (Colgate head coach Matt Langel) really just tried to keep our freshmen guards off-balance,” Chambers said. “Continuing to change defenses, man-to-man, 1-3-1, 3-2 trying to mix it up just trying to keep us off balance and that definitely worked in the second half. We got a little stagnant.”
But the Lions would get back on track on the back of their veterans. Watkins provided reliability on the low block and junior forward Lamar Stevens busted Colgate’s zone with some timely midrange jumpers.
“(Stevens) is a little bit of a throw back player in today’s day and age where everybody wants to shoot three point shots and layups…he’s like an old school player that likes the midrange jump shot,” Langel said. "They got it to him a couple of times in the middle of the zone made a couple of midrange jump shots.”
Watkins was essential to the Lions’ offense, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the second half and was effective from the foul line hitting four of six free throws in the second half.
“I thought it not only helped his confidence but it helps the team,” Chambers said. “If we’re struggling to make threes, if we’re struggling to make shots we have someone very reliable to throw the ball into and man was he effective.”
Watkins was also effective on the boards as well grabbing 16 boards (five offensive) as both he and Lamar Stevens (12 points, 10 rebounds) had double-doubles in the game.
Watkins and Stevens both had fastbreak dunks that secured the victory for the team. Watkins came off a steal and lob from junior forward Josh Reaves and Stevens came on a solo fastbreak off a steal by sophomore guard Jamari Wheeler.
“I saw (Stevens), I saw (Watkins) running down the side and any chance you get those two on that side you just throw it honestly,” senior forward Josh Reaves said of the alley-oop. “That’s just a very big momentum swinger getting him involved, getting him going getting him just to understand that we’re still here and that we trust you and we’re going to throw you the ball and we’re going to give you whatever opportunity to get back to being Mike Watkins.”
The push led by the older players at the end of the game would be enough to put game out of reach as the Nittany Lions won 76-65.
The Nittany Lions won’t play again for another week when they travel to Atlantic City, New Jersey for the Basketball Hall of Fame Boardwalk Classic.
“You know 5 and 4 which is where we are supposed to be,” Chambers said. “We have a lot of growing pains we’ve got a lot of stuff to learn but this is the prefect time to get a couple of days off to get reacclimated take care of our academics and come back hard in a few days.”
The Nittany Lions will take on North Carolina State University on Saturday, December 15 when they look to start a winning streak at the Basketball Hall of Fame Boardwalk Classic.
Jerome Taylor is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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