Penn State Tops North Florida in Season Opener
Penn State won its season opener 87-72 over the North Florida Ospreys, as the aggressive Nittany Lions posted a team-best for points in a season opener under Head Coach Patrick Chambers.
The Ospreys were making tough shots early, as Penn State had a few early turnovers that slowed them out of the gate. The two teams were tied at 14-14 at early, but the Nittany Lions proceeded to take off from there.
Penn State started to make big shots and create offense from defense with four steals and a block from senior guard Josh Reaves. Reaves finished with 19 points, also adding four assists.
Chambers complimented the energy and effort Reaves brings.
“He’s got great instincts, he gets deflections, he’s one of the best defenders in the Big Ten for a reason. He was there for a couple steals, a couple rebounds, shot his free throws really well and made big plays for us,” Chambers said.
Junior forward Lamar Stevens, possibly the Lions’ most vital offensive player, led all scorers with 22 points and 10 rebounds, which stood as his third career double-double.
“I feel like our team depends on me to score and make plays. Our young guys believe in me and our team believes in me, so I do whatever I can to help us win,” Stevens said.
Stevens also described the differences in teaming with sophomore guard Jamari Wheeler as opposed to the departed Tony Carr, who helped lead Penn State to its 2018 NIT Championship run.
“They have two completely different games. Tony’s a bigger point guard, who’s going to post up, and Jamari’s not, and Jamari takes advantage of his quickness to get everyone else involved, so I feel like that opens up more back cuts because he’s able to get to the paint on anybody,” Stevens said.
Penn State led 40-28 at halftime, with Penn State getting to the free throw line often. Penn State’s commitment to defense resulted in North Florida going ice cold, finishing out the first half with 37 percent field goal shooting, after shooting as high as 56 percent when it held an early lead.
The Nittany Lions had four scorers reach double digits in a well-rounded effort, as Stevens, Myles Dread, Reaves and Rasir Bolton all put up at least 10 points.
Dread and Bolton, both freshmen, had sensational collegiate debuts. Dread scored 17 points on six of 10 shooting, as well as four of eight on three-point attempts. Bolton scored 13 points on three of five shooting, and also added six assists.
Penn State dominated in the free throw department, driving to the hoop hard and often throughout the game. The Lions had 35 free throw attempts to the Ospreys 22.
Chambers described his successful approach to defending the three ball against North Florida, who started the game an abysmal 0-for-19 on 3-pointers.
“We were playing a switching defense, they want to shoot 36 3-pointers a game, and we wanted to play the line and have high hands. We switched all five guys at times, we just gotta mix it up a little bit to keep it off balance,” Chambers said.
Chambers was also happy with how his freshmen, Dread and Bolton performed in the season opener.
“They’re very confident. Very confident kids, but I think the staff gives them the confidence, the vets, they give them the confidence to seek their shot, go make plays, we can’t hold those two back,” Chambers said.
Penn State returns to action against Jacksonville State on Monday, November 12.
Jeremy Ganes is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.