Penn State struggled its way to a 9-1 record before facing off against George Washington in the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday. They put together their most complete game of the season as they beat the Colonials handily, 64-51. They did it by playing stifling defense for the entire game, and by limiting their turnovers, committing only 11. Jordan Dickerson came up huge this game, recording 6 blocks to go along with 6 boards and 4 points. He was all over the place defensively, twice running the length of the court to pin a layup attempt against the backboard. Dickerson also altered quite a few shots, and made it difficult for the visitors whenever they got inside the paint.
This game is Penn State's best non-conference victory of the year, and arguably the best in Pat Chambers tenure. This was the only game in which Penn State could pick up a resume boost, and they capitalized. This win, combined with the lack of a bad loss, will help Penn State if the are in the conversation come March. Early afternoon games on the weekend before finals can often lead to poor performances (SEE: Return to Rec). Fortunately, they came ready to play, and created their own energy defensively. After George Washington jumped out to an early 13-6 lead, Penn State held them to only 38 points in the final 35 minutes of play, holding them to only 34% from the field. That kind of defense will win you a lot of games.
What We Learned this Week
Penn State did something that they really haven't been able to do this year, which was to expand their lead late in the game. They had been allowing opponents to hang around all season, but today they grew the lead and never took their foot off the gas. George Washington never really had a chance to get back into the game. They slowed down offensively and got stops defensively. If they hope to make noise in the Big Ten this year, they can't let teams hang around after they have a chance to put them away.
The Nittany Lions have had a more balanced scoring attack the last few games, taking pressure off of D.J. Newbill. They had three players score in double figures on Sunday, and 4 scored in double figures on Wednesday in their victory over Duquesne. On any given night there are 5 or 6 players who could score in double figures. Against GW, it was Newbill, Taylor and Garner, against Duquesne it was Newbill, Garner, Jack and Thorpe. The scoring can come off the bench, or it could be someone in the starting lineup. Penn State has not had this kind of depth in a really long time.
Maybe our frontcourt isn't as bad as we thought. At this point I think its safe to say that Donovon Jack isn't going to be a big part of this team, but a confident Jordan Dickerson means that Jack doesn't have to do much. And with Julian Moore available on the bench, there are options behind Dickerson at center. If Ross Travis continues to be a beast on the boards, and if Brandon Taylor can continue his hot shooting, this frontcourt will be able to hang in the Big Ten.
Looking Towards the Future
The Nittany Lions take on final exams this week. They get back on the court on Saturday against Drexel at the brand new PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After that they return home to take on Dartmouth in their final nonconference game. They have a great shot at winning both of those games and getting into conference play at 12-1.