Entering the season, one of the biggest concerns for the Penn State Nittany Lions was their lack of a go-to scorer. That role was almost exclusively handled by D.J. Newbill last season, and the thought of asking a guy like Brandon Taylor or Shep Garner to fill his shoes seemed like a bit of a stretch. But man, did Garner do a heck of a Newbill impersonation in Wednesday night’s 67-58 win over Boston College. The sophomore scored a career high 30 points on 10 of 16 shooting, including a whopping 8 of 12 from three. Not only did he score 30 points for the first time in his career, he also accounted for 45 percent of the team’s points.
That last number is very impressive, but also not exactly ideal for Penn State moving forward. One of the issues with last year’s team was that Newbill, who accounted for 31 percent of the team’s points, was often forced to do too much because none of his teammates could score consistently. But for one game, it was great to see Garner prove he can carry the team when needed. What was even more impressive was the way he caught fire from three. Yeah, he’s not going to go 8 of 12 from behind the arc every night, but after going a combined 4 of 15 from three in the Nittany Lions previous three games, he was due for a good shooting night.
Last season as a freshman, Garner basically always had the green light from Pat Chambers and was the definition of inconsistency, scoring double digits 15 times but finishing the season with a 36 percent shooting percentage. After last night, Garner is now averaging 15.5 points per game and shooting 44 percent from the field and a ridiculous 49 percent from three. Those totals (especially the 3-point shooting) will likely drop as the season progresses, but Garner’s progress is encouraging. Now the focus for him should be improving his way too low 56 percent free- throwing shooting and continuing to improve as a pass and defender.
Here are some more thoughts on the now 4-2 Nittany Lions:
- Brandon Taylor really struggled all game, going 1-6 from the field and finishing with just two points and three rebounds in 18 minutes. Everyone has off days, and Taylor had played well prior to this game, but he’s got to make sure performances like this don’t happen frequently like in the past. On nights when his shot isn’t falling, he’s got to find other way to get his points while continuing to rebound and defend. Penn State is really going to need him to step up if it doesn’t want to get embarrassed in Big Ten play.
- At the same time, it was great to see Jordan Dickerson and Donovon Jack both have their best games of the season the same night. Dickerson played 30 minutes and scored a career-high nine points and grabbed six rebounds while Jack also scored nine points and notched eight rebounds in 23 minutes. Good stuff from two seniors who will need to continue producing.
- Freshman Davis Zemgulis got on the floor for the third time this season, but failed to score in seven minutes. Zemgulis wasn’t expected to be a major contributor right away, but it would be nice to see him show off the shooting stroke that had fans excited when he first committed to Penn State. Let’s hope he shows a few flashes this season.