The theme surrounding Penn State all season has been they’re talented, but too young. At times this season, the Nittany Lions have looked great, sharing the ball on offense and playing solid team defense on the other end. At other times, they go through stretches of bad turnovers, turning into fast break offense for the opposing team.
Saturday night, the team played their best game of the season when they took down Michigan State at the Palestra in Philadelphia. The Nittany Lions played a complete game, never letting go of the lead in the second half and holding off the Spartans during a few runs, but never letting the lead get cut to less than 5 points.
The team got contributions all over the roster, but none more important than sophomore Josh Reaves. Reaves only had six points in the game, but he is a difference maker on both ends of the floor. He finished the game with 6 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Reaves missed the first five games of the season, but has since brought some life back into this team, not to mention their best defender as well. He is the energy that makes this team go.
Contributions also came from the team’s big three freshmen Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr and Mike Watkins, who all seem to get better with every game. Stevens was the game’s highest scorer with 18 points and six rebounds. Carr scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds and Watkins came off the bench and added 11 points and nine rebounds.
This was a statement game for Penn State as they now head into their toughest part of the schedule this season, which includes Minnesota, Indiana, and then Purdue and Wisconsin both on the road. This could easily be an 0-4 stretch for the Nittany Lions, so it is important for them to ride this momentum into these next few games. However, what the early conference games have shown us is that any team can be beaten on any night.
This Penn State has as much talent on their roster as any team in the conference, and they have displayed that several times this season. Putting together a full, and complete game is what will take them to the next level from being a middle of the pack team, to a team that can compete for a championship.
It’s likely that it will not happen this year, but for a team that will return everyone on the roster next season, this is a great learning experience for a majority of their key players. Not only will Penn State’s play improve as they move deep into conference play and into next season, but the team’s chemistry will be one of the their biggest assets going forward.
I expect Penn State to finish from the middle of the pack, towards the bottom of the conference, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad year for this team. As they continue to grow and play together, this team will look totally different than the one that lost to Albany in the team’s first game. Guys like Carr, Stevens and Watkins could be potential All Big Ten selections down the road. There is hope in Happy Valley and Penn State fans definitely have some things to look forward to in the near future.