Penn State Pulls Away from Depleted Wagner
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State proved that it has all of the makings of an elite defensive team in its 91-64 win over Wagner on Saturday night, according to head coach Pat Chambers.
Penn State looked to build on its 84-46 rout of Maryland Eastern Shore in the season opener. Wagner, on the other hand, was just hoping to get in the win column for the first time this season, as the Seahawks were previously blown out by No. 12 Seton Hall 105-71.
Despite the presumed talent gap and only eight available players on its roster, Wagner made Penn State work for every point in the first half.
Wagner junior guard Alex Morales attacked the basket early and often, finishing through contact and creating opportunities for his teammates.
Fast-paced play created a surplus of open looks for both teams. Penn state employed a three-quarter-court press, as Chambers aimed to slow the game down and seek out his personal mismatches in half-court offense.
Not only did the defensive adjustment slow down the tempo of the game, but it also forced Wagner into an abundance of turnovers. In fact, the Seahawks coughed up the rock a total of 18 times throughout the contest.
Nevertheless, Wagner continued to hang around, as head coach Bashir Mason’s limited group tightened up its defense and began to force Penn State into more contested shots from the perimeter, as opposed to the easy touches in the paint that the Nittany Lions were getting earlier.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” Mason said. “We fought as hard as we could the entire way.”
It was an uncharacteristic performance from the free-throw line for Penn State star Lamar Stevens, who was named to the 2019-20 preseason All-Big Ten Team. The senior forward finished with 17 points but only shot 1-of-5 from the charity stripe.
With time winding down in the first half, Stevens eurostepped his way through the lane for a nice finish, extending Penn State’s lead to 37-30 at halftime.
“During those first four minutes in the second half, I just saw our body language on the court and knew that we didn’t half enough left in the tank,” Mason said.
Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, the press defense began to take a toll on the Seahawks’ shorthanded roster in the second half.
“We have so many good athletes and we feel like we can run a lot of teams out of the building,” Penn State sophomore guard Izaiah Brockington said. “We knew they were getting tired and it was motivation to keep running hard.”
The Nittany Lions started off the second half on an 11-0 run in what was seemingly the nail in the coffin for Wagner’s hopes of an upset bid.
The win marked the first time in the Chambers’ tenure as head coach that Penn State opened the season with back-to-back 20-point wins.
“Our shots didn't fall early, but we didn’t let that affect us,” Chambers said. “We showed that our speed and athleticism can help us become elite.”
Penn State moves to 2-0 on the year, while Wagner drops to 0-2. The Nittany Lions will next travel to Washington for a highly anticipated matchup with Georgetown on Thursday.
Pasquale Tartaro is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.