Game Grades: Maryland and Northwestern
As the calendar turned to 2018, the Penn State men’s basketball team started off conference play with two games against Maryland and Northwestern. The Nittany Lions were able to split these games by losing to Maryland and beating Northwestern at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Penn State lost a close battle against the Terrapins in a back and forth game. But, on Friday night the Nittany Lions were able to rebound by beating the Wildcats 78-63 in order to get to 2-2 in Big Ten play and 12-5 overall. The up and down stretch will be reflected in these game grades.
The Nittany Lions averaged 73.5 points over this two-game stretch which falls close to their season average. Penn State struggled some from the field against Maryland as they only shot 42% from the field, but that improved to 54.5% against the Wildcats.
Against Maryland, sophomore forward Mike Watkins led the way with 17 points as he shot 8-11 from the field. Sophomores Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr added another 31 combined points, but it proved to not be enough. The bench for the Nittany Lions lacked against the Terrapins as they only added nine points. An interesting stat from this game is that Penn State only shot four free throws compared to 34 for Maryland.
Against Northwestern, Stevens was the star against the Wildcats. Stevens had easily his best game of the year as he totaled 30 points and five rebounds for a Penn State team that really needed this win. Watkins and Carr combined for 30 points in a winning effort.
Penn State held Maryland and Northwestern to an average of 69 points which is some of their best defense so far in conference play.
The Nittany Lions held the Terrapins to shooting 45.3% from the field, which is below their season average. However, they only forced Maryland into five turnovers even with Penn State played full-court press much of the second half.
Penn State showed much more defensive effort against Northwestern as the Wildcats only scored 63 points and shot 37.1% from the field. Forcing the Wildcats into 15 turnovers was key to a Big Ten victory for the Nittany Lions. Penn State also outrebounded Northwestern by 13 led by Mike Watkins who had 17 rebounds for the second straight game.
Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers has received criticism this season for his team lacking consistency especially against better opponents and that proved to be true again this week. Penn State led for a good part of the second half against Maryland but was unable to finish.
The Nittany Lions have struggled this season against upper tier teams both in the Big Ten and out-of-conference. While not all the blame should go on Coach Chambers, but his game plan has been up-and-down this season.
However, Chambers did have his team ready for the game against Northwestern for which he deserves credit. Chambers has his team in a decent spot in Big Ten play.
This team is a couple plays away from having a much better record as Chambers needs to make a couple adjustments that could be huge for this team chances of returning to the NCAA tournament.
Camden Tofil is a freshman majoring in advertising. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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