Game Grades: Men’s Basketball vs. Alabama
Coming off of an enormous victory versus the top-ranked Maryland Terrapins, Penn State came into this game with heaps of momentum. Playing in front of their home fans again, the Nittany Lions put on a resilient comeback effort to defeat Alabama, 73-71.
This game was really a tale of two halves for the Nittany Lions. Let’s hand out some game grades to see how everybody performed:
Penn State had some trouble getting started offensively. If not for Myreon Jones, and Curtis Jones Jr.’s huge contribution off of the bench, the Nittany Lions would’ve had a gigantic hole to climb out of in the second half. Instead, it was only six points.
Jones had 12 points at halftime and finished with 17. Curtis Jones Jr. had eight at the half and finished with 18. "The Joneses" carried the Nittany Lions’ offense in the first half, and then Lamar Stevens took the over in the second.
Stevens went off in the second half and led the Nittany Lions’ comeback. He scored 13 of his 18 points after the break, and with his fiery leadership, lit a fire under the rest of the team. Stevens was amped and had the Bryce Jordan Center rocking after scoring an and-1 off of an inbound pass with 5:40 remaining. He converted the free-throw, giving the Nittany Lions a 64-63 lead, and from there they never looked back. Myles Dread also contributed nine points, going 3-for-7 from deep.
Early on, this game was a very uncharacteristic defensive performance by the Nittany Lions. Much of this was due to the fact that Mike Watkins got himself into foul trouble early, and, for the majority of the first half, Alabama took complete and utter advantage of it. The Crimson Tide were dominating the Nittany Lions’ defense, especially inside, which in turn gave them space on the perimeter and they were getting good looks from 3-point land. Alabama made six threes in the first half, compared to only three in the second. Which ultimately ended up being a huge difference maker.
In the second half, Watkins and Stevens made it nearly impossible for the Crimson Tide to get close to the basket and operate their offense. Stevens took the game into his own hands, especially on the defensive end. He put on a remarkable defensive effort – by far his most impressive of the season. Stevens was phenomenal guarding on the ball, locking down guards, plus altering and blocking shots underneath. He finished the game with two steals, and a season high five blocks. He also tallied 11 defensive rebounds to secure a double-double.
Watkins was extremely active down low in the second half also, once his fouls became less of a concern. He finished with seven points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Alabama had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, compared to only four in the second. That drastic difference is chiefly contributed to the presence of Watkins in the paint. The impact of Watkins’ presence underneath goes significantly beyond what shows up directly in the stat sheets, too.
Pat Chambers did an exceptional job managing the lineups and rotations in the first half while Watkins got himself into early foul trouble. Alabama was having their way with the Penn State defense without Watkins in the game, and it could’ve easily gotten out of hand.
Additionally, the Nittany Lions came out looking like an entirely different team in the second half. Pat Chambers must have given one heck of a halftime speech. They were undoubtedly more focused and fired up. His halftime adjustments were more significant than those made by Nate Oats.
Lastly, he also called some very timely timeouts.
Zach Donaldson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.