Nittany Lions Stump Montana After Losing Carr
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State turned in a narrow 70-57 victory over a gritty Montana Grizzlies team on Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center to improve to 3-0 on the season.
Pat Chambers’ squad was not at their best on Wednesday night, as Montana outrebounded Penn State 34-32 and forced 15 Penn State turnovers. The Nittany Lions also got only four points from their bench and made just 14 of their 24 free throw attempts.
Penn State was given a scare after sophomore point guard Tony Carr, who came into Wednesday’s game averaging 26.5 points and seven assists per game, left the game early in the second half with an apparent leg injury. Carr was immediately taken to the locker room and did not return to the game, despite making his way back to the sideline minutes later.
Carr’s injury proved not to be too harmful though, as the Nittany Lions made a late second half push and pulled away at the end.
“It’s great to get a team win like that early in the season and get tested on our home court,” Garner said. “I’m glad that we were able to step up after our brother went down.”
Despite some of the offensive struggles, Chambers is impressed by the improvement his team has showed early on this year to adversity.
“Last year we were a little inconsistent…but now we’re starting to respond. That’s a big word I’ve been using. We’re responding more to challenges and getting punched in the face and just coming back and making plays,” Chambers said.
With Carr’s absence, the Nittany Lions turned to fellow sophomore Lamar Stevens, who chipped in a season-high 25 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. Garner also made a pair of clutch threes with less than three minutes to go to help seal the deal. Josh Reaves turned in his third straight double-digit scoring game with 12 points to provide a nice complementary offensive punch.
“We knew that we could give [Stevens] the ball and he would make some plays for us,” Chambers said. “And Shep really stepped up…that’s what a senior does; that’s what a leader does.”
“My teammates found me in the right spots and I was able to hit my shots tonight, but everyone stepped up after Tony went down,” Stevens said.
Penn State’s ability to have other players step up in critical moments when one of its players goes down is a sign of an improving team.
“We have some players on this team,” Chambers said. “On any given night anybody’s going to step up…we haven’t had that in my tenure here.”
Montana neutralized Penn State in transition, where they are at their best offensively, as they allowed just four fast break points. Penn State shot a solid 50 percent from the field overall, but with Carr out of the lineup for most of the second half, they struggled to get organized offensively in the half court.
Freshman guard Jamari Wheeler, however, played some good minutes in the second half in replacement, adding three assists in 17 minutes.
“Jamari gives us great pace and great speed,” Chambers said. “I thought he did a good job on both ends of the floor.”
“Jamari’s been a great addition to the team,” Stevens said. “He does all the little things we need him to do, and he’s a winner.”
There is room for improvement offensively, but Penn State played at an elite level defensively on Wednesday night. Montana was held to just 39 percent from the field and committed 15 turnovers of their own. It also didn’t help that they made just 7 of 15 attempts from the charity stripe.
Penn State had nine blocks as a team, including six combined from Mike Watkins and Stevens. Watkins scored eight points and collected six rebounds, but he played just 18 minutes as a result of being in foul trouble through much of the game.
“Our guys still got to learn how to play with early foul trouble and not worry about fouling,” Chambers said. “I think some of our guys stopped playing as aggressively as I would’ve liked.”
Penn State also held Montana’s two leading scorers, Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine, in check throughout the game. They scored a combined 31 points but did so on just 13-33 field goals and 4-14 on threes.
Penn State still has much to prove before they can be a spoiler in the Big Ten, but the pieces are there for them to be much improved and compete in the Big Ten. Despite it not being their best performance, Chambers emphasized his team’s ability to find a way to win.
“We faced a lot of adversity and challenges tonight, but we found a way [to win]” Chambers said. “And that’s the making of a really good basketball team.”
Will Desautelle is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.