Balanced attack leads Penn State past Fairleigh Dickinson
(AP) Pat Chambers wants points to come from everywhere and he wants opponents who visit Penn State’s gym to fear the offensive potential his young lineup possesses.
Penn State’s coach knows all that will come if his team plays defense like it did in an 81-57 win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Sunday where five Nittany Lions finished in double figures.
Tony Carr scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half, Josh Reaves added 17 points, Mike Watkins finished with 15 and Lamar Stevens and Nazeer Bostick chipped in 12 apiece for the Nittany Lions (2-0) who led by 16 at halftime and forced 31 turnovers.
“I want us to have an assassin mentality of when you come in here, you better be fearful that we’re going to compete hard,” Chambers said. “We’re big, we’re strong, we’re physical, we’re tough and we can keep coming at you with different guys.”
Reaves has been the team’s stingiest defender for a while. He finished with four steals and six of his nine rebounds came on the defensive end.
He said afterward he was sparked by Watkins’ return. The 6-foot-9 forward missed most of the preseason and the season opener for a reason Chambers described as “in-house.”
“Just having Mike back there, just the steals that I can go for, I feel like I can go with more confidence knowing I have the big fella back there who has my back,” Reaves said.
Mike Holloway Jr. led Fairleigh Dickinson (0-2) with 19 points while Jahlil Jenkins added 14 for the Knights.
Penn State took the lead for good midway through the first half on a Reaves layup, his third field goal of the game, and closed out the first half on a 21-6 run. Carr drove to the hoop for a buzzer-beating layup to give Penn State a 45-29 halftime lead.
“We thought if we could make them shoot over us and then kind of clog up the lane, we could turn them over. And we did we were there for 10, 12, 13 minutes of the game.”
Fairleigh Dickinson: The Knights’ 2015-16 Northeast Conference championship seems long ago, mostly because they’ve lost an awful lot recently. After starting conference play 8-1 last season, the Knights went 1-8 over their final nine. They’ll need more consistency from a mix of upper and underclassmen to return to the top of the NEC.
Penn State: Watkins’ return from a mysterious absence that coach Pat Chambers described as an “in-house” issue gives Penn State a much needed physical presence down low. It will also give Chambers even more options on defense. The big man, who led the team in blocks and rebounds last season, looked fresh and prepared in his 20 minutes of action.
PRETTY TRANSITION AND FINISH
Penn State was cruising when Stevens blocked a Pat McNamara shot under the basket. It drew oohs from the Bryce Jordan Center crowd before Reaves snagged the rebound. He quickly fired the ball to Carr and burst down the court to Carr’s right. Carr dished it off underneath and Reaves dunked to roars.
Moments later, Reaves broke up the Knights’ own transition with a steal and dish to Miller who slammed it home for a 60-37 lead. It prompted a timeout from the Fairleigh Dickinson bench.
MISSING THE EASY ONES
The two teams combined to miss 16 layups with nine of those misses coming off the Knights’ fingertips.
Meanwhile, Penn State scored 10 points off slam dunks with Watkins leading all players with five.
“I wanted us to attack the paint whether they were in man or zone,” Chambers said. “Defense leads to runouts and runouts lead to dunks.”
Fairleigh Dickinson forward Dondre Rhoden left the game late in the first half after he and Watkins got tangled up under the net and came crashing down, with Watkins’ 254-pound frame landing on top of Rhoden.
Watkins limped off and had his right leg looked at before returning. Rhoden stayed down for a few moments then was doubled over when he did get up. He returned to play five minutes in the second half.
Fairleigh Dickinson played again without guard Darian Anderson who is still working his way back from a stress fracture suffered in the summer.
Knights coach Greg Herenda said the team’s leading scorer will return eventually and hopefully before the team plays its next game against a Big Ten opponent. The Knights travel to Rutgers on Dec. 9.
Herenda began his press conference noting that his wife, Jill, is a Penn State graduate.
“At least when I go home, someone in the family is going to be happy,” Herenda said.
Fairleigh Dickinson hosts FDU-Florham on Wednesday.
Penn State hosts Montana as an early part of the Legends Classic on Wednesday.