At Penn State’s preseason media day in October, coach Patrick Chambers lauded his team’s depth.
“It’s going to be new for me,” he said then. “It’s going to be great options to have moving forward, especially as their development continues and they continue to develop as a team and as individuals. It’s going to be refreshing.”
After a three game road stretch over Thanksgiving break, including two games in as many days, Penn State (7-3) returned to the Jordan Center Saturday afternoon against Marshall (4-5) looking like it hadn’t lost a step. Ten Nittany Lions saw playing time in the first half as Penn State rolled to a 90–77 victory.
“I thought [we]did a good job sharing the basketball,” said Chambers, whose Nittany Lions had 20 assists on 33 field goals. “[Marshall] tries to speed you up, and we prepared for that, and I felt like our guys took good, open, in-rhythm shots.”
Penn State jumped out to an early lead and was never threatened. The Lions assumed an 11-3 lead at the first media timeout on five quick points from guard Tim Frazier. Coming into Saturday’s contest, Frazier and backcourt companion D.J. Newbill were the top two scorers in the Big Ten with 19.4 and 19.3 points per game respectably.
By the 3:44 mark in the first half, Penn State was making twice as many shots as the Herd — 60.7 percent from the field to just 20.9 percent — and had half as many turnovers. Kareem Canty provided the lone offense for Marshall in the first half. He had 17 points in the first 20 minutes, including a buzzer beater near half court to end the first frame. No other Marshall player recorded more than five points in the half as Penn State took a 47-32 lead into the locker room.
“I thought our quick shots and our bad offense led to tremendously poor defense in transition,” said Marshall coach Tom Herrion. “We let them get too many early baskets to get their offense going.”
The first four minutes of the second half seemed more like a Penn State highlight reel than a competitive basketball game. Newbill and Travis both had emphatic dunks, Donovon Jack recorded his sixth block, and the Lions extended their advantage to 58-37.
“Those dunks lift the team up,” said Travis. “[They] get the team pumped, there’s a lot of energy flowing.”
If there was one sequence that was indicative of Marshall’s overwhelmingly sloppy play, it occurred with 13:29 remaining in the game. The Herd’s leading scorer for the season, Elijah Pittman, air balled his first foul shot, swished the second, and then barely found the rim on his third. On its ensuing possession, Marshall fell victim to Jack’s seventh block of the game.
“Honestly I didn’t even know I had seven blocks,” said Jack. “I was just out there playing hard and doing what coach asked me to do.”
The final eight minutes were a mere formality. Jack finished with a career night of 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Kevin Montminy’s entrance late in the game marked the twelfth Lion to see playing time. A trio of Canty and Shawn Smith three pointers in the last two minutes brought the Herd within thirteen, but it was much too little and much too late. Canty finished with 28 points.
The Nittany Lions travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday for a 7:00 p.m. matchup with Duquesne.