Men’s And Women’s Basketball Clicking Early With New Offenses
Neither of Penn State’s basketball teams have been known for scoring in recent years. Last season, the men’s team finished the season with the No. 316 scoring offense in the country — putting up 65.8 points per game. The Lady Lions, on the other hand, fared much better nationally, but was just 10th best in the Big Ten with 70.1 points per game.
This season, tactics have changed for both teams with each utilizing an up-tempo offense, with the men getting away from its low-possession, run the clock style and the women playing a more full-court game.
Men’s coach Pat Chambers made the intentions for his team’s offense clear — it wants to score at least 80 points every game. Women’s coach Coquese Washington made no such declarations, but the change in gameplan appears to be more scoring oriented.
Through three games this season, each starting 2-1, both offenses are living up to that 80+ total, with Chambers’ squad scoring in the 80s every game and the Lady Lions averaging 83.3 so far — including a 106-point effort against Saint Peter’s on Sunday.
For Chambers, he’s pleased with the play so far in the new offensive setup.
“The offense is fine,” Chambers said. “[Grand Canyon] is the second game in a row that we had 20 assists, which is terrific. The guys are sharing the ball. We have almost five guys in double figures with Mike [Watkins] getting nine. It’s going to be tough to guard us because who are you going to stop. In years past it’d be one or two guys. Now you’ve got five or six, so that bodes well for our future.”
Five different guys are averaging double figures through three games — Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr, Shep Garner, Payton Banks, and Mike Watkins. Stevens tops the list, averaging 17.7 points per game with back-to-back efforts leading the team in scoring.
Washington is also happy to see some improvements for her young team from last season with this new offense.
“I’m glad that we’re able to put pressure on our opponents offensively,” Washington said. “We’ve got a variety of weapons. One of the things I’m pleased about right now is we’re getting a little bit more balanced scoring.”
The Lady Lions have three players averaging double figures — Teniya Page, Lindsey Spann, and Kaliyah Mitchell.
Part of the Lady Lions’ balanced scoring is in thanks to sophomore guard Page. The 2015 All-Big Ten Freshman Team honoree draws a lot of attention from opponents, freeing up her teammates on the offensive end.
“Once I start making a couple of shots, then the defense is more focused on me, which lets everyone else be open,” Page said. “I kind of use that as an opportunity to get everyone else involved.”
That held true against Akron on Wednesday night. Page scored 19 of her team’s 46 first half points. In the second half, Page only tacked on four more points, but teammates had the opportunities to score with Spann putting up 12 and Mitchell putting up nine of that half’s 38 points.
With the offenses having a decent amount of success in the early going, each will face its toughest test of the non-conference schedule next with Chambers’ team facing No. 1 Duke on Saturday and Washington’s team facing No. 13 Tennessee.
The biggest concern the teams have going forward with these games, and through the rest of its seasons, lies more on the defensive end than the offensive.
“We need to get these guys on the same page about guarding,” Chambers said. “It’s nice to see us put up those points, but we can’t continue to outscore teams.”
Washington is on the same page on the defensive end, especially after a lackluster effort on that side of the ball against Akron.
“If I was a professor, the team would be asking if they could get a do-over,” Washington said. “I didn’t think defense was up to the standards that we’ve shown in practice. One of the things that happens when you have lineups with a lot of youth, when you have two or three freshmen or sophomores, is the communication is not where it needs to be.”
The two teams are young, working on a new offensive scheme, and challenging two of the top basketball programs of all-time. The expectation is not a win this weekend, but being able to make improvements against quality opponents as it heads toward the Big Ten slate.
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