Penn State Men’s Basketball Bench Leaves Much To Be Desired
Penn State’s starting line-up may have as much talent as any other team in the nation.
Point guard Tony Carr is second in the Big Ten in scoring with 18.8 points per game while shooting 46.2 percent on three-pointers and dishing out 4.9 assists. Lamar Stevens is having a break-out season, tied for eighth in the Big Ten with 15.9 points per game and adding 6.7 rebounds per game.
Mike Watkins has been a walking double-double, averaging 13.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Watkins also leads the league in field goal percentage and is third in blocked shots. Josh Reaves is considered one of the top defensive players in the nation, leading the Big Ten in steals per game and being involved in countless hustle plays. Shep Garner is a threat to pull up from anywhere on the court, leading the Big Ten in three-point field goals made per game.
For as great as Penn State’s starting lineup has been, its bench has been equally underwhelming. Other than guards Jamari Wheeler and Nazeer Bostick, head coach Pat Chambers doesn’t get much out of his bench.
With the recent suspension of guard Josh Reaves, Chambers was forced to experiment using Wheeler and Bostick in the starting lineup, resulting in only one real contributor coming off the bench. There’s no real scoring threat coming off the bench, and only the aforementioned Wheeler and Bostick are reliable defenders.
Big-man Julian Moore has experience guarding certain players in the Big Ten, so Chambers feels comfortable using him in relief of Mike Watkins in short minutes, but Moore and Satchel Pierce have been unable to contribute much real value to the team. Freshmen John Harrar and Trent Buttrick have been given short runs to gain experience, but still show signs of their youth and lack of experience.
The difference between a strong bench and an underperforming one can be the difference between being a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten squad and a contender. Ohio State, which currently sits tied for first in the conference, gets a more out of its bench than the Nittany Lions do.
The Buckeyes’ top seven players in terms of minutes account for 80 percent of the team’s total minutes played, while the same stat for Chambers’ squad is higher at 84 percent. And the players after the top seven scorers for Ohio State account for 8.5 points per game, while those for Penn State account for only 7 points per game. Although that difference may not seem unbelievably striking, an extra 1.5 points would’ve given the Nittany Lions wins over both Rider and Wisconsin.
A stronger bench arguably could’ve made the difference down the stretch in games against Maryland and Indiana, as Penn State lost its grip on the game in both matchups. In any case, it’s safe to say Pat Chambers needs more out of his bench if Penn State is going to make a run this season.