PSU news by
Penn State's student blog



Mike Watkins A Bright Spot During Penn State Hoops’ Rough Big Ten Stretch

After missing the first game of the season and averaging 10 points per contest through Penn State men’s basketball’s first seven games, Mike Watkins didn’t exactly explode into his sophomore season. The Nittany Lions were 6-2 with their first Big Ten game of the season looming at Iowa.

That’s when Watkins began to come out of his shell. The sophomore had back-to-back performances with a 9-13 stat-line against the Hawkeyes and Wisconsin. The results? 41 points and 15 rebounds combined in a road win at Iowa and a one-point loss to the Badgers.

From that Iowa game in early December until Penn State’s overtime loss to Minnesota on January 15, Mike Watkins scored in double digits every time he touched the floor. Twelve consecutive games scoring in double figures is no small feat, but Watkins put the cherry on top with how he ended that streak. The big man had a double-double in each of the last five of those games, averaging 17 points and 14.4 rebounds per game over that timeframe.

What’s even more impressive is that Watkins is leading the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at a 70.8-percent clip, while slotting into second place in the rebounding column behind Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy by averaging ten rebounds per contest.

“Mike has been terrific,” head coach Pat Chambers said last week. “You’ve got to love his competitive fire. You can really tell he cares.”

Watkins gives it his all on the court, and for Coach Chambers, “That’s all I can really ask from him.”

For the season, Watkins has improved from his freshman campaign in almost every statistical category. The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 13.3 points each night to go along with 10 rebounds. He is also averaging three blocks per game.

Watkins’ teammates are noticing his ability and effort on the court, including veteran guard Shep Garner.

“He’s real active and has a lot of energy,” Garner said after the Minnesota loss. “That’s what Mike does, and when he brings it, we’re hard to beat.”

Watkins’ improvement came at a crucial time for Penn State, as Tony Carr’s slump over winter break, Josh Reaves’s never-ending suspension, and the lack of bench production have all slowly taken a collective toll on the team’s record. The Nittany Lions, however, aren’t dwelling on their missed opportunities.

“I think we have the right guys to win in the Big Ten,” Garner said. “It just didn’t work out tonight, but I think going forward we have the right team to be successful.”

Watkins has finished off a lot of wide-open slams like this one during the 2017-18 campaign.

Right now, the outlook for Penn State hoops is pretty grim. The Nittany Lions have suffered several losses in winnable games, and now face the toughest stretch in their schedule with a 3-5 conference record. The NCAA Tournament hopes that preceded the season are almost certainly dashed, and at this point the biggest questions are whether the team can salvage an NIT berth and what the future might hold for Pat Chambers.

While the numbers may have dropped off in Penn State’s recent loss to Northwestern, Watkins still tallied eight points and seven boards while hitting both of his field goals. The Nittany Lions finished the final 10:37 without scoring a basket from the field; however, they neglected to work in a single shot for their hot hand in the paint.

Expect the Nittany Lions to go back to the big man often in the upcoming games with physical opponents like No. 22 Ohio State, Rutgers, and No. 9 Michigan State on the docket. Whether the team uses Watkins or not, the sophomore will play a key role in these games that will decide the immediate future of Penn State basketball.

About the Author

Mitch Stewart

Mitch is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. Despite growing up in Roanoke, VA (Redskins/Nationals country), he is an avid Dallas Cowboys and New York Mets fan. In addition to being an editor for Onward State, Mitch loves to watch sports, talk about sports on PSU CommRadio, and tries his hardest to avoid the agony that being a Mets fan brings. To contact Mitch, feel free to send him an e-mail at [email protected], and if you really don't value your social media accounts, follow him and his garbage opinions on Twitter @mitchystew.


More by Mitch

Evaluating Tony Carr’s Performance At The 2018 NBA Draft Combine

Carr underwhelmed in the agility tests and the scrimmage, but impressed scouts with his sharp-shooting skills.

Board Of Trustees Approves Pat Chambers Contract Extension

Tony Carr Signs With Octagon Basketball Agency


Penn State Women’s Volleyball Releases 2018 Schedule

Russ Rose’s Nittany Lions won’t play a single home match in September, electing to test themselves against teams like Stanford and Oregon early in the season.

Penn State Hoops Alumnus Joonas Suotamo’s Journey To Becoming Chewbacca Featured On ESPN’s ‘E:60’

Evaluating Tony Carr’s Performance At The 2018 NBA Draft Combine

Penn State Hockey Commit Evan Bell Wins Clark Cup With USHL’s Fargo Force

Center Ludvig Larsson Transfers To Penn State Hockey From Merrimack

Student Life

Penn State Esports Wins Tespa Collegiate Hearthstone Championship

With two Penn State Esport teams in the top eight, the odds of winning the National Championship were ever in our favor.

Road And Utility Work Impacting Penn State This Summer

Where Do Penn Staters Move After Graduation?

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

Predicting Penn State’s 2018 Kickoff Times

As the Nittany Lions have ascended back into college football’s elite, they’ve taken the field at night more often in the past few years and avoided the dreaded early kickoff.

We Are Royalty: Meghan Markle Is A Penn State Fan

Penn State fans are everywhere, even in the British royal family.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Penn State Esports Wins Tespa Collegiate Hearthstone Championship

With two Penn State Esport teams in the top eight, the odds of winning the National Championship were ever in our favor.

Send this to a friend