Just How Good Is Penn State Lacrosse’s Offense?
Penn State men’s lacrosse will make its first appearance in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament on Saturday against Yale at Lincoln Financial Field.
As the Nittany Lions turn their focus to Championship Weekend in Philadelphia, it’s hard not to take a second to consider just how impressive their season has been. Jeff Tambroni’s squad has turned in a laundry list of accomplishments this year, including the program’s first Big Ten Championship and first NCAA tournament win.
All of this success is thanks in no small part to Penn State’s dominant offensive performance throughout this season. Grant Ament and Mac O’Keefe, among others, have made it nearly impossible to stop the Nittany Lions from scoring goals.
But just how good has Penn State’s offense been? Here are a few stats that illustrate just how unstoppable they truly are.
The Country’s Best Shot Percentage (And It’s Not Even Close)
The Nittany Lions have taken 707 shots this season and have scored on 306 of them. This rounds out to a shot percentage of .433, the highest in the nation by a landslide. Cornell sits at a distant second place with a percentage of .368.
Penn State isn’t taking the most shots in the nation by any means, but the Nittany Lions are clearly converting on the shots they do take. Their quick ball movement allows for shooters like Mac O’Keefe or Jack Kelly to find openings in their opponents defense without needing to force bad shots.
Smart shots were key to O’Keefe’s nine-goal performance on Sunday against Loyola Maryland, which tied an NCAA tournament record. The junior scored most of his goals on opportunities like this one.
A Pair Of Record-Setters Lead The Way
Penn State claims the nation’s leaders in goals and assists in O’Keefe and Ament. O’Keefe is averaging 4.41 goals per game and has a jaw-dropping 75 on the season. Daniel Bucaro of Georgetown sits at second place with 61 on the year. O’Keefe has quite literally been in a league of his own throughout this season as a pure scorer for the Nittany Lions.
O’Keefe now sits seven goals behind the all time single-season record of 82, which belongs to Miles Thompson of Albany and Jon Reese of Yale.
The disparity in assists for Ament compared to the rest of the NCAA is even more ridiculous. The junior attack has 91 helpers in 2019 and is averaging 5.69 per game. Pat Spencer of Loyola Maryland, a fellow Tewaaraton Award finalist, has the second-most in the nation with just 65. I’ll save you the math: Ament has 26 more assists than Spencer.
The Doylestown, PA native’s season is making a mark on the all-time record books as well. Ament now holds the single-season assist record in the NCAA, passing the previous record holder, Steve Marohl of UMBC, who had 77.
20 Points In Tournament Games Like It’s No Problem
If anyone thought that the Nittany Lions offense would slow down once they started tournament play, those thoughts were put to bed quickly by this team. After putting up 25 goals in their first round matchup against UMBC and 21 against Loyola Maryland on Sunday, Penn State became the first team to have 20 or more goals in back-to-back games in the NCAA tournament since Syracuse in 1990.
It truly doesn’t matter how many goals the other team scores if your squad can consistently put up numbers like Penn State has so far this season. Despite winning their first NCAA tournament game in program history just two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions have not been rattled by the big stage so far.
Give Them An Inch, They’ll Take A Mile
When you get extra man opportunities in lacrosse, it’s imperative that you convert on them. Penn State has done that better than anyone else in the NCAA this season. With a scoring percentage of .593 in man up situations, Penn State is the only team in the nation to score on more than half of its opportunities.
With an attacks as talented as Ament running the point, Penn State’s offense is hard enough to stop when your defense is at full strength. Defending it when playing with a man down puts you at an even worse disadvantage.
Penn State Scores Nearly Twice As Many Goals As It Allow
Yet another statistic that Penn State is leading the NCAA in is scoring margin. The Nittany Lions have scored a nation-leading 306 goals this season and have allowed just 178. This comes out to an average margin of victory of 7.53 goals.
Once again, Penn State stands virtually alone in this category. The next highest margin belongs to Yale, which handed the Nittany Lions their only loss of the season and will play them this Saturday in Philadelphia. The Bulldogs have a margin of 4.71, nearly three fewer goals.
This statistic may be the most impressive of the many that belong to Penn State. The Nittany Lions are simply beating teams by a significant amount more than anyone else and doing so thanks to an aggressive, efficient, and opportunistic attack. With two of the most dominant players in college lacrosse and a number of record-breaking performances, a national championship could cement this year’s Penn State squad as one of the greatest offenses the sport has ever seen.
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