Well folks, not even the free nachos could help Penn State defeat Indiana last Tuesday in the BJC. Those rims were as cold as ice for the home team as shot-after-missed-shot clanged off at a dismal pace. In the end, 13 missed free-throws did us in, and that’s putting it mildly, as the Nittany Lions opened Big Ten home play with a 64-62 loss to the Hoosiers. Any momentum built the week before with that unexpected win over the No. 13 ranked Virginia Tech Hokies and a strong showing at Maryland quickly deflated as Penn State fell to 4-4 overall and 0-2 in conference play.
Lamar Stevens recorded his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds, Rasir Bolton led the way with 17, and Jamari Wheeler snagged eight rebounds to go along with his five steals. Penn State raced ahead 9-0 early but lost its touch midway through the first half. A late defensive flurry that held Indiana scoreless over the last three-plus minutes was encouraging enough to keep us on the edge of our seats, but it was too little, too late for a freshman-filled Nittany Lion squad still trying to find its way.
Penn State rebounded on Saturday in their return to non-conference action with a 76-65 win over Colgate as the home crowd celebrated Special Olympics, Toys for Tots, and put on a show for none other than Santa himself! Watkins earned his first start of the season and responded with a monster game of 18 points and 16 rebounds to record his 21st career double-double. Stevens collected his fourth double-double of the year and second straight double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Finally, Bolton scored a career-high 27 points to once again lead the way as he shot over 70% from behind the arc. The Nittany Lions had 43 total rebounds on the day and continued to dominate defensively; a huge bright spot as they clawed back above .500 at 5-4 on the year and helped wash away the bad taste still lingering from the close loss to Indiana. There’s no mistaking the Red Raiders of the Patriot League for the rough and tumble Big Ten, but a win is a win and we need all we can get as Bolton, Myles Dread, and Myreon Jones continue to ease their way into the shadows left behind by Tony Carr and Shep Garner.
Up next, throw on your shades as Penn State heads to Atlantic City to continue its non-conference slate taking part in the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Boardwalk Classic on Saturday; a holiday showcase featuring four games on the world-famous boardwalk. The Nittany Lions and N.C. State of the mighty ACC tangle in the second game of the day. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. on ESPNU and things get no easier as the Wolfpack comes in sporting an 8-1 record with their lone loss coming at the hands of Wisconsin in the same Big Ten/ACC Challenge where we made a statement two weeks ago. We’re still not at the point yet that this is a must-win situation to keep our dreams of March Madness alive, but with four tough losses already on our plate, now is as good a time as any to rally the troops and turn that boardwalk decidedly Blue and White as Penn State aims to add another upset to their resumè.