The question is no longer if we’ll go dancing but how high we’ll be seeded. With Saturday’s 83-77 revenge victory over Minnesota, March Madness is all but guaranteed for a Penn State program that is used to being on the outside looking in. Now winners of six straight, combined with Michigan State’s loss to in-state rival Michigan, the Nittany Lions ended the weekend as a predicted No. 4 seed on most people’s March Madness brackets and climbed all the way up to No. 13 in this week’s AP poll.
On ‘Everyone Is Awesome Day’ inside the BJC, the record crowd of 15,261 and first sellout since 2011, was nothing short of electric from opening tip-off until the final buzzer. For all those in attendance and watching from home, it was a solid glimpse of just how intimidating a more often than not lackluster arena can be. It was enough to provoke the opposing coach, Richard Pitino, to both give praise for the environment and half-heartedly scold the fans for not being around and supporting the program when times were lean in his post-game press conference. He’s right you know, but we’ll save that for another day and another time as momentum is just far too strong at the moment to nit-pick over little things.
The first 500 children 12 and under were treated to Lamar Stevens #11 t-shirts and the first 2000 fans were given free copies of the new children’s book ‘Lamar’s Climb.’ Boy, did he ever put on a show for his friends in the crowd? The Wooden Award finalist and Big Ten Player of the Year candidate led the pace as he scorched the Golden Gophers (who beat Penn State 75-69 in their first bout back in January) with a career-high 33 points and seven rebounds. For a player that needs to average around 17 points per game down the stretch to overtake Talor Battle for the all-time scoring record as a Nittany Lion, he got off to a roaring start!
Myles Dread filled in for a flu-stricken Myreon Jones and continued his hot streak by sinking two treys and finishing with eight total. John Harrar stepped up while senior Mike Watkins had an off night and collected a season-high eight points and seven rebounds. True freshman Seth Lundy added eight points and six rebounds, and Curtis Jones added seven more points off the bench. What separates this team from others in the Pat Chambers era is their ability to call on a deep bench when key players aren’t available and to maintain competitiveness without missing a beat. We’ve seen it time and again this season and Penn State was able to keep their magic alive under those same conditions again on Saturday afternoon.
Up next, the Nittany Lions travel to Purdue on Tuesday night at 6:30pm for a tough matchup with the 14-10 Boilermakers before heading home to take on the bottom-of-the-barrel Wildcats of Northwestern. For all those thinking about heading to the BJC on Saturday be forewarned, MC extraordinaire PJ Mullen has already been heard saying the best is yet to come. So buckle up Nittany Nation and keep on climbing!