One of the primary issues military schools have when facing power conference opponents is that they just don’t have the size needed to match up with the big boys.
Such was the case at the Jordan Center Saturday, when former Penn State standout and assistant coach Dan Earl began his head-coaching career by leading VMI against the Nittany Lions.
Down 31-24 at the break, the Keydets were smothered in the first 10 minutes of the second half as PSU pulled away. VMI scored four points in that span. State would eventually build its lead to 20 points before cruising to a 62-50 win in the opener for both teams.
“They’ve got some length and size and like to block shots,” Earl said. “Their size affected us.”
“I think their tallest players was 6-foot-6,” said forward Brandon Taylor, who had 13 points and six rebounds for the Lions. “So they had trouble with our big men.”
Point guard Shep Garner led PSU with 15 points, thanks in part to a 4-of-6 showing from the arc. Sophomore forward Payton Banks had a dozen points in his first career start.
But the Lion who turned the most heads was freshman wing Josh Reaves. He opened the game — and his college career — with a steal and slam. His athleticism was on display all afternoon as he posted six points, five rebounds three blocks and a pair of steals in 26 minutes.
“He’s pretty good,” Chambers said after the game.
State had only nine turnovers in the game, but three of them came right around the day’s final media timeout. VMI kept hustling and fighting, and cut the lead down to a dozen on two occasions (including the final).
“We need to learn to finish games, to step on the other team’s throat and put them out of it completely,” Taylor said.
• Chambers played 10 men and all but two of them scored.
• One of the scoreless Lions was starting center Jordan Dickerson. But he was a defensive presence, blocking one shot and altering several others. He also had five rebounds.
• PSU was 5 of 19 from the arc in the game, but just 1 of 7 in the first half.
• Guard Julian Eleby was the only Keydet in doubles with 13 points.
• The Lions play host to DePaul Tuesday in a game that tips at 5 p.m. can be seen on ESPNU.