There was one obvious good sign in Penn State’s 81-67 win over Canisius at Rec Hall Thursday night. The Nittany Lions destroyed their undersized opponent in the paint, scoring 50 points (including their first dozen) and blocking seven shots.
And there were a couple of bad signs. PSU (6-3) turned the ball over 21 times against the Golden Griffins’ pressing defense, leading to 19 points. The Lions allowed 18 offensive rebounds, too, which led to 15 points.
Try doing that against a Big Ten opponent and see what happens.
But the most important part of Thursday’s game — at least as it pertained to Penn State — kind of flew under the radar.
Namely, PSU coach Pat Chambers went with his third different starting lineup of the young season, and none of his Nittany Lions seemed to be at all bothered by the move.
Consider that sophomore center Julian Moore was pulled from the starting five in favor of senior Jordan Dickerson. And after a rough couple of games, rookie wing Josh Reaves came off the bench for the first time in his career. Instead, Chambers opened with senior Donovan Jack and a twin-towers look inside.
As noted, Penn State owned the paint.
Meanwhile, Moore played 20 minutes, going 4 of 5 from the floor for 14 points, three rebounds and a block. Reaves was calmer as a sub, and it led to 33 minutes, eight points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and 4-of-5 shooting.
Yeah, he had five turnovers. But Chambers can live with that as the youngster continues to settle in.
Here's the rest of the story:
• Penn State got 32 points from its bench to Canisius’ 14.
• Though they only combined for nine points in the game, Dickerson and Jack allowed PSU to establish early dominance down low. Dickerson had four points and a block in the first 70 seconds. He finished with five swats. Jack’s only bucket came shortly after and gave the Lions a 6-0 lead. Canisius 6-foot-10 center Kevin Bleeker — the only Griff taller than 6-7 who played — was limited to 17 minutes due to foul trouble.
• Eight of the nine players who saw the floor for PSU scored at least five points.
After four years of having very limited options — the first three with extremely limited choices — Chambers said he is prepared to adjust on the fly this season.
“Every game is gonna be different,” he said. “Different guys need to step up. … It’s nice to know we have some options and these younger guys are gonna step up and be comfortable.”
PSU has only 10 active scholarship players. And as closely as games are being officiated this year…
“Everyone knows that they’re gonna play,” Chambers said. “So everybody’s got to be ready when your number gets called — get out there and play as hard as you can.”
BLAST OF ENERGY
Reaves had back-to-back 1-for-6 shooting efforts in a win over Eastern Michigan then a loss at George Washington. So Chambers brought him off the bench Thursday.
It looked like a stroke of genius.
“He was stress free,” the coach said of his rookie.
As noted, Reaves still played 33 minutes. But he stuffed the stat sheet. He also stuffed the ball through the rim three times, twice on breakaways in the first half and once out of the half-court offense in the second.
The Rec Hall crowd loved it. So did his teammates.
“Josh was great, he played with energy,” said senior forward Brandon Taylor, who led the Lions with 18 points. “He’s our glue guy; he can do a little bit of everything. Those dunks, they give us all the energy.”
COOL UNDER PRESSURE
PSU point guard Shep Garner continues to do a great job of playing under control. The Golden Griffins love to force the pace with their press. Garner never let it happen.
He had only two turnovers in the game (along with two assists). He was also patient with his shots, attempted only nine (and making four). He tried only one 3-pointer in the second half, as Canisius was pushing out on him, so instead he drove to the bucket.
Garner had 11 points but was under control the whole time.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Canisius was 22 of 65 from the floor. Penn State was 28 of 50 from the floor. By our clumsy math, the Lions had six more field goals on 15 fewer attempts.
• The win was Penn State’s first at Rec Hall since beating Wisconsin there in January of 1996. Of course, the only game in the building since then was the crushing come-from-ahead loss to Princeton two years ago.
• Wing Payton Banks had another solid game, hitting 5 of 7 shots for 11 points. He also did a respectable job bringing the ball up the floor in instances when Garner could not get it.
• Attendance was listed at 4,509. The crowd was fairly loud but the athletic department could not have been happy with the number.
• PSU is back at Rec Hall for a 2 p.m. tip vs. Louisiana-Monroe Saturday.