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Lions’ offense on a hot streak

Photo for the Mirror by Jack R. Hirsh Penn State’s Lamar Stevens dunks for two of his game-high 27 points Tuesday night as the Nittany Lions improved to 4-0.

UNIVERSITY PARK — The halftime score of Penn State’s game against Bucknell might have indicated a close game.

That was until Lamar Stevens decided to change that.

“I didn’t really like the way the first half went,” Stevens said. “I just felt like there was an opportunity for a spark.”

The Penn State senior opened the second half with an 8-0 run of his own to open up an 11-point lead as the Nittany Lions cruised to a 98-70 win over the Bison.

According to a Penn State spokesperson, it is the first time in Penn State basketball history that the team has opened the season with four games scoring 80 points or more.

Stevens played the biggest role in that Tuesday night.

The Nittany Lions went into the half leading Bucknell by just three points and Steven had just six points.

He quickly took over the game, scoring 11 of Penn State’s first 14 second-half points, including a highlight-reel reverse slam that forced a Bucknell timeout just 89 seconds into the half.

“They sort of came out a lot more aggressive,” Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said of his opponent. “Stevens made a point that he was going to be a lot more aggressive.”

Stevens scored all 27 of his points without taking a single shot from outside the 3-point arc, something he had worked on throughout the summer, and showed improvement on in the first three games.

The 6-foot-8 forward, who finished an efficient 11-of-16 from the floor, didn’t mind. Penn State coach Pat Chambers, who said after the season-opener that taking multiple 3s a game would be the norm for Stevens, loved the pace at which Stevens played.

“I think he knew he had an advantage,” Chambers said. “The fact that he scored 27, didn’t shoot free throws well and didn’t take a 3 just shows you what type of caliber player Lamar is.”

Stevens also turned up the intensity on the defensive end of the floor, finishing with a block and three steals to go along with a team-high eight rebounds.

Penn State held Bucknell to just 28 points in the second half after the Bison scored 42 in the first. Stevens had 21 in the second half alone.

“We have a team full of guys that really take pride in defense,” Stevens said. “I don’t want to be the guy slacking.”

The Nittany Lions struggled for a part of the first half on defensive rotations and left many Bison 3-point shooters wide open on the perimeter. However, Bucknell was only able to convert 7-of-27 3-point attempts.

Stevens, who was coming off back-to-back mediocre performances shooting the ball, by his standards, said he was able to translate his defensive intensity into scoring.

Chambers added there was a trickle-down effect to the rest of the team.

“It really started on the defensive end for his,” he said. “We were able to get some stops. He was able to get some space out there.

“And his energy, his effort, his enthusiasm really dominoed through the rest of the team.”

Mike Watkins was one of the benefactors of that domino effect, as the big man produced his best game of the young season with 18 points and four blocks to bring his season total to 16.

Chambers added that it was nice to see his two forwards play well on the court together, something he hadn’t seen too much off in the past.

“Just having (Watkins) next to me and he’s a guy that I’m able to go to and trust,” Stevens said. “It makes it so much easier for me. It makes it easier for everybody else, coach included.”

BUCKNELL (2-3): Moore 6-11 1-2 14, Newman 4-8 2-3 10, Toomer 1-9 0-0 2, Sotos 4-9 0-0 10, Funk 7-12 0-0 15, van der Heijden 0-1 0-0 0, Rhodes 0-0 0-0 0, Meeks 3-8 0-0 7, Spear 1-1 0-0 2, Timmerman 0-0 0-0 0, Robertson 3-5 0-0 7, Rice 0-3 0-0 0, Ellis 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 30-70 3-5 70.

PENN ST. (4-0): Stevens 11-16 5-8 27, Watkins 9-12 0-0 18, M.Jones 3-6 1-1 7, Dread 4-9 0-0 12, Wheeler 5-5 0-0 10, Harrar 1-3 4-6 6, Buttrick 0-0 0-0 0, Lundy 0-4 3-4 3, McCloskey 0-0 0-0 0, Brockington 3-6 1-2 7, C.Jones 3-4 1-2 8. Totals 39-65 15-23 98.

Halftime–Penn St. 45-42. 3-Point Goals–Bucknell 7-27 (Sotos 2-3, Robertson 1-3, Ellis 1-3, Meeks 1-4, Moore 1-4, Funk 1-4, Rice 0-2, Toomer 0-4), Penn St. 5-16 (Dread 4-9, C.Jones 1-2, Brockington 0-1, M.Jones 0-2, Lundy 0-2). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Bucknell 28 (Newman 9), Penn St. 36 (Stevens 8). Assists–Bucknell 13 (Sotos 6), Penn St. 15 (M.Jones, Wheeler 4). Total Fouls–Bucknell 19, Penn St. 9. A–6,797 (15,261).

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