Pat Chambers addresses media after defeating St. John's. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
NEW YORK - It ain’t what it used to be. Specifically, we are talking the Holiday Festival. No more two-day tournament format, a post-Christmas celebration. The status quo calls for a doubleheader as shoppers are frantically trying to fill their last-minute obligations. The Madison Square Garden floor welcomed Penn State and St. John’s, followed by Rutgers vs. Fordham.
The first order of business: Penn State-St. John’s numbers and the first five possessions:
St. John’s: Turnover, missed FG, field goal, missed FG, turnover
Penn State: Missed FG, missed FG, missed FG, turnover, three-point FG
After five possessions, Penn State held a 3-2 edge. Five total points and three turnovers combined by the two teams contributed to an inauspicious beginning.
With under ten minutes left in the half, St. John’s held a 24-17 lead. By the break, Penn State owned a 52-29 lead. During that 35-5 run, St. John’s did not score a field goal while the Nittany Lions hit eleven, including five from beyond the arc. A total defensive breakdown coupled with the same on offense for Chris Mullin’s club. No other way to put it. They were not in the wrong defense or offensive sets, just eight minutes that resembled a Penn State highlight film. At the half, the key numbers read as follows:
Possessions: Penn State 41, St. John’s 38
Offensive efficiency: Penn State 127, St. John’s 74
In the second half, Penn State was not seriously challenged. St. John’s offense did pick up a bit and their full court pressure was bothersome for a few possessions. Other than that, the Red Storm could not produce a run to put a serious dent in the deficit. Penn State prevailed, 92-76. The Nittany Lions are now 7-5, while St. John’s drops to 5-7.
Offensive efficiency: Penn State 114, St. John’s 94
eFG%: Penn State 60, St. John’s 44
Free Throw Rate: Penn State 36, St. John’s 33
Offensive Rebound%: Penn State 41, St. John’s 39
Turnover Rate: Penn State 26, St. John’s 26
Leading scorers and EF:
Penn State: Shep Garner 21 points, EF 27
St. John’s: Malik Ellison 22 points, EF 25
What Penn State did well: Shoot. The Nittany Lions’ 50 percent floor shooting included 13-of-23 from beyond the arc. In fact, they shot better from three than two.
What St, John’s did well: Play a better second half. The Red Storm won the final twenty minutes, 47-40. Forcing Penn State into fifteen turnovers following the intermission helped. Unfortunately, the damage had long been done.
As noted, the Big Ten visitors were deadly from three. It wasn’t all downtown, though, as they owned a 34-26 edge on points in the paint. Turnover rates were equal, but the damage was greater on the St. John’s end as Penn State enjoyed a 21-13 advantage in points off turnovers.
Tariq Owens of St. John’s contributed 11 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, six on the offensive end. Mike Watkins of Penn State pulled down a game-high 13 boards. The 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman added 15 points, four assists and three blocks. His EF was a game-high 34. The Nittany Lions spread the wealth, with five players in double figures.
“So awesome being at Madison Square Garden. What a great experience for this group to be put on this stage. Thanks to everybody who made this happen. We had three practices together for the first time in a very long time. Give St. John’s credit. We had six turnovers the first half and finished with 21. We've got to clean that up for sure. Mike Watkins gets us going. When he brings that juice, that energy and that passion, he's protecting the rim. To have somebody like that is so important to our team and our defense. I thought we defended, rebounded, got some easy ones, and hit some threes. We worked really hard these last few days, especially on sharing the ball. They are going to be very good. They are talented and scary to watch on film. I saw them against Michigan State on film, a Big Ten team I know, and you can see they will be very good. They had some looks they typically make, but we tried to rush them and get some length on their guards to disrupt them. We kept the lead around 20, got some easy ones. Nice to see us put that practice time in coming off a recent loss to George Mason. Our young guys worked and didn’t get down on themselves.” - Penn State coach Pat Chambers