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Stevens' big second half propels Penn State over Bucknell
By TRAVIS JOHNSON
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Lamar Stevens didn’t like the pace Penn State was playing at early on Tuesday, so the Nittany Lion forward took it upon himself to speed things up.
Stevens scored 21 of 27 points in the second half and Penn State pulled away from Bucknell 98-70 on Tuesday after leading by only three at halftime.
“As a leader on this team, it was my job to find a way to impact the game,” Stevens said. “Whether it was scoring or defense.”
There were heavy doses of both as Stevens helped on the back end too with five of his eight rebounds coming in the defensive end.
Meanwhile, Bucknell scored just 28 second-half points as Penn State racked up five steals, forced eight turnovers and blocked four shots over the final 20 minutes.
“I thought our defense in the second half was unbelievable,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
Mike Watkins added 18 points, Myles Dread 12 and Jamari Wheeler 10 for the Nittany Lions (4-0), who have scored 80 or more points in each of their first four games - a feat no Penn State team had ever accomplished.
Andrew Funk scored 15 points while Bruce Moore notched 14 and Paul Newman and Jimmy Sotos added 10 apiece for the Bison (2-3) who trailed for all but 2:32.
“I think this has the potential to be his best team (Chambers has) had here,” Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said. “Very dynamic offensively, good size, compete defensively. So it was tough.”
Bucknell led 8-7 early but the Nittany Lions used a 17-5 run to take an 11-point lead midway through the first half. The Bison slowly chipped away at that, however with major help from Funk who made eight of Bucknell’s final 13 points to cut Penn State’s halftime lead to 45-42.
But Stevens opened the second half with 8-straight points and 15 of Penn State’s first 30. The Nittany Lions, who made 60% of their field goals on 39-for-65 shooting, went up by 20 when Myron Jones drained a jumper with 11:54 left and never looked back.
RESPECT FOR COACH
Penn State had a chance to score 100 points in a regulation game for the first time in nearly a decade, but Chambers wasn’t going to have it.
He had his players halt at midcourt as the final seconds ticked down out of respect for Davis and his team.
“I love his program,” Chambers said. “They’re a winning program. They do things the right way. It’s not the time to try to rub it in anyone’s face.”
Wheeler has been dealing with nagging injuries and left the game at one point in the second half with what appeared to be a right leg injury.
Chambers said the speedy guard laid on a couch at halftime for a little rest, but insisted on playing.
Wheeler logged just over 24 minutes and had a moment with Chambers after the game. Looking over at Wheeler, who had ice on an elbow, leg and hip, Chambers nodded.
“I just looked at him and said, ‘Hey man, winning hurts,’” Chambers said.
THE BIG PICTURE
Bucknell: The Bison are looking to win at least a portion of the Patriot League championship for the fifth-straight season under coach Nathan Davis. They appear to have the pieces to do so despite being run ragged by Penn State’s unrelenting transition game in the second half.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions will now try for just their second 5-0 start in nine seasons with coach Patrick Chambers at the helm. The last time a Chambers-coached team started 5-0 was two seasons ago when the Nittany Lions won the NIT. This team has loftier goals, however.
Bucknell visits Syracuse on Saturday.
Penn State hosts Yale on Saturday.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Updated November 19, 2019