Saturday's game was a thrilling one for the Rebel squad. Up by six at the half, the Rebs never actually gave the lead away in the second, but they came close. Penn State pulled within two in the second period before allowing Ole Miss to gut out a thirteen point victory. In short, Trevor Gaskins was sensational shooting the ball, and Reggie Buckner came up big despite playing through pain in his knee. Penn State, led by senior guard Talor Battle's 26 points, fought to stay in it, but they ultimately couldn't find a second guard to match Chris Warren's 20 point day.
Ole Miss' bench was able to give more minutes of rest to its starters than Penn State's as the Rebs got 62 minutes out of its bench compared to only 32 from Penn State. The Rebs matched the Lions exactly from the charity stripe, shooting 17-23. Both teams also attempted the same number of shots (52), but the Rebs made 27 to Penn State's 23.
Trevor Gaskins was spectacular early and quite good late. He had trouble defending Talor Battle, but he made up for it on offense. Gaskins was 6-11 from three and 9-14 overall in just 28 minutes on the court. He did rack up four fouls, but nothing can undo how important he was to this team Saturday night. He's the reason we won. I'm not generally a Gaskins fan, but if he can generate more offensive games like Saturdayt, the junior will quickly win me over.
Chris Warren scored three points in the first half and appeared poised to continue the slump that has plagued him lately. Then he came alive in the second half, when Gaskins wasn't producing points at the same rate as the first, and scored 17. He still shot too many threes for my taste (eight), but that's Warren's game. He throws up three pointers that frustrate you unless they go in the basket. I've said many times before that if he isn't scoring at least fifteen points in a game, he's detrimental, and I still stand by that, but when he turns in games like this, you just can't sit the guy on the bench.
Reggie Buckner managed five blocks despite playing on a bone bruise in his knee. Andy Kennedy mentioned that Buck altered several other shots, and that's quite encouraging. Buckner is really great to watch on defense in the low post, since he's generally able to keep opposing players from taking the easy shot that has been so open against us for the past several years. He doesn't generate much offensively, but that's not what we're looking for schematically anyway. He did have a monster dunk that came out of a Terrance Henry assist, but those were his only points on the night.
Nick Williams continued to vastly exceed my expectations on Saturday. Don't look now (or do), but he's second on the team in scoring and has played pretty well defensively in the contests in which I have seen him play. He's a leader on the field and takes high percentage shots. Williams finished the game 5-9 for 15 points and contributed four rebounds in a team effort on the boards. Williams is already playing better than Eniel Polynice and may be playing better than Terrico White. I'm not saying he has the talent white has, but he doesn't jack up contested threes in 50% of his games.
Zach Graham was insignificant statistically Saturday, but he may have had an impact that gamecast couldn't reflect. No matter what unknowable impact he had, I'm dissatisfied with the approach for using Graham in this game. As I've said before, he needs to attack the basket. He attempted three shots, making one. He drew one foul and sunk both free throws. I guess I just expect more from the senior.
Terrance Henry came up big to answer a poor showing against Dayton. Henry was 7-8 from the charity stripe (seriously, could we trade a couple of those points out for his misses against Dayton?) finished with thirteen points, six rebounds, and three assists. Best of all, he was only credited with one personal foul. That's a huge change for Henry, and the fact that we could aggressively play him for thirty minutes might have changed the game.
To reward Dundrecous Nelson's stellar play against Dayton, Andy Kennedy gave him three minutes of playing time. Perhaps he was unhappy with Nelson's three three-point attempts in three minutes, but it in Nelson's defense he made one. I agree though that we couldn't continue putting up threes (see: our entire offensive strategy last year). I look for Nelson to play a good bit after next week's matchup against Southern Miss. Until then, he's likely to see sparse playing time.
Demarco Cox started but only played for thirteen minutes. He was 1-2 with four rebounds in limited action. Cox is a promising player, but he needs an offseason to burn some weight and improve his overall athleticism.
What are your thoughts?