Garner, Penn State beat VMI 62-50
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) A handful of Penn State players still getting to know one another looked pretty cohesive on Saturday.
It's just what coach Patrick Chambers wanted to see after he preached the importance of offensive balance all preseason.
Shep Garner scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half and Penn State beat VMI 62-50 in the season opener for both teams.
Unlike last season when D.J. Newbill carried almost all the offensive burden, multiple Nittany Lions chipped in to help Garner. Brandon Taylor added 13 points, Payton Banks had 12 and five others scored.
''I feel like we shared the ball,'' Chambers said. ''Our goal was to go inside and put pressure on the paint and I felt like we did that.''
Taylor and Banks made physical plays to draw fouls inside and combined to make six of the team's nine first-half free throws. Each picked up six rebounds while Julian Moore, Donovan Jack and Jordan Dickerson combined for 12 rebounds and eight points.
''I think their tallest guy was 6-foot-6 so they had trouble with our big men, including myself, because we can block shots and just throw our hands up and we just forced them to take tough 2s,'' Taylor said
Julian Eleby led VMI with 13 points and Trey Chapman added nine. The Keydets were held to 18-of-49 shooting (37 percent) and turned it over 14 times.
The turnovers began immediately when Josh Reaves, making his Penn State debut, snatched the ball from QJ Peterson and sprinted ahead for an easy layup and the game's first points. The Keydets quickly recovered and took their lone lead when Eleby hit his first of three 3-pointers.
''Our ball movement was not good tonight,'' VMI coach Dan Earl said. ''Certainly guys aren't trying to miss shots. We didn't shoot a high percentage, obviously. But we would've liked to have moved the ball much better than we did.''
Penn State extended a 29-24 halftime lead to 51-31 midway through second half when Garner hit back-to-back 3-pointers, including a 4-point play. He finished with four of Penn State's five 3-pointers.
It was a much-needed cushion as the Keydets came within 12 points with 3:31 to play.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions got another solid performance from Taylor, who's now scored in double figures in 11 of his last 19 regular-season games. His goal for this season was to be more consistent inside and out. Six of his 14 field goals came from inside the paint.
VMI: The Keydets lost their fourth straight game dating to last season but Eleby finished in double figures for the 14th time in that span.
VMI hosts Tusculum on Tuesday.
Penn State hosts DePaul on Tuesday night.
Chambers said afterward that freshman Mike Watkins - a vaunted recruit - has been ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA. Watkins is still enrolled at Penn State but Chambers said he is unsure if and when he will be able to join the team for practices.
''At this point, it's up to the NCAA,'' Chambers said.
The man who coached opposite Penn State on Saturday helped lead the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament in 1996. Earl finished with 1,256 points and 574 assists at Penn State, good for 15th and third all-time, respectively. He was honored before the game.