Penn State will be well-rested when it aims for its first winning streak in nearly a month with a visit to George Mason on Sunday. The Nittany Lions have exchanged wins and losses since starting the season with five consecutive victories and are coming off an impressive 74-54 triumph against George Washington on Dec. 9.
Penn State put that game away early with a 48-19 advantage in the first half and coasted into a well-earned break in the action. “We need to finish strong academically. That is extremely important to me and to our administration,” Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers told reporters of the week between games. “We are going to take a couple of days off here so our guys can focus on their academics. ... But it is really important to give some time away to focus on what they need to do.” Penn State hopes the break doesn’t cool off leading scorer Tony Carr (20 points per game), who hit 2-of-3 from 3-point range against the Colonials and is at 55.3 from long distance on the season, the fourth-best mark in the Big Ten. The Patriots have dropped five of seven and suffered their most lopsided loss of the season with a 74-51 setback against Georgia Southern on Tuesday at home.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, Stadium
ABOUT PENN STATE (8-3): Carr led five players in double figures with 19 points against George Washington while sophomore forward Mike Watkins - who ranks third on the team in scoring (12.6) and leads the way on the glass (8.0) - recorded his second double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore forward Lamar Stevens bounced back from a rocky shooting effort in a loss to Wisconsin on Dec. 4 with 10 points versus the Colonials and he is second to Carr in scoring at 13.7. Guard Nazeer Bostick, who averaged 7.4 points in November, saw limited action in games against Iowa and Wisconsin and then missed the last outing due to a violation of team rules, although Chambers said the sophomore will be back for this one.
ABOUT GEORGE MASON (5-6): Otis Livingston II, a 5-11 junior, leads the Patriots with 14.8 points and 4.5 assists per game but he was limited to seven points on 2-of-10 shooting and one assist in the loss to Georgia Southern. Redshirt freshman AJ Wilson provided a spark off the bench with a season-high 13 points, but his teammates combined to shoot 26.5 percent from the floor and 3-of-21 from 3-point range. “Our guys’ response after getting knocked to the mats will determine everything about us as a team and as individuals,” coach Dave Paulsen told reporters after the loss. “We didn’t execute or play with discipline tonight. This group works very hard and is very coachable. I’m confident we’re going to bounce back.”
1. Watkins entered Friday leading the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at 67.5 and ranked second in blocks with 3.7 per game.
2. Nittany Lions G Shep Garner is averaging 12.2 points over the last nine games after being held to eight total in his first two contests.
3. George Mason defeated Penn State 85-66 last season after the Nittany Lions won the first six meetings.
PREDICTION: Penn State 77, George Mason 67