UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pat Chambers wasn’t going to let himself or his players be deceived by Coppin State’s winless record.
Penn State’s coach had seen the Eagles keep within striking distance for much of their game against UConn and watched as they pushed Georgia Tech for 30 minutes more recently.
Penn State’s most recent loss at the buzzer to Rider was fresh in Chambers’ mind, too. His players had purposefully wiped it from theirs.
“Once I left the (Bryce Jordan Center), that game was over,” Penn State guard Tony Carr said. “I went home, spent time with my family and basketball was the last thing on my mind.”
The mental reset appears to have worked.
Carr scored 15 of his 21 points in the first half and Penn State routed Coppin State 88-43 on Saturday.
Josh Reaves scored 12 points with seven assists and Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens chipped in 11 points apiece for the Nittany Lions (11-4).
“I feel like it was the first time we played 40 minutes,” Chambers said. “They were not pleased, they were not happy, and I think that’s what you saw today because that team just gave Georgia Tech everything it could handle. That team gave UConn all it could handle. We were ready to compete.”
It was on from the opening tip.
Watkins won the ball back to Carr who flipped it to Miller for a dunk just three seconds in. Penn State led the rest of the way.
It got better for Penn State in the second half. The Nittany Lions, who led 43-23 at halftime, opened with four-straight 3-pointers and scored 22 unanswered over a 6:09 stretch midway through the half to extend the lead.
Cedric Council Jr. led Coppin State (0-15) with 11 points. Tre’ Thomas added nine for the Eagles, who have lost 19 of 20 dating to last season.
“It’s hard to find anything positive that happened today,” Coppin State coach Juan Dixon said. “You’ve got to have fun. It’s like pulling teeth to try to get these guys to have a good time. As the head coach, I’m loose and I have fun with the guys. I just want these guys to play with more positive energy and support one another.”
Coppin State: The young Eagles have a lot of room to improve but will struggle to do so with top shooter Lamar Morgan struggling and a lengthy injury list that includes talented guards Dejuan Clayton and Taqwain Drummond still out of the lineup.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions needed to reset after losing to Rider at the buzzer in their last game. They appeared focused and played with an edge to finish the Eagles off early. It allowed most of their bench players to get more than their usual minutes.
THE MASK STAYS
Shep Garner scored all nine of his points on 3-pointers. It doesn’t appear the mask he’s wearing to protect a broken nose suffered on Nov. 11 against Montana is hindering his shooting.
He entered the game 11-for-18 from 3-point range over the last two games and, although his nose is better, Garner will keep wearing the mask.
“There’s only one game where he didn’t wear the mask,” Chambers said. “He forgot it, we lost it, that was Texas A&M, probably his worst game of the year. We’re going to keep the mask on.”
SOME POSITIVE NEWS
The Eagles expect to get guards Dejuan Clayton — who Dixon has called the team’s best player — and Taqwain Drummond back from extended absences in their next game, Dixon said.
Clayton hasn’t played since Nov. 21 because of a shoulder injury and Drummond, arguably the team’s top defender, has missed the last six games with an ankle injury.
Coppin State avoided another injury when, early in second half, Council crumpled to the court grabbing at his right knee. He walked gingerly off under his own power but returned and led the team in minutes.
Coppin State visits Norfolk State on Wednesday.
Penn State travels to Maryland on Tuesday.