Sitting in front of the microphone at the postgame press conference, Payton Banks looked down at the box score in front of him and shouldered part of the blame for Penn State’s lackluster effort on the glass.
He brushed his hand over the piece of paper as he pointed out he had zero rebounds in the Nittany Lions’ 85-66 loss to George Mason on Wednesday night. The rest of the rebounding column highlighted one of the team’s weaknesses so far this season. Only forwards Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins grabbed more than three rebounds, and the Nittany Lions were outrebounded 44-29.
“Our guards have to rebound,” Banks said after the loss. “And that’s what we definitely lacked this game, and it definitely showed on the scoreboard.”
Penn State (6-4) will look to bounce back against Pittsburgh (7-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Newark, N.J. in the Never Forget Tribute Classic. The game is part of a doubleheader, with No. 1 Villanova set to take on No. 23 Notre Dame in the opener at noon.
The Nittany Lions are focused on their performance on the boards heading into the matchup with the Panthers.
Penn State has been outrebounded in seven of its first 10 games.
“It’s got to become a habit,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said on his teleconference Thursday. “And it’s not a habit right now because you have young guys who are very talented and very gifted and they were never asked to do that through their high school careers because of their talent and how tall they are and their athleticism.”
The Nittany Lions didn’t get enough from its backcourt in the loss to George Mason, while a pair of guards spearheaded the Patriots’ effort.
6-foot-2 guard Marquise Moore, who came into the game averaging 10.0 rebounds, pulled down 13 rebounds, and 6-foot-4 guard Justin Kier finished with 11 rebounds.
For the Nittany Lions, guards Tony Carr, Shep Garner, Terrence Samuel and Josh Reaves combined for 11 rebounds.
Carr, who was limited to 15 minutes due to foul trouble, was coming off a 12-rebound performance in a win over Wright State.
“I just tried to hop in where I could,” Carr said. “I know we tend to get outrebounded every now and then so I just wanted to help the bigs on the boards.”
After the loss to George Mason, Banks said the team can’t rely solely on its frontcourt to get the job done on the glass.
Chambers said rebounding needs to become a mindset for his players.
“It’s not like we’re not working on it,” Chambers said. “I mean it might look that way, but we’re working on it. We’re doing rebounding drills. We’re yelling tag on everything, we’re yelling box out on everything.”
Notes: Saturday’s doubleheader will be the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic. The Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund — set up to give financial assistance to the children of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — will benefit from the event. … Kevin Stallings is in his first season as Pitt’s head coach. He spent the last 17 years at Vanderbilt.
Penn State vs. Pittsburgh
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
TV: CBSSN (274)
Radio: WQWK 1450