Lamar Stevens showed off each part of his versatile game during his red-hot start Friday night against Northwestern.
The Penn State forward drove and finished a left-handed layup for his first bucket. He knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner and hammered home a dunk less than one minute later. And 61 seconds after that, he confidently drilled a step-back jumper.
At that point in the first half, Stevens was 6-for-6 from the field and nearly halfway to his career-high total of 30 points in the Nittany Lions’ 78-63 win at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“It got me going,” Stevens said. “I just felt like I could make a lot more shots, and my teammates kept finding me. And the coaches kept putting me in great positions, so I was just able to make my shots tonight.”
Stevens attacked the basket all night — driving into the paint, backing down his opponents in the post and cutting for emphatic dunks during an efficient 14-for-19 performance from the field. His 14 field goals set a Bryce Jordan Center record three days after the Nittany Lions fell to Maryland on the road. Penn State coach Patrick Chambers felt his team took many jump shots against the Terrapins, and the Nittany Lions looked to get to the rim more often Friday night. No one was more aggressive than Stevens.
Northwestern simply couldn’t stop Penn State’s 6-foot-8, 226-pound sophomore.
“It was his night,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “He’s one of the better hybrid forwards in the conference.”
Stevens has been capable of big nights since he arrived at Penn State last season. He reached the 20-point mark five times as a freshman, and he’s already had five 20-plus point performances this season. His 30-point effort Friday night surpassed his previous career-high of 26 in the team’s triple-overtime game at Indiana last February. And his 14 field goals set a venue record, one that spans more than two decades.
Stevens put together the memorable performance by getting to the rim and hitting midrange jumpers.
“That’s the bread and butter of my game and something I really work hard on,” Stevens said. “I wanted to show it tonight, and my teammates really put me in the best spots to operate.”
After he improved to 6-for-6 on Friday night with his midrange step-back jumper, Stevens was challenging the Wildcats on the scoreboard. He had 14 points within the game’s first 12 minutes to help Penn State take a 28-15 lead.
And Stevens picked up where he left off at the start of the second half with a dunk off of a lob from point guard Tony Carr on Penn State’s first possession.
“Lamar read it beautifully and he threw it up to him,” Chambers said. “It was a nice way to start the half.”
When he wasn’t throwing down dunks, Stevens was making plays just about everywhere but beyond the arc against the Wildcats. (He was 1 of 3 from long range.) Northwestern wanted to force him to shoot jump shots. Collins didn’t want to see him at the foul line or getting layups. But the Wildcats couldn’t slow him down.
“He’s a really good player,” Collins said. “He’s a bull. He’s strong.”