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Watkins' Consistency Key in GW Win

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball wrapped up the week with a dominant 74-54 win against George Washington to head into finals week on high note.

The Nittany Lions shot out to a hot start and never looked back, in control from start to finish.

For Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers, it was Josh Reaves who set the tone, pushing the lead to nearly 20 with a steal and dunk in the first half to stretch the momentum in an already surging opening frame.

"Josh has a lot of energy, he's long, he can jump high," Shep Garner said. "He's a great person to have at the top of the press. He puts a lot of pressure on the guards and we get the steals out of it and he can finish it. We get dunks and layups and and-1's and that gets our team going. We knew that we were going to use that press a lot tonight and we were prepared."

Five Nittany Lions reached double figures for the fourth time this season as Penn State settled in off of Reaves' momentum for a balanced offensive outing.

Penn State shot 59 percent from the field in the first half as Garner sent the Nittany Lions into the locker room leading 48-19 with a 3-pointer in the final seconds. GW's 19 first half points marked the second time this season the Nittany Lions have held an opponent to less than 20 points in the first half, also tying a season-low mark.

The offensive outing was hardly the highlight for Chambers and the rest of the team, as the focus all week in practice was centered around getting back to the basics, defense and rebounding.

"We had a long week of practice," Garner said. "Our main focus was defending and rebounding. we really harped on it in practice and it really showed tonight. We were ready to defend. We held a good team to 19 points in the first half."

Penn State commanded a 25-7 advantage on the boards in the first half, including a 9-1 mark on the offensive glass. On the night, Penn State out-rebounded GW 42-25, marking Penn State's third-highest mark on the glass this year and the most since grabbing 43 against NC State.

Mike Watkins led the way for the Nittany Lions, with a game-high 12 rebounds to along with 15 points for his second double-double of the season.

Watkins' consistency has been nothing short of key for the Nittany Lions and a welcome addition to his game for both coaches and teammates.

"He was great all week," Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. "He has just really matured and been really consistent and that is what we need from Mike. We need Mike dialed in on everything, and they are starting to throw him the ball a little bit."

In the last three games, Watkins is averaging nearly 19 points per game, coming off a career-high 22-point outing against Wisconsin on Monday.

His consistency though starts in practice, as Watkins spent the week wearing a weighted vest, testing his limits along the way.

"He's been wearing that vest, he was trying to get ready for the game," Garner said. "He thought he was going to be super light today. He's been dominating. dominating practice, dominating the games. That's one thing I've been mentioning to him over and over. Dominate, every possession, just dominate. He's been doing it, he's making our life that much easier." 

The Nittany Lions will take a few days off to turn the focus toward academics with finals week quickly approaching.

"We need to finish strong academically," Chambers said. "That is extremely important to me and to our administration. We are going to take a couple of days off here so our guys can focus on their academics. We will do something late on Tuesday but will come full force on Wednesday. But it is really important to give some time away to focus on what they need to do."

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