UNIVERSITY PARK – In his opinion, Myles Dread was merely a "good" 3-point shooter last season.
He set a higher bar for his sophomore campaign on Tuesday.
Dread drained 15 points with a career-high five 3-pointers in Penn State's 84-46 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore in the opener for both teams.
"This is the work that I put in in the summer," Dread said. "I didn't want to stay at the same place, I wanted to be better."
Dread had plenty of room for error against the Hawks, though he wouldn't need it shooting 5 of 7. Lamar Stevens scored 10 of his 17 points in the first half for the Nittany Lions who started with a 9-0 run and never looked back.
They held the Hawks to just one basket over the first four minutes and forced 11 of their 19 turnovers in the first half. They led by 21 midway through the half and by as many as 48 into the second.
Mike Watkins chipped in 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Nittany Lions who improved to 8-1 in season openers under coach Patrick Chambers.
"I thought we did some really good thing offensively and defensively," Chambers said.
Penn State also got 10 points apiece from Myreon Jones, Curtis Jones Jr. and Izaiah Brockington on a night the Nittany Lions combined for 12 3-pointers and made 50% of their field goals.
A.J. Cheeseman led Maryland-Eastern Shore with nine points.
"What (Chambers) is building here is what we're trying to build at Maryland-Eastern Shore," Hawks coach Jason Crafton said.
HIS SECOND JUMP
Chambers said before the team's first practice earlier this season that Watkins, who was dogged all last season by a lingering knee injury, "has his second jump back."
That appears to be accurate.
The 6-foot-9 forward made the most of his nearly 20-minute workload. From the opening tip, Watkins was snapping crisp passes, rolling in layups with touch and seizing clean rebounds.
Watkins didn't turn the ball over, added seven blocks and a steal, and sparked Penn State's offense with a pair of neat layups less than 20 seconds into each half.
"He's in a good space right now," Chambers said. "His energy level, it's just refreshing to see. He is happy to be on the floor and he wants to do something special."
Stevens had a chance to go pro this summer but opted to return for his senior year. He picked up where he left off as the team's leading scorer and posted a pair of back-to-back dunks that made it 51-19 early in the second half.
The Nittany Lions were aggressive and quick to the ball all night. They finished with 10 steals, seven coming in the first half.
None was better than one from newcomer Curtis Jones Jr. who foiled a Hawks' possession with a leaping steal that turned into two of Penn State's 22 fast break points.
Jones leapt out of bounds over the baseline to intercept a Cheeseman cross-court pass, and, in one motion, hooked the ball back to the top of the key to Myreon Jones who moved it to Brockington up the court for an open mid-range jumper.
Maryland-Eastern Shore: The Hawks are looking to improve after winning just 14 games combined over the last two seasons. New coach Jason Crafton has eight new players in the program to help.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions believe they're capable of picking up where they left off last season, winners in seven of their last 10 games. Minus Rasir Bolton, who transferred to Iowa State, they have most of the pieces in place to continue to take positive strides.
Maryland-Eastern Shore visits Liberty on Sunday.
Penn State host Wagner on Saturday.