Every time Rasir Bolton gets the ball in his hands, a familiar voice echoes in his head.
"It's my Pops," Bolton said. "Since I was seven, he would just tell me, 'Shooting is like breathing. Breath in, breath out, bring the ball up, breath in, shoot it, breath out.'"
When he sticks to that, Bolton can make it look easy. The Penn State freshman scored 10 of his 18 points in the first half to help the host Nittany Lions beat UMBC, 74-52, on Saturday.
Lamar Stevens added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Nittany Lions (7-6) who finished their non-conference slate 7-4. That stretch included a 2-2 mark against Virginia Tech, Alabama, North Carolina State and Duquesne, teams that are 40-8 combined thus far.
"That really put us through a lot of tests," Penn State coach Pat Chambers said. "That's why we'll be mentally and physically ready to head to Michigan and play in the Big Ten."
The Nittany Lions were ready to play on Saturday, especially after what Chambers called a much needed Christmas break after a loss to Alabama in which Penn State coughed up a 23-9 first-half lead.
"That sits with you," Chambers said. "They came back and they worked and we got better and there was some physicality and there was some chippiness."
Penn State carried that edge into Saturday's game and led comfortably for the entire second half after nine lead changes over the first 12:27. The Nittany Lions took the lead for good midway through the first with a 20-6 run sparked by 3-pointers from Bolton and Stevens.
K.J. Jackson led UMBC (7-7) with 16 points.
"Their physicality was the biggest problem on defense for us," UMBC coach Ryan Odom said. "They got us into some one-on-one situations where they quite honestly did a really good job of staying between us and the basket and we couldn't really get in there."
Robert Morris 108, Hood 51: Malik Petteway had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Matty McConnell added 17 points and five assists, and the host Colonials (5-8) beat the Division III Blazers (7-5).
Anthony Pearson and Mason Wang scored 11 points each for Hood. The Blazers had 11 steals and Robert Morris committed 21 turnovers. Robert Morris led 50-26 at halftime and scoring in the second half wasn't much different as the Colonials racked up another 58 points and the Blazers scored 25.
Morgan State 61, UMass-Lowell 49: Adre'onia Coleman (St. Frances) scored a game-high 21 points to lead the host Bears (2-12) past the River Hawks (4-9). The victory ended an 11-game losing streak. Morgan State finished strong on a 17-7 run in the fourth quarter.
George Mason 70, UMES 49: The host Patriots (7-5) went on a 23-9 run in the third quarter to pull away from the Hawks (3-9). Ciani Byrom scored a game-high 19 points for UMES. The Hawks travel to UMBC 3 p.m. Monday.
Old Dominion 81, Coppin State 51: The host Monarchs (9-3) outscored the Eagles (0-12), 45-27, in the second half. Brooke Fields (Institute of Notre Dame) had 17 points for Coppin State. Old Dominion leads the series 2-0.