Penn State rode a hot start but ultimately couldn’t hang with La Salle’s three-point barrage on Wednesday night as the victorious Explorers won 82-57 at the Palestra in Philadelphia.
Top Performers: Look no further than La Salle’s Tyreek Duren who torched the Nittany Lions for 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 7-of-8 from the foul line. Duren did it all on Wednesday night - draining shots from deep, taking it to the bucket and drawing fouls, even dishing out four assists - all in 35 minutes of play. Guards Sam Mills and Ramon Halloway each went for 14 points, as the duo combined for seven made threes. Jermaine Marshall led the way for Penn State despite fouling out, pouring in 19 points in 37 minutes of play, while Ross Travis had a season-high 12 points, one board shy of a double-double.
What Went Right: Penn State came out hot, shooting well above its season average at a 56 percent clip. The Lions traded punches with La Salle - who shot 44 percent but also made eight threes - and were only down four at the break. Sasa Borovnjak looked as effective as he has all season, posting eight points and grabbing eight rebounds - both season-highs for the big man.
What Went Wrong: Look no further than Penn State’s zone defense, which was, more often than not, slowing rotating towards La Salle’s hot shooters. The Explorers shot over 50 percent from deep, netting 16 three pointers, which didn’t include a number of and-one opportunities as well. The Lions contested some of their opponents long-range shots, but even with a hand in their face the La Salle shooters were unconscious from deep. Penn State regressed towards the mean in the second half, shooting 33 percent from the floor and couldn’t hang with La Salle.
Statworthy: Sophomore guard D.J. Newbill didn’t record a point in the first half... Both Newbill and Travis played all 40 minutes, each topping their minutes per game average for the season... Patrick Chambers received his first technical of the season, no surprise it was from the notorious Ed Hightower... A crowd of 4,382 fans took in the game at the legendary Palestra - which was about half-full - and despite a large La Salle student turnout, had pretty even fan support for both sides.
Quotable: “Coach G told us that D.J. and No. 11 (Marshall) weren't really point guards,” said Galloway. “We knew we could make it tough on them with us under them all the time and them trying to look to the sideline to get the play.”
“For the first time we made shots to start the game, I think it threw us off - we’re used to grinding back from down 10-2.” said Chambers. “I was very proud how the guys handled their first road game. Especially on the road, you want to start off somewhat well, a layup, a three, get to the free-throw line and we did that - unfortunately the game is 40 minutes long. We have to sustain that, I use the term persistent intensity.”
“I probably spoiled the win because I was so hard on the guys after the game for that last second three,” said La Salle head coach John Gianni. “I mean he’s a walk-on freshman making his first basket, he didn’t know any better, but that wasn’t acceptable.”
Summary: Penn State’s lack of depth showed on Wednesday night. Starters Brandon Taylor and Jonathan Graham combined to play 26 total minutes, which meant 20-plus minutes each for Nick Colella and Borovnjak. Taylor has looked the most ready of the freshman trio to contribute, but has consistently found himself in foul trouble - as a result of poor positioning and sometimes just bad luck. This Penn State team has put in fragmented performances all season, with no consistent secondary scoring. The most frustrating part, has been the quality performances from a wide variety of contributors - Travis, Taylor, Graham and Borovnjak (combined seven seasons of experience) have all shown the ability to provide a legitimate option on the offensive end. The real question is whether this team will be able to put in consistent outings for 40 minutes.
Up Next: Penn State comes home to play Army on Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center, tipping at 4:00 p.m.