After a dismal first half of offense during which it shot just 16 percent from the field and scored 16 points, Penn State rebounded with a strong second half and made just enough plays down the stretch to hand Bucknell its first loss of the season, 60-57, in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions improved to 3-2 on the season and 2-0 at home.
Jermaine Marshall had a team-high 17 points in Penn State's defeat of Bucknell.
Top performers: Junior guard Jermaine Marshall had 17 points, five rebounds and four steals and freshman forward Brandon Taylor had 16 points in his first career start. D.J. Newbill had 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Nittany Lions.
Guard Bryson Johnson had 18 points, guard Cameron Ayers had 14 points and center Mike Muscala had 10 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Bison.
What went right: The Nittany Lions never let Muscala really get on track offensively and played solid defense even as they were throwing up brick after brick in the first half. The Nittany Lions owned a 38-31 edge on the glass and pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, keeping pressure on Bucknell's defense. Some big buckets by Taylor, who looked very comfortable (and a bit raw) in the starting lineup, in both halves helped Penn State hang around until Marshall and Newbill could assert themselves late in the game -- Newbill by going hard to the rim and Marshall with some long-range and mid-range jumpers. Some subtle halftime adjustments and a great scouting job by the coaching staff paid off as well.
What went wrong: Penn State looked out-of-sorts on offense and could not connect on anything in the first half, going 5-of-31 from the field. The Nittany Lions had trouble closing out on Bucknell's shooters and were lucky the Bison connected on just 5-of-18 3-point tries. Penn State left a lot of points at the free-throw line, going 9-of-20 from the evening and missing the front end of several key one-and-ones. Penn State had just eight turnovers but made some costly mistakes in the final minutes and nearly let the Bison pull one out late. Bigs Jon Graham and Sasa Borovnjak combined for only six points, nine rebounds and four fouls in 49 combined minutes.
Statworthy: Penn State is now 58-6 all-time against Bucknell at home. … Four Nittany Lions had at least five rebounds. … The Nittany Lions shot 16 percent in the first half, connecting on five field goals, and 65 percent in the second half, connecting on 17 field goals. … Penn State had eight turnovers and eight steals.
Quotable: "I thought they were the physically tougher team tonight." -- Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen
"He usually has the ball in his hand, usually gets us open shots. But we've been practicing without him a couple days now, and other guys are stepping up." -- Penn State guard D.J. Newbill, on playing without Tim Frazier.
"I thought he did an incredible job playing point guard for the first time for almost 40 minutes. That's a lot to ask a combo guard." -- Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, on Newbill.
"I went in and had a great Knute Rockne (speech) at halftime -- 'Keep shooting.'" -- Chambers, on Penn State's 5-of-31 first half
Summary: In what has become an all-too-familiar theme in this young season, the Nittany Lions struggled mightily on offense in the first half, but heated up with a 44-point second half and turned in a solid defensive effort throughout against a good Patriot League team. Newbill has plenty of learning to do at the point and freshman Taylor has plenty of learning to do, period, but the Nittany Lions made most of the hustle plays and played off of one another. Chambers said after the win over Providence that ugly wins are a coach's dream. He got another one Friday and more could be ahead if the Nittany Lions don't get more polished offensively.
Up next: The Nittany Lions will host Boston College at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Bryce Jordan Center as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
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