Nittany Lions Return to Rec Hall with Dominating Win over Canisius

Story posted December 11, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Tia Patillo

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Coming off of a loss to George Washington on Tuesday, the Penn State men’s basketball team bounced back and defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins in memorable fashion Thursday evening at Rec Hall, 81-67.

The Nittany Lions (6-3) sported throwback black and pink jerseys in the “Return to Rec Hall” matchup, honoring Penn State’s original school colors established in 1887.

Senior forward Brandon Taylor struggled early, but led the Nittany Lions with 18 points while shooting 3-10 from the field but knocking down 12-15 free throws. Julian Moore tallied 14 points, while Shep Garner and Payton Banks each added 11 points.

Penn State opened up the scoring, going on an 8-0 run during the first three minutes of play. Turnovers were a big problem early for Canisius (3-5), as 11 of the Nittany Lions’ 38 first half points were scored off of nine turnovers.

The Golden Griffins struggled to put the ball in the net thanks to the length of Taylor, Jordan Dickerson, and Moore. A versatile Penn State defense allowed Canisius to shoot a measly 27 percent from the field. The defense came out in a 2-3 to zone start the game, and transitioned to a 1-3-1 zone and some man-to-man defense throughout the game.

Freshman Josh Reaves, who had eight points, nine rebounds, and seven assists on the night, and Moore provided sparks off the bench for the Nittany Lions. In the final five minutes of play in the first half, Penn State went on an 11-0 run and led Canisius 40-25 at the half. The 15-point margin was their second largest lead of the night.

“He [Reeves] came off with great energy and great passion,” said Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers. “I think he needs to go out there stress free and that’s what he did tonight. He gave us nice production.”

Canisius came out with fire to start the second half, going on a 10-0 run in the first four minutes, aided by five Penn State turnovers. The Golden Griffins pulled within seven with 13:54 left thanks to junior forward Phil Valenti, who went 8-17 from the field with 24 points. They also switched their defense to a full court press, but the Nittany Lions were solid in their transition and didn’t get stuck by the press too often.

Jermaine Crumpton and Malcolm McMillan were the only other Golden Griffins to post double-digit points, with 10 and 11, respectively. What Canisius lacked in offense, they attempted to make up for in a full court press defense that presented some difficulty for Penn State.

“They did a great job of pressuring us,” Taylor said. “They forced turnovers late in the game and we have to do a better job with composure in those scenarios.”

Unlike last year’s Nittany Lion team that relied heavily on the hot hand of D.J. Newbill, several players were able to find the basket and generate scoring in the paint. Penn State scored 50 points in the paint and presented a lot of physicality for the Canisius big men. Canisius head coach, Jim Baron, said the size and strength down low was the biggest challenge for his offense.

“I’m going to mix it up down low,” Chambers said. “It’s nice to know that we have some options and that these younger guys are starting to step up and feel more confident. We have a lot to learn on the defensive end, but they will get there.”

Despite early foul trouble, Taylor put up 10 points in the second half, all off of free throws in the final 3:50 to play.

The Nittany Lions will look to earn their second straight victory at Rec Hall Saturday afternoon as Penn State welcomes in the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (4-2). Tip off is set for 2 p.m.

Tia Pattillo is a sophomore majoring in psychology neuroscience. To contact her, email tpp5065@psu.edu.