Penn State Beats La Salle for Second Straight Win

Story posted November 20, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Bradford Conners

Behind a career night from Donovon Jack, the Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1) pulled away late in the second half for a 79-72 win over the La Salle Explorers (2-2), at the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday.

The Nittany Lions came out with a scoring flourish, as Jack swished a pair of early threes to help Penn State jump out to a 12-6 lead. Jack’s hot shooting would be a common theme throughout the night, which La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini said presented match-up problems for his team.

“Anytime you add another three-pointer shooter to a team, it dramatically changes them, especially when it’s a big guy,” Giannini said. “Big guys really struggle to cover the arc.”

La Salle, though, would fight back with a 9-0 run, to gain a 15-12 lead. Then, with the Explorers holding a 17-16 advantage, they added on five more quick points when Tyrone Garland banked in a three and Tyreek Duren glided in for a breakaway lay-up off of a steal, to make it 22-16.

The La Salle lead would vacillate between three and seven for the next few minutes ,before an 8-2 Penn State run---capped off by a three from Brandon Taylor---knotted the score at 32 with 5:40 to play. A minute later, two straight blocks from Taylor energized the home crowd, and Penn State would ride the momentum to a 38-34 lead.

La Salle, however, answered back, by closing the half with an 8-2 spurt of its own. The run was highlighted by an emphatic put-back slam from Jerrell Wright, and the Explorers took a 42-40 advantage into the locker room.

Penn State coach Pat Chambers was expecting a game full of runs, and he said he prepared his team for it ahead of time.

“I told our guys before the game, ‘they’re going to go on a run, we’re going to go on a run, but don’t worry about it. Just keep playing Penn State basketball, and we’re going to be fine,’” Chambers said.

Jack and D.J. Newbill paced Penn State with 10 points apiece in the first half, and Steve Zack led La Salle with 10 of his own.

The second half began with a frenzied pace, as Penn State made five of its first six field-goal tries, which included seven points from Ross Travis. La Salle shot 4-for-9 in that timeframe, but grabbed four offensive boards, to help keep up with the Nittany Lions, and the score was locked at 52 four minutes into the half.

The pace slowed down quite a bit over the next few minutes, but with La Salle leading 56-52, Penn State ripped off nine straight points behind some more offensive fireworks from Donovon Jack. First, Jack delivered a pass to Taylor in the post who converted a lay-up to tie the score at 56. Then, Jack was on the spot to clean up a Frazier miss to give the Nittany Lions the lead back, and on their next possession, the 6-9 sophomore drained a three from the top of the key to give Penn State a 61-56 advantage.

“Not a lot of 5’s across the country can step out and make threes and also post up down low,” Frazier said of his teammate. “He’s a great option we can have, and when he’s knocking down threes, I feel like we’re a great team and a hard team to beat.”

La Salle would score the next four points to draw within one, but with seven minutes to play, the Nittany Lions responded with the best three minutes of basketball they’ve played all season. A Newbill bucket-and-a-foul gave Penn State a 64-60 advantage, and then Taylor connected from long range to give his team its largest lead of the night at 7.

Finally, a Travis lay-up on a give-and-go with Allen Roberts gave the Nittany Lions a 69-60 lead and brought the Bryce Jordan Center faithful to its feet. Penn State turned up the defensive pressure in that time span as well, diving all over the floor and forcing a pair of La Salle turnovers.

“I think at one point we had all five guys on the ground,” Frazier said. “Those are the things that Coach Chambers has instilled in us to be a great team and have a great attitude.”

As the Explorers tried to crawl back into the game with the scoreboard reading 71-64, a long inbounds pass from Newbill found a streaking Frazier, as he sped past the last line of defense to throw down a one-handed slam that widened the Penn State lead to nine. Taylor followed that up by putting back his own miss, to give the Nittany Lions their first double-digit lead of the night.

La Salle would hang around for a little while longer, but a basket from Frazier with just under a minute to play, put the nail in the coffin as the Nittany Lions went on to finish out a 79-72 win.

All five Penn State starters scored 13 or more points, and Jack led the charge with 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Frazier was just 5-for-13 from the floor but dished out a game-high 11 assists.

Garland led the Explorers with 18 points, but he did so on just 6-of-18 shooting. Penn State shot 47 percent in the game, and La Salle sank 43 percent of its field-goal attempts. It was also a cleanly-played game for the Nittany Lions, who committed just eight turnovers and 14 fouls.

“It’s obviously nice to win at home, La Salle’s a great team, but it’s one game and we have to keep it going now,” Chambers said.

Penn State will continue its three-game homestand, with a match-up against Longwood on Sunday. ComRadio’s pregame coverage will begin at 12:30, with the tipoff set for 1:00.

Bradford Conners is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email btc5082@psu.edu.