Penn State Wins Ninth Straight in a Game of Ups and Downs

Story posted December 21, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Alex Bobbyn

Pat Chambers and his basketball team have found themselves in some tight matchups throughout the course of this season.  Against Drexel Saturday afternoon, Penn State did what they’ve been notorious for all season; letting teams hang around.

“I thought we played 25 to 28 minutes of Penn State basketball,” said Penn State head coach Pat Chambers.

In a game of 40 minutes, 25 to 28 minutes of good play sometimes won’t cut it.  Luckily for the Penn State squad, they were able to pull away with a 73-68 victory, extending their win streak to nine games.

Before Saturday’s matchup, the Nittany Lions (11-1) and Drexel Dragons (2-8) hadn’t met since December of 1992.  In that game, the Lions came away with a nine-point victory, extending their lead in the all-time series to 4-0. 

On Saturday, the two teams met for the fifth time in the newly built PPL Center located in Allentown, Pa. The players seemed to enjoy the location. 

“It kind of reminded me of the Barclays Center,” said D.J. Newbill.  Brandon Taylor also spoke highly of the PPL Center, saying he “loved it”. 

It certainly showed, as Taylor was responsible for 14 of Penn State’s 36 points in the first half, knocking down four of six from behind the arc.

Taylor wasn’t the only deep threat Drexel had to worry about.  Payton Banks, Shep Garner, and D.J. Newbill all had key three point shots that sent Penn State into the half with a 36-28 lead.

While the perimeter shots were effective, it was the Penn State defense that kept them in the game.

“We did a really good job on [Damion] Lee for most of the game,” said Coach Chambers.  Lee, who came into the game averaging a little less than 21 points, was held to only 13 points.  

Outside of center Jordan Dickerson, Penn State lacks height.  That didn’t seem to be a problem as Penn State came away with six steals and four blocked shots.  They used their speed and agility to disrupt the passing lanes for Drexel, forcing them to make off-balanced shots. 

Going into the second half, Penn State seemed to be taking care of business pretty handedly.  Their consistency was noticeable on both sides of the court, but especially from the free throw line. 

Newbill scored nine of his team-high 20 points from the foul line, and the team as a whole shot 74-percent.  From the field, the Lions shot 48-percent, and from behind the arc they shot 41-percent.

Drexel wasn’t as consistent.  They shot 40-percent from the field, and 31-percent from distance.  However, what they lacked in consistency, they made up for in tenacity.

Penn State took a commanding second half lead of 51-36 when Ross Travis came away with a defensive steal, passing it to John Johnson who set up Dickerson for a two-hand slam. 

Not long after that, Drexel went on a run of their own. 

Drexel’s Tavon Allen got hot quick, connecting on three three-pointers. Damion Lee, Drexel’s biggest offensive threat, was kept quiet behind the arc, but drew three fouls that sent him to the line.

14 unanswered points later, the Dragons were back in contention.

“I give my guys credit.  They kept fighting, they got [Penn State] to turn the ball over a few times, they made some shots,” said Drexel coach James Flint.

Drexel certainly fought hard to give themselves an opportunity to stay in the game.  However, it was miscommunication, sloppy passes, and poor ball handling from Penn State that allowed Drexel to hang around. 

With 1:28 left in the game, the score stood at 64-58.  As the clock wound down, Drexel sunk a few shots, but were forced to send the Lions to the line as time ran out. 

Penn State hung on, winning 73-68. 

Chambers spoke fondly of the Drexel basketball team, saying that they reminded him of Purdue.  Just as Purdue plays hard and physical, so does Drexel. 

With one non-conference game left, Chambers is getting ready for Big Ten action. 

“We’re going to be battle tested when we get to the Big Ten,” said Chambers.  Games like this are excellent preparation for what’s to come. 

Next up for Penn State is Dartmouth, who will travel to the BJC on December 22 for a 4 p.m. tip. 

Alex Bobbyn is freshman majoring in broadcast journalism.  To contact him, email aeb5671@psu.edu