Second Half Comeback Propels Penn State At The Palestra

Story posted December 20, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Mike Wszolek

PHILADELPHIA -- The Nittany Lions were back in action on Saturday against Drexel at the historic Palestra, in front of an abundance of Nittany Lion fans. Penn State came into the game favored and outscored Drexel 36-23 in the second half to win 63-57.

“I was proud. We did some things uncharacteristic. But the way they competed in the second half, getting resilient, we showed gritty effort. It was ugly, but we’re going to take it,” said Penn State coach Pat Chambers.  

Penn State (8-3) had a dreadful start to the game and couldn’t get anything going offensively. The Nittany Lions scored their first points over three minutes into the game, and at that point they were in an early 9-2 hole. Drexel (1-8) had only one win coming in to the game but looked like they had something to prove early in the game. The Dragons went up 9-0 with just under three minutes into the game. The underdog didn’t stop scoring and went up by as much as seventeen, leaving Penn State shell-shocked.

However, late in the first half, something changed and Drexel couldn’t score and was missing left and right. Penn State took advantage of the poor Dragon shooting and cut the lead to 32-27 with under a minute to play in the first. The confidence grew and the Palestra got louder and louder as each Nittany Lion basket went in, and the arena exploded when Drexel had to call a timeout.

The Dragons didn’t score a single point for over five minutes and finally scored on two free throws by Tavon Allen, making the score 34-27 at halftime. Shep Garner had a quiet first half for Penn State in his return home, only scoring three points. Josh Reaves led all scorers with seven at the break, while Brandon Taylor had six. Chambers wasn’t too sure how to get his team going.

“Honestly, I was searching. I tried some switching, but the 2-3 zone really helped. I haven’t played it in three weeks, so I give our guys a lot of credit for staying disciplined and remembering the slides and the rotations,” Chambers said. 

Penn State played smarter to open up the second half and looked like the team every Nittany Lion fan is used to seeing. The first few minutes were back and forth before Drexel opened up a ten point lead four minutes in. It looked like Drexel was going to run away with it, but Peyton Banks hit a huge three to cut the lead to seven. A quick steal and massive dunk by Josh Reaves got Penn State fans on their feet and had the Lions right back in the game. A few questionable calls by the referees put Chambers into a frenzy, but the Lions kept their composure and played their style of basketball.

The Nittany Lions started to play with greater intensity and cut the Drexel lead to one, 44-43, with under eight minutes to play in the second half, forcing Dragons coach Bruiser Flint to take a timeout. The Nittany Lions finally took their first lead of the game with five minutes to go in the second half on a Taylor layup. A quick steal and put in by Garner gave the Lions a 50-47, causing Drexel to use another timeout. 

Drexel would not see the lead again as Penn State came out victorious. Drexel has lost some tight games this season, and it has been a frustrating first nine games for Bruiser Flint.

“We got tentative. We’ve lost a lot of games like this. Guys got to play with some confidence when it’s time to play with some. Bottom line,” said Flint.

Peyton Banks had 20 points to lead Penn State. Banks stepped up because Taylor and Garner were held to a combined 22 points. 

“I just do whatever I can do for my team, and if that’s scoring the ball, I got to score the ball because at the end of the day, those are my brothers,” Banks said.

The Nittany Lions will travel to Las Vegas where they will play two games, first against Colorado and then versus a team to be determined. Even though it wasn’t the prettiest, Banks knows that this was an important win.

“It’s a momentum builder. We just have to build off of this,” Banks added.

Mike Wszolek is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email