Taylor’s Career Game Lifts Penn State Past Eastern Michigan

Story posted December 5, 2015 in CommRadio, Sports by Ryan Hickey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After a sloppy first half, Penn State came out strong in the second half and pulled away from Eastern Michigan in its 81-70 victory over the Eagles Saturday afternoon in front of 10,303 fans. 

“We are getting a little bit better each day. We are getting a little bit better each game,” said head coach Patrick Chambers. “I felt like we stepped up and rose to the occasion.”

Brandon Taylor notched his third career double-double, posting a career-high 27 points and 12 rebounds. After starting off shooting 2 of 7, Taylor finished the game going 9 for 19. Payton Banks also recorded a career-high in points with 17.

“I think it was a rhythm thing,” Taylor said. “I was in foul trouble for most of the Boston College game, so I couldn’t really get into a good rhythm in the game. This game, I only had one foul this game, so I think that was the difference.”

“I thought [Taylor] played with great pace. He’s so versatile right now,” Chambers said. “He’s playing at a really high level right now. And on the other side, he’s going to get you 12 rebounds. It’s really nice to see him get a double-double.”

The game started off slow, as the zone defense of Eastern Michigan (5-3) frustrated the Nittany Lions (5-2), who started out 4 for 20. On the flip side, the Eagles, who came into Saturday averaging 80 points per game, struggled to knock down shots in the first half. The size of Penn State seemed to pose problems for the Eagles, as the Nittany Lions outrebounded Eastern Michigan 49-32, including grabbing 19 offensive rebounds.

Down 19-16 late in the first half, the Nittany Lions went on a 12-0 run to take a 28-19 lead with 3:35 left, capped off by a nifty reverse layup by Davis Zemgulis. The Blue and White closed the half on an 18-5 run to take a 34-24 lead into the locker room.

Both teams struggled shooting in the first half, as Penn State was 33 percent from the floor while Eastern Michigan shot just 32 percent.

The Nittany Lions came out in the second half shooting more efficiently, going on a 15-2 run with 13 minutes left to take a 54-31 lead.

James Thompson led the Eagles attack, posting a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Willie Mangum was the only other Eagle to score double figures as he recorded 10 points.

Tensions flared up midway through the second half as Isaiah Washington was fouled hard by Thompson, who then proceeded to stand over the redshirt freshman. That drew the attention of Garner, who had some words with Thompson before Thompson was whistled for a technical foul.

Penn State led by as much as 23 in the second half, but Eastern Michigan kept chipping away and slowly cut the deficit lower. Eastern Michigan went on a 6-0 run with just under two minutes left to cut the deficit to it’s smallest number in the second half at nine, but would not get any closer than that.

Clutch free throws from both Garner and Banks iced the game for the Nittany Lions. Garner, who started slow shooting, finished the game with 16 points, but most importantly, went a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line.

Penn State is back in action Tuesday, Dec. 6 when the Nittany Lions travel to battle George Washington.

Ryan Hickey is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email rjh5435@gmail.com