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Penn State Uses Hot Shooting To Beat Central Connecticut State, 77-61

Penn State has taken lumps for its performance on offense so far this season and rightfully so. 1-21 performances from three-point range rarely sit well with an anxious fan base.

The Nittany Lions roared out of their offensive slump Monday night, though, shooting 51.8% to defeat Central Connecticut State 77-61 on Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center to remain unbeaten at 4-0.

It was another big night for senior forward Jeff Brooks, who led the Lions with 19 points. Freshman Taran Buie followed him with 14 in his first double-digit scoring effort in blue-and-white and four players, Talor Battle, Tim Frazier, David Jackson and Andrew Jones, all had at least eight points.

The Lions opened the second half on an 11-11 hot streak. Inside shots and outside shots were all going in the bucket for the Lions, and by the time the starters started exiting the game, Penn State was pushing a 30 point lead.

Penn State now faces a stern test in Mississippi on Friday night in Oxford. The Rebels appeared in the NIT semifinals last season at Madison Square Garden and are led by stellar senior guard Chris Warren, who averaged over 17 points per game last season and is hovering close to 16 so far in 2010-2011. It'll be a good measuring stick for just how much the Lions have improved to this point.

The Good

  • I'm running out of good things to say about Jeff Brook's hot start. Tonight, he hit outside shots, inside shots, and even used his athleticism to attack a defender on the fast break. He's playing with a ton of confidence and it's rubbing off on his teammates, too. The only question left is what kind of player he can be against some tougher competition. The Ole Miss game should give us a clue.
  • Lost in the good news on offense was another solid defensive performance. Central Connecticut State had been averaging over 80 points per game coming in, but Penn State held the Blue Devils to roughly a 50 point pace until the starters began exiting late in the game. The Lions are drawing a ton of charges, which tells you they're in good position, and they're contesting a lot of shots. The breakdowns and wide open looks that plagued the defense last season have virtually disappeared.
  • Taran Bue deserves a little credit. He hasn't bee particularly impressive thus far and certainly not like the program savior some people (probably foolishly) hoped he would be this season. He didn't force things and held onto the ball pretty well to boot. If he can contribute half of what he did tonight, he'll be a solid piece coming off the bench moving forward.
  • Penn State cut the turnovers back to 10 Monday night. The Lions have been generating turnovers all season but haven't been protecting the ball, which has kind of mitigated that success. Tonight, they did a better job of limiting mistakes.

The Bad

  • CCSU guard Shemik Thompson squirted free for some easy buckets and finished with 18 points. Though Penn State did a nice job shutting down the Blue Devils' other 20 point per game scorer, Dan Horton, it would have been nice to see the clamps put on Thompson a little more.
  • Penn State's 5-16 performance from deep wasn't particularly impressive in the win. For as many open looks as they were getting, it would have been nice to see a few more fall. Other than the Fairfield win, Penn State has looked below average out there, which rarely bodes well in the long term for a DeChellis team.

The Ugly

  • Billy Oliver had four fouls tonight and has been picking up quite a few so far this season. He's not getting too many minutes, either, which is the concerning part. Oliver is off to a pretty good start considering his issues with headaches and such entering the season, but if there's one thing he needs to work on, it's trying not to get his with as many fouls. Penn State doesn't have a lot of size as it is. Losing Oliver to foul trouble in a Big Ten game could be bad news for the Lions.