With about seven minutes to play in the game and sporting a 20-point lead over an overmatched Drexel team that only had nine players suited up, it appeared that Penn State was well on its way to an 11-1 start and tenth straight win and it was seemingly a matter of time before the scrubs would come in and allow D.J. Newbill to get some much-needed rest....
Suddenly, without warning, Drexel caught fire from three-point range, nailing three straight attempts while Penn State suddenly suffered from a case of press-breaking amnesia, continually turning the ball over with some dangerous cross-court passes that were intercepted and returned for layups by the Dragons. Before anyone could blink, a 15-0 Drexel run over a three-minute stretch cut PSU's lead to just five with a little over four minutes remaining. For those who recall (or have failed to wipe from their memory banks) last year's epic choke-job against Princeton in the Return to Rec game, those few agonizing minutes certainly felt like deja-vu.
Thankfully, history did not repeat itself today, as Penn State woke up defensively, Newbill and Shep Garner hit their free throws down the stretch (while Drexel missed some very critical ones) and the shooty hoops stars hung on for a 73-68 win. After taking a backseat to others the last couple of games, Newbill was once again the leading scorer with 20 points, while Brandon Taylor pitched in 14 points (along with 11 rebounds) and Garner and Donovon Jack racked up 8 points apiece. Tavon Allen led Drexel's scoring with 15 points (including 3 for 4 from three point range), while Sharpshootin' Sammy Mojica added 14 off the bench (including a pair of threes) and Damion Lee pitched in 13, himself.
Four Factors Analysis
The eFG% difference can be explained by Penn State outshooting Drexel, 49% to 40% from the floor. Free throws were also a huge difference-maker down the stretch as PSU nailed 20 of their 27 attempts (23 of those attempts coming in the second half) while Drexel went 12 for 19.
Player of the Game - Brandon Taylor
B-Titty's double-double makes him the obvious choice for POG. 12 of his 14 points came from having the hot hand from downtown (4 for 9 on three point shooting). It's pretty clear at this point, that he's embraced the role of the team's second best scoring option and If he can consistently put games like this together in Big Ten play, PSU will be a force to be reckoned with.
- Meet Payton Banks - The redshirt freshman small forward scored a career-high seven points off the bench and saw a season-high in minutes (15). In addition to nailing a three and scoring on a brilliant drive from the baseline, he also played sound defense. You might want to get familiar with the guy now, before he blows up in Big Ten play.
- Let's Talk About Jordan Dickerson For a Moment - For the second game in a row, Dickerson was a force in the paint, grabbing six rebounds and (officially) blocking two shots, along with altering several others. I can't begin to emphasize just how important this is for PSU from a defensive standpoint. As you know by now, PSU is off to its best start since the 1995-96 season. That 95-96 team was manned under center by none other than Calvin Booth, the program's last shot-blocking stalwart. Much like Taylor, if he continues to play like this in conference play, look out...
- Say a Little Prayer to The Flaming Bus Tonight - Penn State is now 10-0 since our new flaming bus emerged. Coincidence? I think not.
The team will only get a day of rest before finishing their non-conference slate at home against Dartmouth. Presumably, that game should not be as nerve-racking as this one was and PSU should be rocking a 12-1 record when they visit the Kohl Center on New Year's Eve to open the Big Ten slate against mighty Wisconsin.