In their first-ever Gavitt Tipoff Games matchup, Penn State went wire-to-wire in a 68-62 victory over DePaul. That won't register anywhere on a national scale, but it's a nice accomplishment for a young team with few expectations. Sure, they were just playing DePaul and yeah, they probably should have won by a larger margin. But we are talking about Penn State basketball here and wire-to-wire wins always should be celebrated.
The Lions jumped out to an early lead when Josh Reaves duplicated his opening efforts from the season opener with a steal and slam on the first possession of the contest. They finished the game with dagger three-pointers from Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor. In between, it certainly wasn't pretty, but that's expected at this point in the season. There were plenty of frustrating turnovers, missed passes and stupid fouls, but they found a way to win against a DePaul team that never went away.
Penn State had four players in double-figures, led by 22 from Brandon Taylor (19 of which came in the second half). Shep Garner didn't have his best game, but he did finish with a nice line of 16 points, 5 assists and just 1 turnover. Payton Banks and Reaves also chipped in 10 points apiece. Julian Moore corralled 8 rebounds off the bench in 19 minutes.
Four Factors Analysis
These are some strange numbers. Penn State's offense was fueled by their 3-point shooting (10-21, 48%), but it was a work in progress everywhere else. Their inside attack was not effective (just 12-33 on 2PA), and they failed to earn an advantage on the boards or the charity stripe (until the game-ending foul-a-thon). For most of the game, they were under the 1.0 points-per-possession clip.
The Lions' defense played well, but the rebounding and fouling numbers aren't up to snuff. They did struggle to rebound out of their zone looks, and they also continued to rack up the fouls. The referees clearly struggled to grasp some of the NCAA's new rules, but at the end of the day, the Lions have to find a way to cut down their opponents' free throw attempts.
Player of the Game - Brandon Taylor: 22 points (7-10 FG, 4-7 3pt)
It sure didn't seem like it would be him after the first twenty minutes, but Brandon Taylor's second-half outburst led the Lions' to victory. We've certainly been critical of Taylor's shooting before, but B-Titty was en fuego tonight, scoring 22 points on just 10 shots. He obviously won't maintain that level of accuracy, but you can see how much better PSU is when Taylor's shot is falling. If only he didn't turn the ball over six times, then he really would've had an efficient outing.
- Playing "Penn State Basketball" - The first four minutes of this game is exactly what Pat Chambers has been preaching. The Lions forced four early DePaul turnovers that led to 6 fastbreak points and an 8-2 lead. More of that, please.
- Zone Looks - Chambers did a great job mixing defenses against the Blue Demons, but one of the more surprising looks came in the form of a 1-3-1 with Julian Moore at the point. It was not super effective this game, but we may see more of that this season. The 2-3 zone worked well, especially since the Blue Demons were disinterested in shooting from the perimeter.
- Payton Banks, Smooth Criminal - Second straight double-figure game for the Orange County native. Banks continues to expand his offensive game in his starting role, and this team will need it. If his driving ability continues to develop, he'll be tough to keep off the floor.
- Donovon Jack made a 3 - This is noteworthy.
On Friday, Penn State travels to Pittsburgh to face Duquesne at the Consol Energy Arena. The Lions will face the Dukes for the sixth straight season and have won three straight over their in-state foes. Duquesne's expected to have their best team under fourth-year coach Jim Ferry, but they were still picked to finish 11th in the Atlantic-10. More on the Dukes and sharpshooter Micah Mason on Friday.