It was a tight back-and-forth affair in the first half, with neither team establishing a lead larger than five points. PSU led only 30-29 at the half, despite the fact Penn State significantly outshot the Bison (PSU shot 11-for-23 for 48% from the field compared to Bucknell's 10-for-28 for 36%). The defense however, showed significant improvement from the last two games, holding the Bison to just 3-for-6 from downtown.
The second half began with Julian Moore slamming it home but Bucknell would continue to hang around and ultimately, would push the lead up to eight points as the Bison caught fire and PSU went cold. To say that things looked bleak with about five and a half minutes to play and trailing by eight points to a Bucknell team that appeared to have caught fire was an understatement. Chris Hass, Bucknell's shooting ace, had just scored seven straight points to put his team up 57-49 and on the verge of blowing apart a PSU team already reeling from its previous two contests against Radford and Duquesne, where their defense had been decimated by opposing team's shooters.
Somehow, someway, though, a vulnerable PSU team dug deep and proceeded to fight their way back to a 58-all tie with one minute to play, before Payton Banks stole the ball on Bucknell's next possession and would eventually nail the go-ahead three pointer from the right corner with 22 seconds remaining. Hass' three point attempt on the other end drew iron and Brandon Taylor subsequently nailed one of his two free throws with three seconds left to seal an important 62-58 victory for PSU.
Taylor led all scorers with 19 points while Banks and Shep Garner pitched in 9 points each, and Jordan Dickerson scored 8 off the bench. Hass and Zach Thomas had 18 and 14 points respectively, for Bucknell.
Four Factors Analysis
The efficient FG% is what sticks out the most here, and the fact that PSU had fewer turnovers (9 to Bucknell's 11) makes it even more astonishing that Bucknell ever led by as many as eight points in this game.
Player of the Game - Brandon Taylor 19 points, 11 rebounds
While Banks may be the hero, there is little doubt that Brandon's performance was what kept PSU within striking distance, even when things were at their bleakest. It's comforting to see one of PSU's seniors step up much like how D.J. Newbill did last season and Tim Frazier the year before that.
- The frontcourt stepped up today - Julian Moore and Jordan Dickerson both came up with clutch baskets in the paint during the final five minutes of the game and Moore was especially solid with his six points and seven rebounds. Special shout-out to Dickerson's free throw shooting, nailing four of his six attempts.
- This team has grit - Yes, this PSU team is not as good as last year's edition (to put it kindly) and they will have their struggles as the season goes on, but one thing you can't say is that this team lacks heart or toughness. They very easily could have folded when Bucknell was threatening to push their lead into double digits late in the game but the upperclassmen (Taylor, Dickerson, et. al) showed solid leadership down the stretch and the players reflected the same tenacity and never-say-die attitude as their head coach. That's a real testament to Pat Chambers and the culture he's established.
Penn State (3-2) travels to Boston College (3-2) Wednesday night as part of the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge.