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Penn State 58, Yale 56: Still Unbeaten, Folks!

Trailing by as many as 16 points in the second half, the Nittany Lions put on a furious rally to earn the win.

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Given how scorching Penn State had looked offensively through their first four games of the season, including nearly hanging a hundred on Bucknell earlier this week, perhaps they were due for a dud performance like today’s, where the team shot an ugly 33 percent from the floor while the opponent gradually built up a double-digit lead in the early going and continued to hold on to it through much of the game...

Unlike in many previous instances though, this Penn State team was able to flip the script from prior seasons, which would have seen them lose a game like this and instead, put on a furious rally, which saw them erase a 16-point deficit with nine minutes remaining in the game to ultimately eke out a 58-56 win.

The first few minutes of the game set the tone, as Yale jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, with PSU not scoring their first points until more than three minutes into the game. The Lions would eventually get the deficit down to 16-13 at one point, but thanks to some killer three-point shooting by Yale guard Azar Swain (who would finish with a game-high 24 points on 6-for-13 shooting from downtown), the Bulldogs were able to push their lead into double digits, and ultimatley saw themselves leading at the half, 35-23.

The second half saw Izaiah Brockington come off the bench to provide some offensive spark (Brockington would finish with 15 points), but it seemed any time PSU would cut the deficit down to single digits, Yale would come up with timely baskets and Swain three-pointers to push it back into double digits. With PSU desperately needing a spark down 54-42 with less than six minutes to play, Pat Chambers opted to go with a “small ball” lineup featuring Jamari Wheeler, Myles Dread, Izaiah Brockington, and Myreon Jones to go with Lamar Stevens. The lineup worked, as PSU made things difficult defensively for Yale, ultimately finishing the game on a 16-2 run.

With less than three minutes to play and trailing 56-48, Lamar Stevens had a coast-to-coast block and layup on the other end to cut the deficit to six. Yale would then miss a pair of free throws on the other end, and Stevens would score again to cut the deficit to four. Curtis Jones and Myles Dread would then hit back-to-back three pointers to put PSU up 58-56 with less than a minute to play.

Yale had the ball on the final possession to either send it to overtime with a bucket, or win it on a three-pointer, and found themselves a decent look from the left part of the perimeter, but the game-winning trey drew front iron and the Nittany Lions had completed the amazing comeback, remaining undefeated as they head into a critical two-game stretch this coming week in Brooklyn for the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclay’s Center.

Four Factors

Yale shot 43 percent to PSU’s 33 percent from the floor. However, the Nittany Lions owned the offensive rebounding advantage 14-4, the turnover battle 16-7, and were way more efficient at the free throw line, shooting 7-for-9 (78%) while Yale was a putrid 3-for-11 (27%). The latter two especially, helped fuel PSU’s late rally, as they garnered steals on the defensive end and benefitted from Yale missing critical free throws that could have kept them at bay.

Random Observations

  • Having the ability to go small-ball with the lineup is a luxury Pat Chambers has not had in previous seasons. The ability to full-court press and have quicker bodies out there later in the game seemed to stymie Yale’s offense and disrupt their rhythm.
  • Instead of limping into their game against Ole Miss next week coming off a WTF loss, the team ought to be playing with a renewed level of confidence over the fact that they could overcome the adversity they just did.
  • Speaking of Ole Miss: It sure would be nice for PSU to get a win against the Rebels and set up a potential meeting with Syracuse in their second game. Really, as long as they can at least leave Brooklyn with a win, it should be considered a successful mini-tournament.

Up Next

Penn State takes on Ole Miss at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY this coming Wednesday. Tip-off is at 5:00 PM ET on ESPN2.