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Penn State 85, Syracuse 64: Nittany Lions Get Their Bounceback Game

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

The Nittany Lions needed to get the bad taste from Wednesday’s loss out of their mouths, and Syracuse provided the perfect opportunity to do so. The Orange had come off their own humbling loss at the hands of Oklahoma State, the likes of which could demoralize a team quite easily. Unlike Penn State, Syracuse was well out of it in the second half, and they never really threatened a comeback. Who knows, maybe they should have been Penn State’s first opponent...

This game didn’t start as fast as the other one, but it did start with an early Penn State lead. The Lions did a decent enough job of working through Syracuse’s zone, but the shots weren’t falling early. Luckily, the Orange were not doing any better with their offense, which allowed the Nittany Lions to hold on for dear life until the shots started falling. The Lions moved the ball as one would expect against the Syracuse zone, and more importantly, they got out in transition every chance they got, which was instrumental in building that halftime lead. Syracuse finally saw their shots go in late in the first half, and were able to cut the Penn State lead, which was 13 at one point, down to seven at the half.

The nightmares from Wednesday came back roaring early in the second half, as Syracuse quickly erased the seven-point deficit on the back of Joe Girard. The former Penn State either scored or facilitated the comeback for the Orange, showing the kind of energy you usually see out of Nittany Lions players.

Syracuse coming back to tie the game so early in the second half may have been a blessing in disguise. The Nittany Lions were actually able to settle down, get back in their game, and battle their way to a comfortable lead once more, this time being able to keep Syracuse at bay down the stretch.

Four Factors Analysis

The Nittany Lions won this game on the boards. They had 56 rebounds to Syracuse’s 30, with the offensive rebound disparity being 22-9. Second chance opportunities were a key factor in this game, and Penn State took advantage inside.

Players of the Game

Watkins had himself a tournament! The big man was instrumental in keeping Syracuse honest, breaking their zone, and forcing the Orange to foul time and time again. Him going 5-for-10 at the line certainly didn’t hurt.

Stevens racked up four fouls, but still managed to make his presence felt, as Syracuse could not handle him inside.

Myreon Jones, whose free throws down the stretch were a key reason for Penn State holding on to the lead, contributed 16 points in the game.

Honorable mention goes to Curtis Jones, who scored 14 points on 50% shooting from the field.

Random Observations

Free throw shooting has to improve - The Nittany Lions went 21-for-31 from the free throw line in this game, good for 67.7%. This is not going to cut it in Big Ten play.

Good to see the fight - Syracuse erased the lead early in the second half. This could have easily turned into Ole Miss part two. Instead, the Lions built another lead, and kept it this time. Lesson learned?

Things don’t get easier - Wake Forest is the only team standing between the Nittany Lions and two top 10 Big Ten opponents to start the Big Ten season. Ouch.

Looking Ahead

Penn State is back in action on Wednesday, December 4th, when they face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons as part of the Big Ten/ACC challenge. Game will be broadcast on ESPNU at 9:15 PM Eastern.