Taylor leads Penn State past DePaul 68-62
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Brandon Taylor keeps a picture of himself as a true freshman handy so he can look at it and remember how far he's come physically.
Offseasons focused on changing his body - burning fat and adding lean muscle in order to play longer, harder and faster - may have paid off for Penn State's versatile forward. But Taylor didn't get to fully test his new fitness levels in Penn State's 68-62 win over DePaul on Tuesday.
Finding himself in foul trouble early, Taylor spent all but nine first-half minutes on Penn State's bench. He scored his first points, a 3-pointer at the buzzer, to give the Nittany Lions (2-0) a 31-25 halftime lead in a game they never trailed.
''I just tried to keep focus throughout the whole time I was sitting in foul trouble,'' Taylor said. ''There's been times before when I get in foul trouble and I don't play long stretches where I tend to just wander off and not stay in the game even though I'm not actually in the game.''
This time Taylor returned with focus and scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half, including Penn State's first eight points of the half and a fourth 3-pointer that all but sealed the game with 44 seconds left.
Shep Garner added 7 of his 16 points in the final two minutes to keep the Blue Demons (1-1), who pulled within 3 five times in the final 8:30, at bay. Josh Reaves and Payton Banks both scored 10 points for Penn State.
Although Penn State led whistle to whistle, the Nittany Lions had trouble scoring from the paint and notched just 20 points from inside.
Enter Taylor, whose goal in the offseason was to condition himself to be able to contribute outside shots when they're not falling in close.
''He really mixed it up, too,'' Penn State coach Pat Chambers said. ''He's very versatile when he plays like that. We're going to move him around to make him that much tougher to guard.''
DePaul: The Blue Demons had their six-game winning streak against Penn State snapped. DePaul and Penn State hadn't met since the 1984-85 season and the Blue Demons were ranked in the Top 5 nationally in each of the last three games in the series.
Penn State: Coach Patrick Chambers won his 100th game.
When he was in the game, Taylor was a tough draw all night for DePaul's defense.
Some possessions Taylor was banging away low against Blue Demon forwards Rashaun Stimage and Myke Henry, helping Penn State's inside-out attack move the ball back to the perimeter. On others he'd seemingly get lost in transition, left alone near the 3-point line where guards Billy Garrett and Erten Gazi couldn't get to him in time to obstruct his shot.
''The game today had a lot of guys that play that position, inside and outside,'' DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. ''It's little bit more of a challenge because he's not just a jump-shooter. He can make jump shots and he can put it on the floor and then he can post up. So he gets you at all three levels.''
Reaves is making a habit of starting fast.
The true freshman opened his second game with a steal turned into an easy layup. Garner followed with a nearly-identical sequence immediately thereafter. Reaves, who headlined Penn State's first Top 30 recruiting class in its history, has four steals and a handful of near-pickoffs so far.
''Coach just talked to me a lot about being in certain spots and being in the right passing lanes and just reading how if I can get there or I can't,'' Reaves said. ''Last game, that being my first one in college basketball, it took a lot of pressure off of me. When I was told I was smiling most of the game, it felt good that I got that burden off my chest.''
DePaul hosts South Carolina on Friday.
Penn State visits Duquesne on Friday.