November 28, 2015

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) As his players gathered for a courtside huddle, Patrick Chambers didn't see any of the glassy-eyed, distant stares or nervous ticks that prevailed the last time Penn State faced a late deficit.

This time, Chambers saw players confident they could overcome an 8-point Bucknell lead with 5:30 to play.

''I saw a very fierce focus,'' Chambers said. ''Whatever I said I knew was going to get executed the way I wanted it to.''

Chambers' plan was set in motion when play resumed, but it didn't follow the script exactly. Instead of hot-handed Brandon Taylor, who led all players with 19 points, Payton Banks drilled the game-winning shot in Penn State's 62-58 win on Saturday.

With Taylor heavily guarded inside, he kicked the ball out to Banks who hit a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left to break a 58-58 tie and put the game out of Bucknell's reach.

Chris Haas led Bucknell (3-3) with 18 points. Nine of them came over a 1:24 span that gave the Bison their 8-point lead, the largest for either team with 5:37 to play. But Haas missed what would've been the tying 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left. Taylor snagged the rebound, drew a foul and made a free throw to cap the scoring.

The game was back and forth before Haas got hot with 13 lead changes overall and was tied for 11:10.

''We were in control of it going down the stretch,'' Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said. ''His guys showed a tremendous amount of mental toughness, executed well at both ends and were able to make one more play at the end than we did.''

More importantly, Penn State was able to play a better brand of defense than it had recently.

After giving up 78 and 86 points in losses to Duquesne and Radford over their past two games, Penn State players spent the two practices leading up to Saturday's game working almost entirely on defense. It paid off, especially late when the Nittany Lions fueled a 13-1 run with strong defensive work.

The Nittany Lions notched four defensive rebounds, three blocks, a steal and pressured the Bison to force an 0-for-7 shooting slump to end the game.

''It was nice to see it wasn't a 3. It wasn't a 1-and-1. It was on the defensive end,'' Chambers said.



Bucknell: The Bison put up some nice offensive numbers through their first four games, making 49.8 percent of their field goals and 37.9 percent of their 3-pointers while averaging 86.2 points per game. Penn State's defensive squeeze held them to 29.8 percent on field goals, 30 percent on 3-pointers and well below their scoring average.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions improved to 78-25 against the Bison and have won 14 of the last 15 meetings. Three players had finished in double figures in each game for Penn State before Saturday when only Taylor notched double-digit points.


No sequence fired Penn State's bench up more than when Josh Reaves and Shep Garner turned in back-to-back blocks with less than 4:20 to play.

Reaves fingered a Ryan Frazier jumper and the ball floated to Stephen Brown who lined up for a 3-pointer. But Brown's shot was blocked by Garner and Penn State players erupted from their courtside seats. Just over a minute later, Taylor hammered away a Nana Foulland jumper for Penn State's sixth and final block of the game.

''They ignited us,'' Chambers said. ''There's no doubt. I saw the change the last two days of practice because we started defending and rebounding and getting angry because we weren't.''


Although Saturday's game marked the first time Penn State hadn't had at least three players in double figures this season, the Nittany Lions got balanced scoring when they needed it.

Shep Garner finished with nine points and he, Julian Moore and Jordan Dickerson all made baskets during Penn State's comeback run. Dickerson finished with a season-high eight points including an inside putback with 1:16 left that tied the game at 58.


Bucknell hosts Columbia on Wednesday.

Penn State visits Boston College on Wednesday.

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