Penn State rallies from 17-point deficit, beats Drexel 63-57
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Before suiting up for his first game at the Palestra, Penn State sophomore Payton Banks thought it was pretty cool to play in the same gym that his sister, Jourdan, played in at Penn from 2009 to 2012.
But he didn't get any advice from her.
''She let me fly in blind,'' the Nittany Lions forward laughed.
He had a game to remember anyway.
Banks scored a career-high 20 points and keyed a second-half rally as Penn State overcame a 17-point deficit to beat Drexel 63-57 Saturday night.
''I think he just keeps getting better and better,'' Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. ''He made tough shots. He really stepped up and helped us with this victory tonight.''
Brandon Taylor and Shep Garner added 11 points apiece for the Nittany Lions (8-3), who have won three straight and six of their last seven.
Penn State took its first lead of the game with five minutes remaining on Taylor's spinning drive. Moments later, Garner hit a transition layup and Banks followed with a 3-point play with 4:06 left to cap a 15-3 run and put the Nittany Lions ahead 53-47.
Banks scored the next six points for his team, including an acrobatic drive with 50 seconds left, to help the Nittany Lions close it out in front of a pro-Penn State crowd.
''Drexel's a great team,'' Banks said. ''I feel like we came out and took them for granted. I don't think we should ever do that again.''
Terrell Allen scored 18 points and Tavon Allen had 16 for Drexel (1-8), which shot just 23.1 percent from the field in the second half.
The Dragons controlled the game for most of the first half, jumping out to an early 9-0 lead and going up 32-15 on Tavon Allen's 3 with 5:53 left before halftime.
But Penn State scored the next 12 points, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Josh Reaves and Garner, and went into the half trailing only by seven.
''We got tentative,'' Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. ''We did what we've been doing all season. We have leads and we play not to lose instead of playing to win. We've lost a lot of games like this.''
Although Drexel usually plays its home games at the Daskalakis Athletic Center, Saturday's contest was played at the Palestra, Penn's fabled home gymnasium. The building is only a couple of blocks from Drexel's campus and holds special meaning to Chambers and Flint, both of who grew up going to games there.
Chambers, in particular, has a lot of familiarity with the Palestra. His older brother, Paul, played his home games there as Penn's starting point guard from 1989 to 1992. Another one of his brothers, Tim, played football at Penn and was sitting courtside Saturday.
The Penn State coach still vividly remembers his first trip to the Palestra when he was in grade school and what went through his mind.
''I looked around and I was like, `Man, I want to play here. I want to be a part of this,''' he recalled. ''And then I get to coach in this incredible cathedral. I just love it.''
Even though Drexel was the home team, it seemed like there were significantly more Penn State fans in the building.
That didn't come as much of a surprise to the PSU players.
''Penn State always travels,'' Reaves said. ''We always have a fan base somewhere.''
Even if Drexel might not have ended up with a home-court edge, Flint enjoyed the atmosphere too.
''I thought it was a good crowd,'' the Drexel coach said. ''The one thing about the Palestra is it's loud. Everyone should experience it. It's a good place to play.''
Drexel: Senior forward Rodney Williams was sidelined a left ankle injury he sustained in Drexel's last game, a 79-54 loss to South Carolina on Tuesday. . Flint played only seven players with his starters all going at least 30 minutes. . Terrell Allen and Tavon Allen (no relation) combined for nearly 60 percent of the Dragons' scoring.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions have defeated the Dragons all six times the two teams have met. Last year, the Nittany Lions defeated Drexel 63-58 in Allentown in the first meeting between the Pennsylvania schools in 22 years. . Penn State is 22-36 all-time at the Palestra but is 12-8 vs. teams other than Penn. . Reaves, a freshman guard, led all players with seven rebounds and three steals.
Drexel hosts Penn on Tuesday.
Penn State plays Colorado in the Las Vegas Classic on Tuesday.