Playing at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia, Penn State fought and clawed for 40 minutes. The gritty effort was not enough to overcome a barrage of hot three-point shooting from La Salle however, as the Nittany Lions fell 82-57 in a tale of two halves.
The Lions hung tough in the first half as both teams started off hot offensively, scoring 46 combined points in the game’s first 10 minutes. Receiving a much-needed encouraging offensive boost from sophomore Ross Travis (10 points) and junior Sasa Borovnjak (8 points, 5 rebounds), PSU kept the La Salle lead at a very manageable 38-34 going into half time. The Nittany Lions shot an impressive 56.5% from the floor despite DJ Newbill not scoring a point.
The offensive boost from Travis and Borovnjak did not carry over into the second half, allowing the La Salle defense to exhaust, frustrate and key in on Newbill and Jermaine Marshall. Newbill and Marshall did all they could to keep the team in the game but were no match for the sizzling outside shooting from the Explorers.
Speedy guard Tyreek Duren was dominant, leading the way for La Salle while notching a career high 29 points on 9 of 13 shooting including knocking down 4 of 7 three pointers and 7 of 8 from the free throw line. Ramon Gallaway and Sam Mills added 14 points each– hitting 7 of their 9 combined field goals from downtown. It seemed like the Explorers could not miss from long range as they made over half (16/31) of their attempts from three.
The Explorers’ hot shooting combined with Penn State’s inability to defend pretty much anything (regardless if they played man or zone defense) put all the pressure on Penn State’s offense to try to keep up. Some poor possessions for the Lions did not help matters before La Salle went on a 20-5 run midway through the half, increasing their lead from 2 to 17 with 7:52 to play. That put the nail in the coffin for any hopes of a Penn State comeback, as the Explorers outscored the Lions 44-23 in the second half.
Marshall (19 points) and Newbill (12 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) performed admirably, but besides Travis and Borovnjak, Penn State received a combined 3 points from Brandon Taylor, Jon Graham, and Nick Colella.
The performances from Travis and Borovnjak, who finished with 12 and 8 points respectively, is very encouraging if Penn State hopes to put up a fight in conference play. Travis was aggressive– but not out of control– with his shot selection, and showed a nice touch on his jumper, hitting 6 of his 11 attempts while also grabbing 8 rebounds. Borovnjak was quiet in the second half, but showed improvement on the defensive end, matching Travis with 8 boards.
La Salle (5-1) is an underrated squad in a loaded A-10 conference, and it was encouraging to see the way Penn State battled in the first half on the road. The Lions (4-4) will look to bounce back on Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center against Army, the first of four consecutive home games to round out the non-conference schedule.