As the game was about to begin, Donovon Jack walked towards the center of the court and saw LaSalle’s Steve Zack, a 6’11” center, waiting for him. The two were about to battle for the opening tipoff to start the game.
Jack may have lost the tip to Zack, but that was the only time the Explorers got the best of him. The 6’9″ Jack had a career-high 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting to lead the Nittany Lions past LaSalle 79-72 on Tuesday night. Led by Jack, all five starters scored at least ten points in the win.
The game started fast for both teams, as LaSalle hit a three-pointer on its first possession and Jack hit the first of his four three-pointers on the next possession to tie the game. After Penn State scored on five of its first six possessions to take a six point lead just four minutes into the game, LaSalle answered with a 20-7 run in just under six minutes to take its biggest lead of night at 26-19.
“LaSalle is a team that goes on spurts and runs,” head coach Pat Chambers said. “I told my guys before the game, ‘They’re gonna go on a run, we’re gonna go on a run. Don’t worry about it. Just keep playing Penn State basketball, and we’re gonna be fine.'”
Penn State did just that, going on a run led by Brandon Taylor’s stellar defensive play, the Nittany Lions were able to come back and make it a two-point game at halftime, trailing 42-40 during the intermission.
The second half started similar to the first, as both teams scored on each of their first three possessions, but the Nittany Lions’ halftime adjustments were starting to show.
“We just went under the ball screen and stayed home. Their bigs are really good,” Chambers said. “They block shots, rebound, and do all the dirty work, but I thought just going under there helped us out.”
Down by four points after the run, Ross Travis (a.k.a. Boss Travis) scored four straight points on this dunk and a jumper from the wing to tie the game at 52.
As Chambers expected, his team went on a 19-6 run to give the Nittany Lions an 11-point lead and effectively put the game away. Jack added another five points in the run and Tim Frazier added another clip to his highlight reel with a ridiculous dunk. LaSalle closed the gap to seven points, but couldn’t get any closer as Penn State earned its third victory of the year.
The story of the night was Jack’s stellar play. The forward bested his previous career high by ten points and was very pleased with his play after the game.
“I just went with the game,” he said. “Coach always says to play with confidence, and I did. I have to give all the credit to my teammates, they’re the ones that got me open looks.”
Frazier was also excited about Jack’s big night, noting that his performance came just a day after Jack’s 21st birthday. “He had a tremendous game,” he said. “People don’t know that his birthday was yesterday, so I guess that this is kind of a birthday present for himself. He was shooting lights out today and that gives us a lot of options. Not a lot of [centers]can step out and make threes, and when he’s making threes, I feel like we’re a hard team to beat.”
While Chambers was thrilled with the play of his big man, he kept everything in perspective. “I’ve said this from the beginning, we’re a good team, but we have to continue to get better,” he said. “It’s obviously nice to win at home, because LaSalle is a great team, but it’s one game, and we have to keep it going.
“Our mindset is to get better every single day, and that’s what we have to focus on.”
The Nittany Lions take on Longwood on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Canter in the first game of the Barclays Center Classic.
- Tim Frazier had 13 points and 11 rebounds, while committing just one turnover. The highlight of the night for Frazier, however, was this dunk, captured in GIF form by @ben_jones88:
- Penn State shot 46.8% (29-62) from the field as a team, and totaled 18 assists to go along with 35 rebounds. LaSalle was held to 43.3% shooting (26-60) and only 11 assists.
- Brandon Taylor had one of the better games in his young Penn State career. He totaled 15 points on 6-10 shooting, and added 8 rebounds and a career-high 4 blocks, while committing only two fouls.
- Check out the full game highlights here.