Bucknell’s Hot Shooting Dooms Nittany Lions

Coach Patrick Chambers will be the first to tell you that it’s hard to beat a team that shoots 60.9% from the field. It’s even harder when that team makes 10-of-15 three-pointers, and borderline impossible when they score 54 points in the second half on your home court. When they have four players score over thirteen points? Forget about it.

Such was the case on Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center as the Nittany Lions fell to the Bucknell Bison, 90-80, after an offensive onslaught by the visitors. Led by a career-high 25 points from guard Steven Kaspar, the Bison turned a five-point halftime deficit into a come-from-behind double-digit victory.

“I give them a lot of credit,” said Chambers. “They have a lot of skill, they’re very well-coached. Tonight was their night. However, any time Penn State basketball scores 80 points, we should win the game.”

The evening may have ultimately belonged to the Bison, but the first thirty minutes were an undeniably even contest. No team held a lead of more than six points in the first half.

Bucknell’s Ben Brackney started the game’s scoring with four straight three-pointers in the first twelve minutes. Early on, he was the only true source of scoring for the Bison, keeping them in the game after a succession of D.J. Newbill baskets.

Penn State made five of its first six shots and, with 2:05 left in the half, forward Ross Travis drilled a three for the Nittany Lions, putting them up by six to seize the momentum. Two minutes later, Penn State went into the locker room with a close, yet comfortable, 41-36 halftime lead.

The advantage proved to be the Lions’ largest of the night. The Bison stormed out of the gates and began the second half with a 7-0 run. Brandon Taylor righted the Lions’ ship with a three-pointer with 16 minutes to play. But the Lions, plagued by foul trouble throughout — Tim Frazier picked up his fourth foul with 11:34 to play — could not stop the Bison’s hot shooting. With fourteen minutes to play, they were shooting over 75% from behind the arc.

The game’s decisive sequence came with 9:52 remaining as Penn State’s Graham Woodward lined up for a seemingly open three from the top of the arc. Out of nowhere, Bucknell’s Kaspar flew in to the block the attempt, collected his deflection, then finished at the other end. On the ensuing possession, Frazier, who had five turnovers on the night, was called for an offensive foul. Bucknell didn’t look back, and its lead quickly ballooned to 11.

“We found a way to come up with some stops which was great,” said Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen. “It was just about trying to wear [Frazier] down.

Indeed they did. Frazier finished with 13 points and seven assists, but played hesitantly and sparsely while in foul trouble for most of the second half. Newbill led the Lions with 18 points, but he and Taylor both fouled out in the final three minutes.

Playing without Newbill and Taylor for the rest of the game, Penn State was unable to mount a late comeback. Travis converted one of two attempts from the charity stripe to bring Penn State within five with 2:44 to play, but Frazier turned it over on the next possession.

“I obviously couldn’t be as aggressive as I was,” said Frazier, referencing playing in foul trouble. “But that’s no excuse for anything that happened tonight. Being that player that I want to be, I can’t have five turnovers.”

Regardless of the outcome, Chambers said the game will be a good preparation for conference play.

“I like playing Bucknell,” said Chambers. “Bucknell is a good team, and they’ll get us ready for the Big Ten. Their approach is a lot like Michigan’s.”

The Lions will travel to Philadelphia on Saturday to battle Penn. They’ll be back at the Jordan Center next Tuesday against La Salle. Last year, Penn State got thumped by the Explorers, 82-57.

Game notes:

  • Brandon Taylor finished with a career-high 17 points. The sophomore forward bested his previous career-high of 16 points, which was set last year against Bucknell, coincidentally.
  • Junior forward Ross Travis also set a career high in scoring with 17 points, shooting 5-for-11 from the field and converting 6-of-8 from the charity stripe. He also led the Nittany Lions on the glass with six rebounds.
  • Bucknell shot 60.9% from the floor overall — while sinking 10-of-15 attempts from beyond the arc — and converted 77.4% of its 31 free throw attempts. Junior guard Steven Kaspar led the Bison with 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
  • The Nittany Lions? They shot 49.1% from the floor, 40.9% from three, and 65.2% at the line.
  • For an early-season, non-conference, Wednesday night match up, there was an impressive turnout of 4,670 fans. More importantly, a Brandon Taylor putback with 2:44 left to play gave Penn State its 70th point, which meant free Big Macs for all in attendance for the second game in a row.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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