Penn State Cruises To 73-54 Win Over Fordham, Improves to 2-0

Before the season began, Pat Chambers said he wouldn’t be surprised if he played 10 players in a game. He probably wasn’t expecting 10 would score in a single game.

But they did on Sunday night, and Penn State used a powerful bench performance to cruise past an overmatched Fordham side, 73-54. The Nittany Lions improved to 2-0 on this young season which is filled with potential.

How it Happened:

Fordham used a full-court zone in the game’s first four minutes. The press seemed to confuse Penn State, who turned the ball over early before finding its way later in the first half.

“We came out flat,” said guard D.J. Newbill. “They jumped us.”

But the Rams abandoned their zone shortly thereafter, and with it lost their ability to stop the Nittany Lions. Fordham featured seven freshmen and lacked the experience to contain Penn State.

Ross Travis started, but after two quick turnovers in the game’s first three minutes and an array of poor mid-range jumpers he found his way to the bench. John Johnson entered the game after the first media timeout, and an assist and quick and-one gave the Nittany Lions a 13-10 lead.

It was then that the Rams began a field goal drought that lasted over half of the first half. In the midst of that drought, Geno Thorpe made a diving steal and in one motion relayed the ball to D.J. Newbill who slammed it home.

“Geno is elevating us,” said Chambers.

Newbill led all scorers in the with 18 points, followed by Shep Garner’s 12 and Johnson’s 11. Brandon Taylor also added a quiet 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.

“I think Brandon Taylor’s improved a lot,” said Fordham coach Tom Percora, who said he recruited Taylor when the forward was in high school.

Johnson looked more in control than many of his erratic performances last year. He consistently took advantage of his great speed and drove the basket instead of forcing errant shots. It paid off: 7 of his 11 points came from the foul line.

“He’s going to be tough to guard,” said Chambers. “I give him credit, he’s playing to his strengths.”

Travis redeemed his poor start early in the second half. A jumper, breakaway dunk, and tip-in all in the span of the half’s first two minutes pushed Penn State’s lead to 23. The Nittany Lions never looked back, and Travis finished with eight points and nine rebounds.

Julian Moore saw extensive playing time in the second half as Donovon Jack had another largely unproductive outing. The redshirt freshman netted a buzzer-beating layup after leading a fast-break with Newbill to end the first half, demonstrating rare agility and speed from a 6-10 center. Jack, meanwhile, looked at times overmatched on the boards.

“[Moore] is getting a better understanding of what he needs to do,” Chambers said. “He’s still a redshirt freshman…but I’m very confident in him.”

Jack’s one block, however, his 58th on his career, put him in a tie for tenth all-time on Penn State’s career list.

Garner again proved he’s deserving of the starting point guard spot. The true freshman hit four three-pointers on eight attempts en route to 12 points. He didn’t attempt a shot from within the paint.

“Sometimes you have a freshman feeling good about himself, you’ll see a little bit of a let down,” said Chambers. “I didn’t see that.”

Peyton Banks and Isaiah Washington both added a foul shot, their first points each for Penn State. Washington’s arrival late in the game was a surprise as many projected the freshman to redshirt this season.

Quote of the Evening:

Chambers said that if his team continues its “chatter” and energy on defense, it will be tough for opponents to score.

“When we get to that level, you’re back to being the best defensive team in the Big Ten,” said Chambers. Chambers and his players especially praised Thorpe’s defensive energy. The Nittany Lions forced 17 turnovers and collected seven steals.

“Geno is always in the passing lane,” said Taylor. “He’s always guarding the best players.”

Fordham shot only 29.3 percent from the field. It’s the first time Penn State’s held an opponent under 30 percent shooting since 2012.

What’s Next:

The Nittany Lions will travel for the first time this season, as they face Charlotte at 5 p.m. on Thursday. They’ll next be at home next Tuesday, Nov. 25 when Akron enters the Bryce Jordan Center.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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