Penn State Hoops Comes Back From Down 17 To Defeat Drexel 63-57
All throughout his tenure at Penn State, coach Pat Chambers has preached attitude above all else. In his five years in Happy Valley, the team hasn’t had a ton of easy wins, and Saturday night was no different. In a game that featured just one lead change and saw the Nittany Lions down by as much as 17 points late in the first half, the team’s attitude was on full display, scrapping its way back to a six-point victory in the historic Palestra in Philadelphia. The team was fueled by a career-high 20 points from sophomore Payton Banks, and 11 apiece from Brandon Taylor and Philly native Shep Garner, who made critical shots down the stretch for the Nittany Lions after starting 1-7 shooting.
How it Happened
If you had told anyone watching the game that Penn State would come out victorious after the first 15 minutes, they would have called you crazy. The Nittany Lions started ice cold, going down 9-0 early, with a pair of bad airballs from Brandon Taylor. Penn State shot just 35.5 percent from the floor in the first period, down as much as 17 to an injury-riddled Drexel team that came into the game just 1-7, including a loss to Division II Alaska-Anchorage. But a 12-0 run that featured threes from Shep Garner and Josh Reaves brought the game to a manageable seven-point deficit at halftime.
The Nittany Lions looked to pounce in the second half, attacking the Dragons and shifting momentum on a monster slam from freshman Josh Reaves on the heels of a Payton Banks three that cut the Drexel lead to five, and had the Palestra — which featured a majority of Penn State fans — rocking.
“As soon as I heard the crowd erupt I was ready to go, I would’ve run through a brick wall at that point,” Reaves said, “The crowd just gives me so much energy.”
From that point, it was a dogfight between the two schools, trading buckets until finally, with 5:09 left in the game the Nittany Lions took their first lead of the game on a Brandon Taylor layup. That was the game’s sole lead change, as the Nittany Lions never looked back, propelled by eight points from Payton Banks in the last 4:09 of the game. Penn State dominated in the paint and on second-chance points during the second half, outscoring the Dragons 18-4 and 11-3 in those categories respectively. The Nittany Lions also dominated defensively, holding Drexel to just six field goals and 23 percent shooting in the second half.
Player of the Game
Who else but Payton Banks? The sophomore from California racked up a career-high 20 points, including those 8 crucial points down the stretch to keep the Lions ahead. Banks was 7-16 shooting and a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe in 34 minutes. He added six rebounds, tied for his third most this season, to round out his stat line.
Josh Reaves quietly made a big impact as well, contributing nine points and seven rebounds, on top of leading the team in steals with three, and co-leading in assists with two. The freshman’s aforementioned dunk was probably the highlight of the night for either side.
The Nittany Lions travel across the country to Sin City, where they will compete in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. The team plays the University of Colorado on Tuesday at 10:30 p.m., and then either SMU or Kent State on Wednesday.
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