Late Push From Men’s Basketball Not Enough To Upset No. 1 Duke
Penn State (2-2) took to the road for the first time in the young season to take on the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (3-1) in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Penn State came into this game riding a two-game winning streak with wins over Duquesne and Grand Canyon while Duke was looking to rebound from a tough loss against Kansas. Despite injuries to key Duke players, it had too many weapons for Penn State to handle and the Nittany Lions lost its second game of the year 78-68.
How It Happened
Penn State had the difficult task of trying to slow down a potent Duke offense. The Nittany Lions held an early 6-5 lead four minutes into the game thanks to a pair of triples made by Tony Carr and Payton Banks. Then the Blue Devils went on a 16-4 run over the course of the next six minutes before Carr hit his second three of the game ending a streak of six consecutive missed field goals from the Nittany Lions.
Penn State continued to battle all the way through the first half, and held its own in the rebounding department with both teams notching 22 first half boards. The Nittany Lions struggled putting the ball in the hoop shooting only 27.3 percent (9-33) from the field in the first half. Carr led the Lions in first half scoring with eight points helping Penn State go to the locker room down only 12 points.
Pat Chambers switched up to a 2-3 zone defensively in the second half to try limit Duke’s penetration into the paint. Duke looked poised to run away with this game early in the final frame extending its lead to as much as 17, but Penn State’s zone gave Duke fits on the offensive end. After Banks hit his third three of the game and layup from Shep Garner at the 10 minute mark, Penn State found itself only down nine points to the No. 1 team in the country.
For most of the game, every time Penn State made a small run Duke would respond with a big three to slow any momentum the Nittany Lions would gain. Penn State kept clawing, but just couldn’t make a sustained run to really put pressure on Duke. The Nittany Lions made one final push when a Garner three ball made it a 72-64 Blue Devil advantage with two and a half minutes to play. Penn State forced a stop on the next defensive possession, but committed a critical turnover at the other end. The Nittany Lions couldn’t get the big shot to fall under two minutes that would’ve made things interesting late as they fell to the Blue Devils 78-68.
Chambers and his squad deserve a lot of credit — they hung around with the best team in the country all game and played them tough. The Nittany Lions really excelled in transition this game, which is exactly what Chambers wants from this team. It did a good job of pushing the tempo when it had its opportunities outscoring the Blue Devils in fast break points.
Carr and Lamar Stevens were impressive again for the Nittany Lions combining for 31 points and 12 rebounds between the two Roman Catholic freshmen. Stevens also tallied three blocks, which is an early career high. The two teams stayed even in rebounds and turnovers which can be a recipe to pull off an upset, but Penn State struggled shooting from outside making only six of 22 attempts.
Player Of The Game
Amile Jefferson | Forward | Senior
Jefferson posted his first double-double of the season for the Blue Devils with 16 points and 16 rebounds. The 16 boards is a career high for the Philadelphia native, and was a key factor in helping Duke hold off any Penn State rally.
Penn State awaits the loser of the Cincinnati vs. Rhode Island in the next game of the Hall of Fame Tip Off Tournament. The Nittany Lions will play in the consolation game tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN 2.