For 34 seconds, American had Penn State stopped.
Following a strong defensive possession by the Eagles, Nittany Lion guard Talor Battle fumbled the ball into the corner and threw up a prayer from behind the backboard with time winding down on the shot clock. His ensuing air ball went toward a crowd of players and the tallest -- Andrew Jones -- managed to tip the ball toward the basket.
Chris Babb was right there. While in mid-air, the sophomore guard tapped the ball into the hoop as the buzzer rang through a mostly empty Bryce Jordan Center.
That play with just over five minutes to go in the opening stanza summed up the night for the two teams. No matter how hard the Eagles tried to hang around, the Lions were simply the better team on Monday as they closed their nonconference slate with a 76-57 victory over the Eagles.
Babb's tip-in sparked a 6-0 run and increased Penn State's lead to 12, giving the Lions control of the game that they would never relinquish.
The Lions (8-4) shot 8-for-16 from 3-point range and forced American (2-10) out of the 2-3 zone, which it used at the start of the contest to combat the Lions' quickness. In the last two games Penn State has seemingly reversed their struggles from beyond the arc, and one of the biggest reasons has been freshman swingman Bill Edwards.
"We've been in the gym more, getting more shots up," Edwards said. "The coaching staff did a good job of having us come in and get off extra shots, and I think that's paid off on gameday."
Edwards scored 12 points, including three of four shooting from 3-point range, but he said he still isn't fully healthy from a knee injury he suffered early in the season.
"I think I'm getting close to it. I try not to think about it in games and I play through it," Edwards said. "I'm about 90 percent maybe, if that."
Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said he was impressed with the way players like Edwards, freshman Tim Frazier and the sophomore Babb have adjusted to their increased roles after struggling earlier in the season.
The three combined for 32 points and shot 6-for-10 from deep.
"We threw them into the fire early in the season, and I'm not sure they were really ready for that," DeChellis said. "Babb has responded pretty well and Bill since he's been back has responded very well, so those are two really good things for us right now."
DeChellis used Edwards, D.J. Jackson and Jeff Brooks to neutralize American junior guard Vlad Moldoveanu, who torched DePaul for 26 points last week.
After Moldoveanu opened the night with 11 of American's first 13 points, the Lions held him to just five the rest of the game.
American coach Jeff Jones said the biggest reason was the Lions' physicality on Moldoveanu. He said Penn State was the most physical team the Eagles had on their early-season schedule -- a schedule that included No. 14 Georgetown.
"I think they just got more physical and made it tougher," Jones said. "He got some open looks from the perimeter early, and that's the thing Penn State didn't allow."
Because of a pair of Penn State turnovers, American closed the first half on a 5-0 run capped by a thunderous Riley Grafft dunk. But the Lions scored on seven of their first nine second-half possessions, giving them a quick 19-point lead they would never look back from.
With the win, the Lions closed out an 8-4 nonconference slate.
"We have a lot of work to do," DeChellis said. "I think we have a chance to do some things. We have to make some shots, and I think we will. And I think we're a whole lot better defensively than we were at this time last year."
With less than 14 minutes to go in the second half, Jackson went down with a knee injury after colliding with Edwards. He walked off the floor under his own power but did not play the rest of the game. Penn State basketball sports information director Brian Siegrist said Jackson hyper-extended his right knee on the play, but DeChellis said he should be available in the Lions' conference opener next week in Minnesota. Jackson will have the knee re-evaluated Tuesday morning.