The return to Philadelphia for those on Penn State with city ties didn’t go their way in an 82-57 loss to La Salle at the Palestra on Wednesday night.
D.J. Newbill, a North Philadelphia product, scored just 12 points, and freshman forward Brandon Taylor, a former AAU member of Team Philly, tallied three points after showing promise from three-point range against Penn.
As for Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers, the Newtown Square native picked up his first technical foul of the season and saw his team get gashed by La Salle in the second half, being outscored 46-27.
“We got some decent shots in the second half early,” Chambers said. “But as you can see, people’s facial expressions, that they played so hard for [the first] 25 minutes, and you know, we don’t have a deep bench right now.”
Despite the lopsided final tally, the Lions started off the game with an offensive fire, reaching a double-digit point total less than five minutes into the first half.
Playing off the neutral crowd's pregame intensity, both the Lions and Explorers came out with a pep in their step, pushing the ball up and down the floor and scoring almost at will in the first half.
For Penn State, versatile forward Ross Travis, who has been a consistent double-double contributor in 2012, dropped eight points — in the first 5:30 of the contest. The sophomore finished the game with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
"That’s the Ross Travis that we need on a daily basis,” Chambers said. “He does it in practice every day, it’s the first time he did it in a game, and he did a great job.”
However, the biggest story offensively in the first half was the craftiness and awareness of Lions' 6-foot-9 junior Sasa Borovnjak.
With Jon Graham picking up two fouls, the Serbia native, who averaged 1.7 points per game coming into the contest, posted eight points in just 10 minutes of court time.
“They attacked D.J. and Jermaine and tried to block their shots, but I was there under the offensive glass and was there to put back their misses,” Borovnjak said.
Despite the surprising offensive outburst, Chambers' normally disciplined defense was scored on as well in the first half.
Penn State, who had allowed 59 points in the last three games, were getting gashed by the dribble-drive-dish combos, leading to 8-of-17 shooting from behind the arc in the first half alone.
However, the damage was done in the second half as Explorer guard Tyreek Duren led La Salle with 16 points in the final 20 minutes, finishing with 29 on the game.
"We were in zone, and it’s tough to get spread out in zone,” Chambers said. “Some shots were contested, not all of them some of them were. They were definitely hot.”