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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Shoot Past Eastern Michigan 81-70

by on December 05, 2015 4:00 PM

Coming off a needed victory over a tough ACC opponent, Pat Chambers and his Nittany Lions were faced with a tough MAC opponent in Eastern Michigan, led by star freshman center James Thompson IV. Riding quality shooting and consistent rebounding, Penn State put the pedal to the floor and didn’t let up, finishing off the Eagles 81-70 behind a career-high 27 point performance from Brandon Taylor.

How It Happened

Josh Reaves wasted no time in draining a three pointer from the wing early after an Eastern Michigan two-point bucket from star freshman James Thompson IV in a relatively quiet first few minutes. Reaves gave the Lions a scare early on after being fouled hard near the rim, but quickly shook it off and remained on the floor.

Sloppy passing and poor execution allowed Eastern Michigan to creep back into the game, taking an 8-4 lead after an errant pass from Payton Banks led to a breakaway jam on the other end. Shep Garner, fresh off a 30 point outburst against Boston College, got into a groove early, draining a deep three from the center, followed by a tough basket from Brandon Taylor underneath to reclaim an 11-10 lead for Penn State.

Physicality was the theme on Saturday afternoon, with both teams fouling at will, especially close to the rim. Thompson IV was a matchup nightmare down low, but the Lions slowly began to figure out how to manage the talented freshman. Julian Moore had some solid looks down low as he began to find space and get settled in the paint.

Brandon Taylor continued to find his stroke, hitting shot after shot with ease as he cruised to 13 points, nine boards, and two assists by the 3:35 mark with the Lions leading 28-19. He brought the energized crowd to its feet, and his teammates responded accordingly. Freshman Deividas Zemgulis sent home one of the prettiest layup attempts I’ve seen in quite some time as he switched to the left and spun it in off the backboard. The team played confident and effective basketball, swarming the Eagles on the defensive side, and toying with them like a puppeteer would with string on the offensive end.

The Lions ended the first half leading 34-24, and the hot hand of Taylor was a main reason for the stunning offensive surge.

Riding momentum from his impressive first half, Taylor kicked off the second half scoring with a nifty hook shot against Thompson IV, followed by a Payton Banks three pointer in the face of two Eastern Michigan defenders to extend the lead to 39-26.

A flurry of scoring followed, and Brandon Taylor was the primary factor. Penn State took its largest lead of the night after Jordan Dickerson forcefully snatched an offensive board and dished to Taylor, who promptly drained his third three pointer of the night to put the Lions up 52-31.

The game’s physicality reached its boiling point at the nine minute mark after Isaiah Washington was sent to the court on a layup attempt. The refs took issue to the physical defensive play from Thompson IV, but some extracurricular jawing on his part earned him a technical foul. Confusion ensued at center court as the officials discussed at center court, but the tech stood. Washington converted his free throws, and the Lions took a commanding 60-43 lead with 7:42 remaining in the half.

Penn State continued to toy with Eastern Michigan, fluidly moving the ball around the court and finding open shooters. Payton Banks was keyed-in all afternoon long, chipping in 15 points and a pair of long balls as he complemented the 27-point performance from big man Brandon Taylor. The Lions weren’t shooting sporadically, rather picking their shots and finding a rhythm, and that sharpshooter mentality helped Penn State take down a tough Eastern Michigan opponent 81-70, with Taylor (27), Banks (17), and Garner (16) all finishing in double figures.

Player of the Game

Is there any question? Brandon Taylor went from going 1-5 with only two points against Boston College, to scoring a career high 27 points against an incredibly gritty Eastern Michigan team. He drew praise from Pat Chambers for both his scoring prowess and his 12 rebounds, and proved just how good this entire team can play when its shooters play cohesively.

What’s Next?

Penn State travels to Washington D.C. to take on 7-1 George Washington on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.

David Abruzesse writes for Onward State
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