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Hoops Teams Sweep Doubleheader Heading into Holiday Break

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  The Nittany Lion and Lady Lion basketball teams will both head into the holiday break on a high after combining for a doubleheader sweep inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday.    

The men's squad dispatched New Hampshire by a score of 72-45 before the women's team rolled past NJIT by a score of 82-37.  The final game before the holiday break can be one of the toughest contests of the season to stay focused for, but both teams played crisp basketball with good effort for 40 minutes.

Nittany Lions Use Hot Start to Cruise Past New Hampshire
8426504.jpegThe Nittany Lions controlled the pace of Sunday's game from the tipoff en route to a 72-45 victory over New Hampshire heading into the holiday break.  Fueled by a 22-2 scoring run covering nearly seven minutes of game time, the Nittany Lions dominated all facets of the first half on the way to a 25-point lead at the break.

The Nittany Lions shot 55 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, but it was their defense that set the tone for the afternoon.  New Hampshire managed just 18 percent shooting the first half, largely a by-product of very good rotations and closeouts from the Nittany Lions.

Penn State talks every day at practice about playing good team defense.  The Nittany Lions looked like a team building a great deal of trust on the defensive end of the floor on Sunday.  The Lions forced 15 turnovers, and they did a great job disrupting the timing of New Hampshire's offense with deflections and crisp rotations.

"The past couple days, we have been working on our foundation, and that is defense," senior guard Nick Colella said.  "I think we did a really great job all the way around."

Coach Chambers said after the game that he told his team all week to expect a gritty 40 minutes of effort from visiting New Hampshire.  He preached that message at practice, and the Nittany Lions came out of the locker room ready to play.

"The level of energy and effort was there," Chambers said.  "I felt like we were all dialed in for 40 minutes."

The first-half scoring run set up the victory, but Penn State's defense and effort was the difference.

"We wanted to go out and play harder than them," Chambers said.  "And I felt like we did that."

The importance of defensive effort moving into Big Ten play cannot be overstated.  Penn State knows that it will need stops in conference play to compete every night.  The Lions improved on the practice floor this week, and it translated into the type of defensive effort Chambers is expecting every night in the Big Ten.

Redshirt junior Jermaine Marshall was superb on Sunday afternoon, scoring 15 points and corralling five steals.  Marshall, who led four Nittany Lions in double figures, played with good pace and took quality shots in the victory.  Coach Chambers said that the redshirt junior is playing as well as he has played right now.

Sasa Borovnjak added 11 points and four rebounds, while Brandon Taylor and D.J. Newbill each scored 10 points in the victory.  In all, nine different Nittany Lions scored in the victory.

Penn State knows that it has work to do before Saturday's final non-conference game of the season against Duquesne.  Nonetheless, the Lions took another step forward in building the night-in and night-out habits and effort necessary to compete on the defensive end of the floor heading into Big Ten play.

Lucas' 21 Points Leads Lady Lions Past NJIT
The Lady Lions took a 7-0 lead to open the second game of the doubleheader, and they never looked back in an 82-37 rout of NJIT.

8426509.jpegJunior guard Maggie Lucas sparked Penn State to a 44-9 over the Highlanders at the break with 13 first-half tallies.  Lucas weathered an uncharacteristic 2-for-12 shooting performance in last Sunday's win over South Dakota State, and she was motivated to get back on track early.

Lucas dispatched any thoughts of another slow shooting day by draining a 3-pointer six seconds into the game.  She scored 10 of Penn State's first 14 points on her way to the 38th 20-point game of her Lady Lion career.  Lucas finished with 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting and eight rebounds.  Like any great shooter, Lucas' mindset never changes.

"I go into every game feeling pretty confident," said Lucas.

Lucas led four different Lady Lions in double figures.  Nikki Greene tallied 12 points and six rebounds, while Alex Bentley and Ariel Edwards each chipped in with 10.  Bentley also had eight steels.  Dara Taylor scored six points and dished out eight assists.  Penn State forced 24 turnovers, which led to 24 points.  Ten different Lady Lions scored in the win.

"I thought we did a good job tonight playing an inside-out game...I think we are at out best when we get contributions from the posts and guards," said head coach Coquese Washington.

Penn State will now shift into Big Ten play, which begins on Jan. 3 in the BJC against Northwestern. The Lady Lions end the non-conference slate 10-2 overall and unbeaten at home (6-0).

"The Big Ten Conference is one of the best conference's to play in...We have to come back ready to go," Lucas said.

Washington added that she is expecting the league to be very competitive and go down to the wire again in 2013.  The defending Big Ten champions will come back to work following a few days off.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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