UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
From the moment Brandon Taylor stepped onto the Bryce Jordan Center hardwood on
Saturday night, the senior had a look in his eyes that he wasn't going to be
The New Jersey product drained the first two shots he attempted, helping ignite the Nittany Lions to the type of quick start they needed against the high-powered 22nd-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
The crowd of more than 10,000 roared as Taylor rattled off three-straight buckets mid-way through the first half to help the Nittany Lions match the Hoosiers blow-for-blow. But it was his sequence of 11 points during a six-minute span in crunch time that was Taylor's finest in the Blue and White.
With the game on the line and the Nittany Lions trailing by three, 48-45, with 10:24 to play, Taylor triggered a 10-2 scoring run that helped ignite Penn State and the boisterous crowd. He scored 11 of Penn State's next 13 points, which include a trio of triples, and willed the Nittany Lions to a 68-63 triumph over the Hoosiers.
"Throughout the whole game, all I was thinking was keep punching," said Taylor. "They're going to go on runs. We're going to go on runs, but you know who can take the punches the most and respond is the team that's going to win. And I think my teammates and myself did a good job of doing that."
Taylor finished with a game-high 24 points on 10-for-20 shooting and 4-for-9 from long range. He also had six rebounds and a tally of attitude club points that brought a smile to Coach Chambers' face when the two embraced on the floor after a much-needed victory.
"The fact that he continues to develop and continues to come in and work even harder to keep our culture where it is, it just says a lot about his character, his integrity and what he's all about, what he's made of," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "Nobody was happier than me for him that he really stepped up tonight and made some big shots when we needed it."
On a night when neither team led by more than six points in a game with 14 lead changes and 13 ties, Taylor and Penn State stepped up to make the winning plays when the game was on the line. The Nittany Lions played basketball with relentless effort for 40 minutes.
And it's Taylor who sets the tone for everyone else on the floor. He is playing at an All-Big Ten level statistically (21.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg in the last three), but it's the things that don't show up on the box score that make Taylor this team's MVP. He's doing things that not even Taylor probably imagined he could do early in his career.
"We've taken a lot of punches like you said, and not giving up is the reason why we come out this game with a 'W'," said Taylor. "And we could've put our heads down. We could've ran away, but we stuck our necks out there. We continue to work and we continue to watch film and get shots up. We knew that there was going to be a game where, you know, we're going to defend and play Penn State basketball for 40 minutes."
Taylor's confidence elevates everyone around him, and it's a big reason why Devin Foster tallied a career-high 13 points, Payton Banks made a pivotal triple in the final two minutes and Julian Moore notched a clinching old-fashioned three-point play on an inbounds pass from Taylor in a tie game with 1:13 to go.
His fingerprints were all over Penn State's first ranked win since 2014 on Saturday night. Taylor's value to this team is not measurable. Without him, it's hard to envision where the Nittany Lions would be right now. But with him, Penn State has a chance every time it steps on the floor, just like it did on Saturday.
"It's big for our program. It's important on so many levels," said Chambers. "We were obviously on a losing streak and we were kind of on that roller coaster that I've been telling you guys about, a little up, a little down and it's just nice to throw a punch and not get on the ropes and stay in the middle of the ring. That's what we did. We stayed in the middle of the ring and they believed. They believed that they were good enough, tough enough and prepared enough to win this game."
Penn State will now head into its bye with confidence. The Lions return to action on Saturday in Lincoln against Nebraska.
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