UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers knew that Brandon Taylor had the
personality to be a leader for the team.
But prior to the 2015-16, Taylor didn't need to exude his leadership skills.
Instead, he leaned on the likes of Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill to be the main
voice in the locker room.
But that changed when the Nittany Lions capped off their three-day run at the
Big Ten Tournament. Taylor walked off the floor in Chicago's United Center
knowing that from that day forward, he needed to step up and become one of the
central figures that the team counted on.
"I think it's always been there for him," Chambers said. "In certain ways, he's
been vocal over the past couple years, but he always had that guy to take the
torch. This year, he prepared for it."
The driving force behind his mindset on the floor and his role in leading the
team with fellow captain Donovon Jack is his confidence. Taylor believes in the
hard work that has carried him to this point in his career, both on and off the
His efforts in Tuesday's win over DePaul were living proof of that. Taylor
battled foul trouble through much of the first half and didn't have any
opportunities to score the basketball.
"There have been times before
when I get in foul trouble and don't play long stretches, I tend to wander off
and not stay in the game even though I'm not actually in the game," said
Taylor. "So I think I did better job of staying focused and my teammates did a
great job of finding me and giving me the ball."
Despite limited minutes, Taylor stayed locked in until his opportunity came in
the final seconds of the first half. The senior forward drilled a triple from the
top of the arc at the buzzer, and he never looked back from there.
"I mean that three is when I
told myself that I needed to step my game up, even though I missed most of the
first half," said Taylor. "So you know I just tried to be a leader and I
thought about a lead in scoring or with rebounding. I just tried to find a way
to make an impact on the game."
Taylor stormed out of the locker room with two more long balls and a turnaround
jumper. In all, he scored 11 straight tallies for the Nittany Lions en route to
22 points in a span of 20:02 of game time.
"I was really impressed with
his second half and his communication throughout," said Chambers. "It's easier
when you're making shots but I felt like he was doing it in the second half as
When he plays with confidence, Taylor is a matchup nightmare for opponents. He
can stretch a defender to the perimeter with his outside shooting ability, but
he's also been very effective with his back to the basket and when he's put the
ball on the floor during the first two games. Taylor believes the ball is going
into the basket every time it releases from his hand.
"I think those habits start in practice and Coach [Chambers] giving us the
confidence to take those shots. I've never, in my four years of being here,
heard Coach yell at me or yell at Shep [Garner], or anybody for taking a shot,"
said Taylor. "Even if it is a bad contested one, he wants us to take those
shots and he wants us to be confident."
With a 2-0 mark, Taylor and the Nittany Lions head to Pittsburgh on Friday for
a matchup against Duquesne at CONSOL Energy Center (7 p.m.). Chambers wants to
see the team continue to take a step forward.
"We are focused on us trying to get better from the last two games," said
Chambers. "We have been watching things very closely to see how we can get
better on both ends of the floor and on special teams. We got some shots up. We
have some end of game situations in."
Led by head coach Jim Ferry, Duquesne enters the game with a 2-0 record after
two high-scoring games to open the season. The Dukes are averaging 95.5 points
per game after wins over Seton Hill (96-71) and New Orleans (95-75). Duquesne
has made 20 3-pointers in two games and is shooting 41 percent from beyond the
arc. Guard Micah Mason is averaging 21.5 points per game and has made eight
triples this season.
"They have a lot of weapons, and it creates a different challenge," said
Chambers. "It's going to create a very difficult matchup for us. We have to be
really disciplined. We have to be able to get to shooters and somehow get them
out of rhythm. They are going over 90 points and playing with a ton of
Penn State returns home for a pair of games in the Bryce Jordan Center next
week beginning on Tuesday when the Lions meet Radford at 6 p.m.
Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony