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Dec. 21, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; Dec. 21, 2009 - The Nittany Lion basketball team (8-4) will head to the Holidays feeling much better about its shooting after hitting at better than 53 percent for the second consecutive game and rolling to a 76-57 victory over American (2-10) Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Coming off a 104-point outing in which it shot 53.3 percent on Saturday in a 47-point win over Gardner-Webb, the Nittany Lions continued to fill it up on Monday shooting 54.9 percent for the game and a sizzling 65.2 percent in the second half to improve to 24-2 at home vs. non-conference opponents the last three seasons.
Talor Battle (Albany, N.Y.) led the way with 16 points and added a season-high tying seven assists while moving past Carver Clinton (1,165; 1964-66) for 17th place all-time on the Penn State career scoring charts with 1,177 points. Chris Babb (13) and Bill Edwards (12) posted double-digits for the second straight game. The pair also led Penn State in rebounding posting six and five boards respectively as they joined Battle in each making three treys on the night as Penn State hit a season-best 9-of-17 (52.9%) from behind the arc.
"We're trying to build some confidence in some of these younger kids," DeChellis said. "We threw them into the fire early in the season. I'm not sure they were really ready for that. (Chris) Babb has responded pretty well, and Bill (Edwards), since he's been back, has responded very well. Those are two really good things for us right now."
American, which was playing its second game in less than 24 hours after falling to UMBC on a last second shot at home on Sunday, was led by 17 points each from Vlad Moldoveanu and Nick Hendra. The Eagles shot 40.7 percent for the game and were out-rebounded 36-25.
Penn State junior David Jackson left the floor with 13:48 to play after injuring his knee on a rebound. Penn State trainers diagnosed the injury as a hyperextension of the right knee, which did not appear to be serious, but will keep Jackson in town an extra day to re-evaluate the injury.
Penn State built as much as a 12-point lead in the first half before American closed with five straight points to trail just 36-30 at the break. However, the Nittany Lions came storming out in the second frame opening with a 15-1 run to build a 20-point lead, 51-31, and outscoring the Eagles 30-8 while shooting 80 percent from the floor (12-15) through the first 12 minutes to open as much as a 28-point lead before coasting home to victory.
Moldoveanu led the Eagles with high 13 points in the first half as American shot 48 percent (12-25) from the floor to stay close. Moldoveanu scored eight of 10 American points to give the Eagles a 10-8 lead through five minutes of play.
Edwards followed up another Moldoveanu basket with a three of his own bringing Penn State within two, 11-13. Andrew Jones added a lay-up on the next possession with 13 minutes left in the half. Edwards gave the Lions their first lead of the game, 14-13, making one-of-two from the foul line at 12:15 mark.
Andrew Ott started a run with two foul shots, followed by a tough lay-up inside by Battle who hit the and-one to give Penn State a 22-17 lead. Battle stole the ball on the other end and went in for a fast-break lay-up to push the lead to 24-17 and cap a 7-0 run with 8:48 remaining in the half.
Battle got trapped in the corner and had to put up a wild shot as the shot clock ticked down. Jones tipped the rebound to Babb who hit a short fall-away jumper at the buzzer to give Penn State a 28-19 lead. A Tim Frazier foul shot capped a 14-2 run for the Lions and extended the lead to 31-19 at the four-minute mark.
Consecutive baskets, including a Riley Grafft fast-break dunk shortened the Lions lead to six, 36-30, to close the first half on a 5-0 American run.
An Edwards three opened the second period followed by a David Jackson jumper and a Jones free throw. American got a foul shot from Hendra to try to stem the tied, but Penn State blew open the game with consecutive threes from Babb, Edwards and Battle to take a 51-31 lead. Another Babb three and an Ott put-back eventually pushed the margin to 28, 66-38, with 8:17 to play and American could get no closer than 18 the rest of the way.
"I think we're a whole lot better defensively than we were at this time last year watching tape from last year." DeChellis said. "We put a tape on the other day to see where we were defensively and I think we're a much-improved defensive team than we were at this point in time last year and we're going to need to be. Offensively, we're not as sharp probably. We're still trying to figure out who we can go to and get shots at crucial times. Last year we went to Mel (Jamelle Cornley) so much in crucial times getting him the ball in the post. We're still trying to figure that out. We're still trying to get a post presence and build some confidence there. We're not that far away, but it's a small margin between winning and losing."
Penn State will get a four-day break from practice and an eight-day lay-off from games before opening the Big Ten season on Dec. 29 at Minnesota. That game is scheduled for a 9:00 p.m. (ET) tip on ESPN2. Penn State posted an 10-8 Big Ten record last season in finishing tied for fourth in the conference, its most Big Ten wins and best conference finish since 1996.