Lions Win Ugly in Exhibition

Some old issues resurfaced Sunday. But in the end, Penn State was too much for East Stroudsburg in a tune-up game at the Jordan Center

Anybody expecting to see dramatic improvement out of the Penn State basketball team during its exhibition game against East Stroudsburg Sunday surely left the Jordan Center disappointed.

Many of the same problems that hurt the Nittany Lions as they stumbled to 11-20 in 2009-10 were back on display against the Division II Warriors, who trailed by only five points with six minutes remaining before Penn State closed with a flurry to win, 66-52.

“Offensively, we just were not very good,” eighth-year coach Ed DeChellis said. “Offensively, we have a long way to go.”

And what about that defense?

“We weren't terrible,” was the best DeChellis could offer.

The first half was particularly troubling, as the reported crowd of 2,887 groaned every time a glaring issue from last winter resurfaced. They included:

• Standout guard Talor Battle being the only PSU player to find an offensive rhythm, scoring 12 points in just 13 minutes. The rest of the team combined for 13. PSU's starting frontcourt of seniors D.J. Jackson, Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks combined for six points.

• A rash of turnovers. The Lions threw the ball away 10 times, a troubling number considering they only made nine field goals.

• Poor play down low. Undersized East Stroudsburg had as many points in the paint (12) and second-chance points (two) as Penn State.

• Inexplicably poor free-throw shooting. The Lions were 5 of 13 from the stripe in the first half.

It all added up to the Warriors leading 26-25 at the break.

In fairness to the Penn State coaching staff, it mixed and matched 13 different players in the first half, including four freshmen seeing their first college action and Billy Oliver, a junior academically who missed practically all of his first two seasons with concussion and headache issues.

Among the newcomers was Battle's brother, highly touted guard prospect Taran Buie. Buie came off the bench and had two quick turnovers before settling down. He finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds, three steals and just one more turnover.

“The first half, I had jitters,” Buie admitted. “I was really excited for the game, went out there and tried to rush it a little bit. My teammates and coaches said just try to let it come to me.”

“We've been plagued in practice by turnovers,” DeChellis added. “We're not taking care of the basketball, and it plagued us in the first half.”

So did poor shot selection. Nittany Lions not named Battle went a combined 5 of 24 from the floor in that half.

“The ball seemed like it was going to explode in our hands,” DeChellis said. “Whoever had it wanted to shoot it. Everything was at super speed. We told them to slow down.”

The second half was better. When Jackson left with what appeared to be a thigh injury early on, he was replaced by Oliver. The Lions used great ball movement to get the 6-foot-8 forward back-to-back open looks from the arc. He made them both to break a 36-36 tie and put State up 42-36.

“As everyone started to calm down and run through sets, we got better,” Oliver said.

Later, when the Warriors cut it to 46-43, Brooks finally came out of the doldrums. Scoreless to that point of the game, he scored six straight on two free throws, a stick-back and fast break dunk to boost the lead to 52-43 with 7:43 left.

By that point, Battle had long since seen his last action of the night. Outside of Brooks, DeChellis relied heavily on underclassmen to finish things out.

“I wanted to see what the other guys could do,” he said.

It looked like things might get dicey when East Stroudsburg cut it to 52-47 with 6:04 remaining. But sophomore guard Tim Frazier sparked an 8-0 run to put it away.

Battle led the Lions with 16 points in only 25 minutes. When he wasn't on the floor, he spent a lot of time on an exercise bike to stay loose because, as DeChellis explained, “he's been going through a pelvic thing … but he's well enough to play.”

DeChellis said he was not sure exactly what was wrong with Jackson.

Oliver and Frazer both had 10 points for PSU.

Forward Terrance King was the only Warrior in double figures with 10 points. East Stroudsburg struggled from the floor all afternoon, making only 19 of 60 shots and 5 of 19 triples.

Penn State opens the regular season against Lehigh at the Jordan Center Friday night.

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