Battle, Lions Knock Down Dukes

The senior guard goes off for 31 in a bounce-back victory. But the win came at a price, as Penn State sustained a pair of key injuries.

Penn State survived a knock-down, drag-out contest at the Jordan Center Saturday night, riding a season-high 31 points, eight rebounds and four assists from senior guard Talor Battle to beat Duquesne, 77-73.

“We needed a big game out of somebody,” said PSU coach Ed DeChellis, whose team improved to 6-2. “(Battle) is a senior. He made some big shots and made some big plays.”

“He's a game-changer,” added Duquesne coach Ron Everhart. “He was unbelievable today.”

There were two “knock-down” aspects to the game.

The first, obviously, was Battle, who knocked down 12 of 18 field-goal attempts to lead State's 28-of-51 shooting effort. This following a horrid 14-of-68 showing in a nationally televised 62-39 home loss to Maryland Wednesday.

“For us to bounce back and win is great,” Battle said. “We're just happy we did that.”

But the victory came at a price, as two Nittany Lions were literally knocked down and out. Starting forward D.J. Jackson was fouled hard under the basket early in the game and had to be helped from the floor. He was diagnosed with a “stinger,” taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center for tests and released.

His replacement, Billy Oliver, went sprawling due to a collision early in the second half. He was helped from the floor with concussion symptoms and did not return.

Both are expected to miss at least one game.

Battle said the Dukes' (3-3) up-tempo style made the game more physical.

“They play so frantic that you just run into people sometimes,” he explained. “There's no dirty play, it's just how hard they were playing.”

And that's what led to the “drag-out” feel of the evening, as in the suspense dragged out much longer than it should have.

Sensing a chance to catch a BCS conference opponent licking its wounds, Duquesne was ready to rumble from the tip. The quick-firing Dukes led 7-0 less than two minutes in thanks to four early Lion turnovers.

Penn State regained its composure and a spurt from Battle midway through the first half helped the Lions go up by as many as five on multiple occasions. But the Dukes closed with a rally and led 33-30 at the break on T.J. McConnell's late triple.

Penn State had 13 turnovers in the half, leading to 11 points for Duquesne.

“I thought we were playing really soft and tentative,” DeChellis said.

Senior forward Jeff Brooks, who added 17 points and seven boards for PSU, stepped up in the locker room at the break.

“I was a little frustrated with the way we were playing,” he said. “We got suckered into (playing) the way they were playing -- making us run with the ball and throwing it all over the place. I told the team, we're playing the way they want us to play.”

That changed in the second half, as Penn State dictated tempo, with only one turnover in the final 20 minutes. Part of that was because DeChellis was forced to use more three-guard looks when Oliver was lost at the 17:46 mark.

“That got us out of the press a little bit,” Everhart said. “We couldn't trap those guys because they could put it on the floor and get to the basket.”

Penn State led 55-49 midway through the second half when Battle made a beautiful dish to freshman guard Tre Bowman, who was slashing to the basket. Seeing his first serious action of the year, Bowman logged 17 minutes and was 2 of 5 from the floor for six points.

“People really stepped up,” Battle said. “Tre, you would not have guessed those were his first significant minutes.”

The Lions seemed on the brink of breaking it open. But Duquesne, which was coming off a respectable 80-66 loss to No. 3 Pitt, used a little luck and a lot of heart to prevent things from getting out of hand.

By that time the Dukes were relying almost exclusively on 3-point shots, three of which banked in. And even when they missed against State's switching defense, the ball would bounce so far out that the Lion big men could not grab it. In one stretch Duquesne had offensive rebounds on three straight possessions, including one that led to a B.J. Monteiro triple that tied it 57-57 with 7:37 showing.

The Dukes had 15 offensive rebounds in the game.

Asked if the long bounces were a valid excuse for that, Battle laughed, and said, “(DeChellis) doesn't go for that. … We tried that (excuse) a few times and it didn't work. We just have to get the ball.”

“You have to jump up and grab the darn thing, and we didn't do that,” DeChellis added.

Making free throws would have helped, too. Ranked second in the Big Ten in that department prior to the game (77.3 percent), Penn State was 16 of 31 Saturday.

“That's inexcusable,” said Battle, who was 2 of 4 from the stripe, which prevented him from beating his previous career-high in scoring (32 points). “The thing with us, when the first guy starts missing, it just kind of rolls on -- everyone starts missing. So that first guy has to hit his free throws.”

But even with the poor rebounding and lousy free throw shooting and key players missing, Penn State responded after Duquesne tied it 57-57, getting a Brooks basket, a long two from Battle and a free throw from Brooks to go up 62-57.

Dukes guard Bill Clark hit a 3-pointer to make it 62-60 but Battle responded with a triple of his own that sparked a 6-0 run that effectively ended it.

DeChellis was so frustrated with his team at the half that he told the players the season was riding on its performance in the final 20 minutes.

“I laid it out to them; I said the NCAA Tournament Committee is not going to like you losing to Duquesne at home,” DeChellis said.

After the game, there were still nits to pick. But there was also a bottom line.

“I'm proud of the fact we found a way to win,” DeChellis said.

SHORT SHOTS

• Penn State plays Mount St. Mary's at the BJC Tuesday. The game tips at 7:30 p.m. DeChellis said Jackson and Oliver are both out for that game. He hopes to get them back for next Sunday's road trip to Virginia Tech.

• Oliver missed most of his first two seasons at PSU with concussion and headache issues.

• Brooks had 14 blocks in 31 games last season. He has 11 in eight games this year.

• PSU center Andrew Jones had nine rebounds but continues to struggle in other areas. He managed only four shots against Duquesne’s undersized front line. He also had three turnovers despite getting limited touches. He has failed to block a single shot in six of eight games this year.

• The 77 points were the most by the Lions this year.

Damian Saunders led the Dukes with 23. Clark had 19 and 10 rebounds.

See the box score here:


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