It was a four-second span in a 40-minute game. And yet one rousing burst tells you everything you need to know about Penn State's 64-51 victory against George Washington at the Jordan Center Sunday afternoon.
It also sums up the Nittany Lions' 10-1 start -- their best since winning 13 straight to open the 1995-96 season.
It happened late in the first half, when Colonial forward Yuta Watanabe went in for a fastbreak layup. But he neither saw nor sensed PSU 7-foot-1 center Jordan Dickerson loping in behind him. And then it happened.
Dickerson rejected the shot (shown above) and forward Ross Travis grabbed it off the backboard.
Travis kicked ahead to guard D.J. Newbill, who kicked ahead to guard Geno Thorpe. Thorpe hit a layup for a 34-26 PSU lead and the bang-bang-bang nature of the play drew a series of roars from the crowd.
This team has been successful because everyone is comfortable in their roles. And the four-second salvo was another example of that.
You saw every guy was dialed in, totally focused, understanding their role, PSU coach Pat Chambers said. They know we want to look up the floor, helping each other out. We talk about culture. We talk about being good teammates. We talk about doing the little things.
Dickerson swatted the shot, one of a career-high six he had in the game. Travis, who has been struggling offensively, did what he does best -- he rebounded (one of 10 on the game). And though he is leading the Big Ten in scoring, Newbill has also made a concerted effort to get teammates involved on offense. This time he did it with the assist to Thorpe.
Or as Chambers described it all in coach-speak:
Blocked shot. Head up the floor, head up the floor, where your best player can sometimes pound it and want his. No. Head up the floor, head up the floor, good basket. That's the way we need to play. But it starts on the defensive end. Our defense was really solid today.
The Nittany Lions blocked 11 shots and held the Colonials to 29.2 percent shooting in the second half. GW only got off eight 3-point tries and missed all of them.
Defending and rebounding is our staple, so we're always gonna rely on that, said Newbill, who led all scorers with 20 points. You can't always rely on hitting shots. But we can always rely on our effort and energy -- and how we talk and move -- on defense. We knew our defense was gonna win us this game.
A few minutes later, Colonials coach Mike Lonergan used some of the exact same words when talking about what his team failed to do. For the game, GW missed 19 shots that were either considered layups or in the paint.
To see a team block 11 of our shots, I just think that's a toughness stat, Lonergan said. As a team, we played poorly today, and it was mostly energy and effort.
Forward Kevin Larsen had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Colonials, and guard Patricio Garino had 15 points, as well. The duo shot 15 of 26 from the floor. Their teammates combined to go 6-27.
PSU, meanwhile, got solid efforts across the board, even on offense.
The Colonials went to a 1-3-1 zone to try to force more transition action in the second half. But Penn State patiently attacked, and junior forward Brandon Taylor turned into a zone-buster. First he buried a pair of 3-pointers from the right corner.
Then, when GW adjusted, he set up shop near the top of the key and hit a couple of 17-foot jumpers. The first, at the 9:06 mark, gave the Lions their first double-digit lead of the day (52-41). The second, at 7:04, made it 54-43 and the edge never dropped below doubles again.
Taylor finished with 17, one game after being held scoreless in a win over Duquesne.
It's definitely a good feeling to see some of my shots falling, he said. As of late, I haven't been shooting the ball as well as I would like, so it's definitely good to see the ball go through the hoop.
That helps a lot, Newbill said. Once BT gets going from the outside, they've got to respect him. We stretched their defense out and got driving lanes.
With things clicking on both ends of the floor, Penn State led by as many as 17 (64-47) before cruising to the win. The Lions helped themselves by making all nine of their free-throw attempts in the game and by coming through with several clock-killing offensive rebounds down the stretch.
Chambers sensed he was going to get a good game out of his team, which had been playing up and down to the level of its opponents. In GW, which entered the day ranked in the top 50 of the RPI mock-ups, the Lions likely faced the best foe on their non-conference slate.
Yet the only time the Lions seemed out of sorts was early on, and Chambers chalked that up to pressing a little bit because the players were amped to face a quality opponent.
Once the game got leveled out, I really liked what our team did as far as the defensive end and rebounding and communicating and the little things I've been preaching, he said.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Colonials shot 23 free throws (14 more than PSU) but only made 15 of them. The Lions won the battle of the boards, 40-35. Shep Garner had 10 points for PSU. Taylor also had eight rebounds.
Dickerson's big game also included six rebounds and four points. He scored on a reverse layup and a dunk. He logged 24 minutes, and Chambers would take that stat line from the big man every game. I'm really proud of Jordan, because I think that's the type of player he can be for us.
The Colonials looked gassed in the middle of the second half. They were coming off a Thursday win over DePaul and rode a bus to University Park. They had a quick turnaround, so we probably caught them at the right time, Chambers said.
Penn State takes the week off for finals before facing Drexel at the PPL Center in Allentown next Saturday. The Lions will be the home team for the game, which tips at 2 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.