Penn State was back in action Saturday after taking a week off for finals. But even playing in a hockey arena could not cool off the red-hot Nittany Lions.
Forward Brandon Taylor posted a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) and guard D.J. Newbill poured in a game-high 20 points as PSU beat Drexel 73-68 at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa.
It marked the ninth straight victory for the now 11-1 Nittany Lions. Drexel, meanwhile, fell to 2-8.
Penn State seemed poised to cruise to a blowout when Newbill hit a jumper with 7:23 remaining in the game, giving the Lions a 58-38 lead. But the Dragons clawed back under a hail of 3-pointers, and were aided by a series of quick shots and turnovers by PSU.
While things were not nearly as tight at the end of the game as the final score indicated, State did have to regroup a bit.
After Dragon big man Mohmed Bah had a follow tip-in with 4:13 remaining to slice the lead to 58-53 (it was a 15-0 run), the veteran Newbill settled the Lions with a hard drive on which he was fouled. He made both free throws for a 60-53 edge.
The Lions were back in control the rest of the way, leading by as many as nine multiple times. They made eight of nine free throws in the final 1:10 to lock down the victory, even as Drexel kept scrambling to try to stay alive.
Two of Penn State's key post players were significantly limited by foul trouble in the game.
Starting forward Ross Travis picked up a pair of hacks in the game's first three minutes and spent the rest of the first half on the pine.
Backup post Donovon Jack, who has struggled with foul issues all year, picked up his fourth with 12 minutes to go in the game, and headed to the bench.
However, both men ended up making clutch plays when they got back on the floor down the stretch.
Jack scored on back-to-back stick-backs to help keep Drexel at arm's length with less than three minutes to go, and later blocked a shot.
Travis played solid defense in the game's final minutes and even made a free throw. He went into the game having made only 2 of 16 freebies on the year.
SHARING THE ROCK
Penn State initially pulled away with a 15-1 run midway through the second half, increasing its lead to 55-36.
The key play in the stretch provided another example of the selfless style that has been the Lions' hallmark of late.
Travis came up with a steal in the Drexel backcourt, and took off toward the PSU hoop. He passed ahead to guard John Johnson, who initially looked like he might toss it right back to Travis.
Instead, Johnson spotted 7-foot-1 center Jordan Dickerson striding down the floor. Johnson hit the big man, who powered in a dunk to make it 51-36 with 10:08 left.
STANDING TALL (AGAIN)
Dickerson had another solid game for the Lions. He was 2 of 3 from the field for six points, and also had six rebounds, two blocks and did a nice job defending inbound passes.
As usual, he altered at least twice as many shots as he blocked.
HARD-LEE A FACTOR
Guard Damion Lee went into the game averaging 20 points per outing. The Lions held him to 13 on 3-of-15 shooting from the field and a 2-of-12 showing from the arc.
Penn State's nine straight victories are its most since starting the 1995-96 season with 13 in a row. A key member of that team, Whitehall, Pa., native Pete Lisicky, was on hand Saturday.
Lisicky has settled in Arizona after a long pro basketball career in Europe, and was back in the Lehigh Valley visiting family.
The Nittany Lions close their non-conference slate against Dartmouth at the Jordan Center at 4 p.m. Monday. The game can be seen on BTN+.