The win in the opener came four days after PSU dropped a 67-61 exhibition game to Division II Shippensburg at the BJC. Yet the Lions had little trouble Friday despite playing without top forward Geary Claxton, who is sidelined with a broken right hand.
In Claxton's absence, sophomore Jamelle Cornley stepped up with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Senior guard Ben Luber added 12 points and seven assists for the Lions.
We just went out and took things upon ourselves, Cornley said of playing without Claxton. We wanted to prove we can take care of business even without him.
This one was tight early on, despite first-year Eagles' coach Donnie Tyndall's decision to start five guards, none of them taller than 6-foot-4. The Lions seemed a bit confused by the look, and had trouble getting into their offense. With less than six minutes to go in the first half, they led 15-14 and had already committed six turnovers.
Then Cornley took over. Though only 6-5 himself, the burley sophomore was too powerful for skinny Morehead State. He scored six straight points - on a dish from Danny Morrissey, a 10-foot pull-up and a rebound and score - to push the lead to 21-14.
Whoever has the hot hand or whoever gets the first bucket gets it, Cornley said of his scoring streak.
Mel just played the way he's supposed to play, Lion coach Ed DeChellis said. He played with a lot of energy and really got us going.
The Lions (1-0) slowly pulled away the rest of the half, taking a 29-16 edge into the locker room when Mooch Jackson made a triple just before the buzzer. Penn State was a respectable 43.5 percent from the floor in the period, but did its most effective work on defense, holding MSU (0-1) to 7-of-30 shooting.
That was a the point of emphasis following the Shippensburg game, Morrissey said. The biggest things were energy and intensity.
Cornley scored Penn State's first six points of the second half as part of an 8-2 run that made it 37-18 and fans started working their way toward the exits. The Lions led by as many as 26 before easing up in the final minutes.
It was good to get that first win, DeChellis said.
DeChellis said true freshman forward Andrew Jones will likely redshirt. He did not play Friday. I don't want to waste a year and only get him 8-10 minutes per game. The coach thinks Jones has NBA potential if he fills out.
Cornley left the game midway through the second half with a sprained left knee but returned later. Mooch Jackson also missed most of the second half with leg cramps.
This marks the first start Claxton has missed in his Penn State career, a string that reached 60 at the end of last season. He is not due back for at least two more weeks.
PSU starting center Brandon Hassell was limited to 10 minutes of play due to foul trouble. He committed his fourth before the first media timeout of the second half. It's just dumb, DeChellis said. I told him we don't have a drill for that.
Next up for Penn State is a Monday night matchup with UNC Greensboro at the Jordan Center. The game tips at 7:30 p.m.