Lions Win One For DeChellis

Penn State pounds Colgate at the Jordan Center for fourth straight victory.

Penn State coach Ed DeChellis received an early Christmas gift Sunday afternoon, as his team dispatched Colgate 66-48 at the Jordan Center to improve to 7-4 on the season.

It was the least the Nittany Lions could do for their fifth-year leader, who spent most of the week in the Pittsburgh area to be with his ailing mother. DeChellis drove to State College Sunday morning and -- following a quick post-game pep talk to the squad and then a short press conference -- was back on the road to western Pennsylvania by 4:30 p.m.

“That's just the way Coach DeChellis is,” said junior forward Jamelle Cornley, whose 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks set a tone for Penn State. “If that doesn't show you how dedicated he is, nothing will.”

DeChellis said he initially intended to skip the game before “things stabilized” with his mom Saturday. “I think they were surprised to see me,” he said of his appearance at the Lions' 9 a.m. shoot-around Sunday. Even though he kept in contact with his assistant coaches and players via phone and text messages during the week, all of the game prep for Colgate fell on his aides.

Kurt Kanaskie, Hilliary Scott and Dan Earl obviously did a solid job in that department, as Penn State used multiple defenses to hold the Raiders to six points through 10 minutes. In the meantime, Cornley and fellow forward Geary Claxton dominated the paint, allowing PSU to generate a 21-6 lead midway through the first half.

The Lions appeared to be on their way to an easy win. And as it turned out, they were. But after taking a full week off for finals, they clearly weren't operating at peak efficiency, and it allowed Colgate (6-5) to claw back early in the second half. A layup by burly forward Kendall Chones cut the lead to 35-30 with 15:09 remaining.

Then something funny happened. To that point, Cornley and Claxton had scored all but 15 of PSU's points. But when the game got tight, other players picked up the pace. Reserve guard Stanley Pringle hit a driving layup, and fellow reserve guard Mike Walker swished a pair of 3-pointers and a 16-footer. Later, freshman forwards Jeff Brooks and D.J. Jackson got in on the act, combining for seven points in a two-minute span.

When Brooks made his first triple of the season with 2:14 showing, the lead had exploded to 63-43 and State was well on the way to its fourth-straight win.

In all, 10 Lions logged between 10 and 32 minutes.

“Depth has been an issue we've had for the last couple of years,” Cornley said, adding that the new faces are now allowing the starters to stay fresh at the end of games. “We're going to need them to be solid (in the Big Ten).”

Speaking of being fresh, Penn State now gets to enjoy another break, as most players will head to their respective homes for Christmas. The team will reconvene for practice Thursday night.

“They're looking forward to getting home,” DeChellis said. “Christmas is a great time to spend with family, and I'm glad our kids can do it.”

For a certain head coach whose mom has been seriously ill, it is that much more important.

“He's a strong man and that's something we have to look up to,” Cornley said.

GAME NOTES

• Brooks was 4 of 4 from the floor and 2 of 2 on 3-pointers for 10 points in just 12 minutes.

• Starting guard Danny Morrissey has made only two of his last 12 3-pointers.

• No Raider reached doubles. The team's best player on this day was clearly reserve forward Alex Woodhouse, who had eight points and nine rebounds despite playing only 19 minutes.

• Former State High standout Willie Morse had four points off the bench for Colgate.

• Penn State gets a holiday break before facing Lehigh at the BJC on New Year's Eve day (1 p.m. tip).

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