The Nittany Lions went 2-1 in three games at the Palestra, starting with an easy win over Penn in straight non-conference action Tuesday, then following up by splitting two games in the final two rounds of the Philly Hoop Classic -- a tight 77-72 loss to Rhode Island Friday and a 78-54 blowout of Towson in the consolation Saturday.
Heading into Wednesday's Big Ten/ACC Challenge game at Georgia Tech, Penn State stands at 6-1 on the season.
Given that his team is in the midst of a stretch of four games away from home, Lion coach Ed DeChellis felt the bounce-back win over Towson (3-3) was critical to regaining momentum.
I was really happy with the way we responded coming in here and playing this game and I thought we played very well, he said. These are tough games to get up for when there aren't many people in the stands and it's the consolation game, but I thought the guys responded very well.
Any concerns about a hangover following the loss to the Rams were dispelled early against Towson. After Lion guard Talor Battle and Stanley Pringle struggled vs. URI, they reverted to form and attacked the Tigers from the start.
Battle began the barrage with a pair of 3-pointers and Pringle added a triple of his own to give State a 9-2 lead. The margin hit double digits (18-8) on a Danny Morrissey 3-pointer a few minutes later and the Lions toyed with Towson the rest of the way.
The lead reached 33 in the second half before DeChellis cleared his bench. Battle finished with 15 points, a career-high nine assists and eight rebounds, while Pringle added 16 points and forward Jamelle Cornley 13. Center Andrew Jones had a career-high 13 rebounds.
It was a different story against Rhode Island a day earlier. The Penn State guards, who had been effective in every game leading up to that game, both went cold at the same time.
Battle was 4 of 16 from the field and Pringle 3 of 9, and they combined to go 4 of 15 from the arc.
But Cornley managed to keep the Lions close by scoring a season-high 23 points on 11-of-20 shooting.
Despite the struggles of the guards, Penn State climbed to within 47-46 on a Jeff Brooks 3-pointer with 13:16 left in the game. But the Lions were held scoreless for nearly four minutes as the Rams extended the lead to 53-46.
The Lions would not get it back below five until the final minute, using a David Jackson dunk and Battle 3-pointer (wrapped around one made free throw by URI's Delroy James) to cut it to 72-70 with 14 seconds left.
But the Rams took care of business at the stripe from there and held on for the win.
Unlike the PSU guards, the talented Rhode Island backcourt came up big in the game, as Jimmy Baron scored 20 and Keith Cothran tallied 18. They combined to go 13 of 24 from the floor and 7 of 11 from the arc.
No. 20 Villanova handled Rhode Island 78-65 Saturday night to capture the tournament title.
Click the link below to see Harvey Levine's photo gallery from Friday's game.
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