Despite being held to a season-low scoring total, Penn State used a late flurry to pull away from the Golden Knights, 60-45. The Nittany Lions improved to 8-2 with the win, while Army fell to 2-7.
PSU was without speedy starting guard Stanley Pringle, who injured his right ankle in Saturday's home loss against Temple. The Lions missed his quickness, especially on offense and especially in the first half, when they shot 30.8 percent from the floor.
They led 23-22 at the break and had trouble pushing the lead past six points until the final six minutes of the game. Penn State coach Ed DeChellis thought a lack of movement away from the ball was the issue.
We've talked until we're blue in the face about cutting, he said. We look like we're a tired team.
We were just kind of stagnant, kind of looking around at the next guy, added point guard Talor Battle.
Luckily for the Lions, they played well defensively throughout the game and managed to maintain a slim lead until Battle jarred them out of the offensive doldrums. He left the game with 8:36 remaining after straining his wrist, but returned just over a minute later and took over.
With PSU leading 45-41 at the time, Battle made his only 3-pointer of the night. It began a 15-2 run that blew it open. During that stretch, Battle had eight points, two rebounds and an assist. He also helped loosen the Army defense with several drives where he kicked out to teammates.
Battle finished with 14 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals.
We knew we played well defensively, said senior guard Danny Morrissey, who took over for Pringle and scored 14 points. [At halftime] we just talked about how we needed to stay the course and grind it out.
Which is exactly what they did. Very little came easily in this game. As a team, PSU made only 4 of 22 3-pointers, with the typically accurate Morrissey going 2 of 9 from the arc. Expectedly, Penn State controlled the paint, with Jamelle Cornley (15 points and eight rebounds) and Andrew Jones (13 points, seven boards) both flirting with double-doubles.
But with Pringle out, the Lions' usually effective transition game sputtered, generating only six fast-break points. Starting forward David Jackson scored one point in 28 minutes. And the Penn State bench generated exactly three points.
Offensively, we have to get better, DeChellis said.
Penn State faces Mount St. Mary's at the Jordan Center Saturday. Note the start time has been changed to 1:30 p.m. to avoid a conflict with NCAA women's volleyball action being held at Rec Hall Saturday night.
DeChellis said he did not know if Pringle would be back for the game.