Asked if he was surprised by the performances of PSU bench players Chris Babb and Bill Edwards, who combined to hit 9 of 12 shots for 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds, he politely answered in the negative.
Those are two of the guys we highlighted in our scouting report, Jones said. We thought when those two guys were in the game, that might be their best offensive lineup. So it wasn't a surprise to us.
Well, if the Eagles knew what was coming, they were ill prepared to stop it. The Lions led 36-30 after a ho-hum first half, so PSU coach Ed DeChellis opened the second half with Babb in place of rookie guard Tim Frazier and Edwards in place of struggling junior forward Jeff Brooks.
The result was a 15-1 burst in which Edwards had six points, two rebounds and an assist, and Babb had three points and a rebound. Up 51-31 less than five minutes into the half, the Lions cruised to a 76-57 victory to improve to 8-4.
American, which was playing its second game in as many days due to weather issues, fell to 2-10.
Thanks primarily to Babb (13 points) and Edwards (12), PSU held a commanding 37-9 advantage in bench scoring. With the Big Ten season looming, DeChellis is thankful to have legitimate options beyond his starting five.
It's important, he explained. You have to have guys who can step in and do some things.
Especially at point guard, where the true freshman Frazier has been predictably up and down in his first year at the college level, and small forward, where one never knows what the maddeningly inconsistent Brooks might do on a given night.
Frazier's problem Monday? He did not play a strong floor game, with three turnovers and no assists. Brooks? He went 1 of 7 from the floor and failed to offer proper help on defense on high-scoring American forward Vlad Moldoveanu early on.
DeChellis began the game with power forward D.J. Jackson shadowing Moldoveanu, but the versatile 6-9 forward had 11 points in the first six minutes.
That's why we made the change at halftime, DeChellis said. D.J. was trying to get some help from guys and he really wasn't getting help.
Moldoveanu finished with 17 points.
As for Jackson, after spearheading the improved defensive effort, he was forced to leave the game with 13:48 remaining when a scrum beneath the American basket resulted in Edwards falling into his right knee. He walked off under his own power but did not return, and the preliminary diagnosis was a sprain.
We don't think there is any structural damage, DeChellis said. Just to be safe, Jackson will undergo further testing Tuesday morning.
He was replaced by Brooks, who picked up the defensive intensity when he was called on to defend Moldoveanu. Frazier came back in the game, too, and produced a slick steal that led to a breakaway dunk.
As usual, guard Talor Battle led the way for the Lions with 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting. He also had a game-high seven assists and two steals. It was one of those games where, had it been his whim, he could have easily scored 30 against a slow-footed defense.
But with the Big Ten season slated to start Dec. 29 at Minnesota, it was more important to find players who will be able to help ease the scoring burden. Guys like Babb and Edwards, both of whom have had to overcome obstacles this season. Babb began the year as a starter before poor shooting landed him a spot on the bench. Edwards missed the first four games with a knee injury and said he is just now hitting 90 percent.
They played 25 and 23 minutes, respectively, Monday.
Babb has responded well and Bill, since he's been back, he's responded well, DeChellis said.
Added Edwards: It feels good. Just to keep playing and to be in the flow of the game, it's a little bit of a confidence booster.
After making 19 of 19 free throws in the second half against Gardner-Webb Saturday, Penn State was awful from the stripe in this game, making only 11 of 20.
Center Andrew Jones was 4 of 5 from the field for nine points. But he had five turnovers and only four rebounds in 23 minutes.
American was slated to play UMBC at home Saturday but the game was postponed until Sunday due to heavy snow. The Eagles lost that game, 59-57.
Penn State gets a holiday break before heading to Minnesota. DeChellis said most players had their bags packed and in the locker room so they could leave for home right after the American game.