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November 13, 2013

Nittany Lions drop shootout to Bucknell, 90-80

Penn State guard D.J. Newbill took the pass from teammate Tim Frazier, lined up from beyond-the-arc and nailed a 3-pointer to take an immediate 3-0 lead on Bucknell Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Fittingly, just 25 seconds later, Bison guard Ben Brackney responded with a deep-ball of his own, tying the game at 3-3 and setting the tone for a back-and-forth battle between the two teams separated by just 55 miles in Central Pennsylvania.

Though Patrick Chambers' Nittany Lions proved themselves more than capable offensively, against a Bucknell team that simply couldn't miss in the second half, they fell to 1-1 on the young season following a 90-80 loss to the Bison.

"It wasn't like we weren't there. I just think sometimes you run into a buzz saw," Chambers said. "I mean, they hit ten threes. I was having flashbacks to Indiana two years ago where everything they put up was going in.

"I give them a lot of credit. They're very skilled, very well-coached, have terrific guards. Tonight was their night, there's no question about it."

Through most of the first half, the night seemed to be the Nittany Lions'.

Opening the game shooting 90 percent from the floor and 10-of-12 at one point, Penn State could never muster the defensive stops to pull away by more than the 6-point lead established just 5 minutes into the game. Ultimately finishing the half with a 41-36 lead, trouble lurked as Frazier picked up two personal fouls, while forwards Donovan Jack and Brandon Taylor had three and two, respectively.

Hampered by youth and inexperienced depth, just minutes into second half, the Lions' lead vanished in front of the 4,670 reported fans in attendance as Bucknell guards Steven Kaspar and Cameron Ayers started to torch the net from 3-point range.

Starting with Kaspar's 3-pointer to cut Penn State's lead to 2 just seconds into the second half, the Bison and Lions traded a few baskets until a 2-minute breakdown following the fourth foul called against Frazier at the 11:34 mark in the second half. Needing to sub in and out for the remainder of the game, Frazier saw just 14 minutes of second half action as true freshman guard Graham Woodward picked up 17 minutes of action.

Straining to hang onto a 60-59 lead, a run of 3-pointers and layups by Ayers, Kaspar, Brian Fitzpatrick and Dom Hoffman gave the Bison a commanding 71-60 lead in a span of just 2 minutes, 4 seconds.

Said Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen, "Obviously offensively, Steven Kaspar was nothing short of tremendous, not only scoring the ball but assisting. I thought Cameron Ayers really came alive in the second half. It was a great win for us."

Acknowledging the scouting report against the Bison, Chambers saluted the exceptional shooting performances from some of Bucknell's unlikeliest sources.

Both giving credit to Bucknell's hot shooting night and his team's own defensive deficiencies at times, Newbill echoed the sentiment.

Said Newbill, "Sometimes we were doing the right things and they were still hitting shots. Other times we were missing rotations and they were still hitting shots and making us pay for it."

Finishing the game 9-of-13 from the floor, Kaspar led the Bison with 25 points and 4 assists, and was aided by a 19 point effort from Ayers, 16 from Brackney and another 13 from Fitzpatrick.

Focusing on the defensive adjustments his Lions will have to make to the NCAA's new hand-checking rules, Chambers maintained that he and his staff would have to do a better job of preparing their team for the inevitability of tightly-officiated games moving forward this season.

"Anytime Penn State basketball scores eighty points, we should win the game," Chambers said. "But, you're going to run into these nights with how it's being officiated. The NCAA is getting exactly what they want. They want high scoring.

"We had to go deep in our bench. Their big player stepped up, Kasper was absolutely terrific. He was terrific last year and he was great against Stanford and we knew we had a tall task."

The Nittany Lions return to action this weekend when they travel to Philadelphia to face Penn on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Notes: Penn State lost to Bucknell for the first time at the Bryce Jordan Center in 11 tries for the Bison... Ross Travis finished with a career-high 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the floor and 6-of-8 from the free throw line... Penn State continued to struggle at the charity stripe, hitting just 15-of-23 free throws as a team... Brandon Taylor's 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting were also a career-high...

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