Penn State led by as many 18 points in the first half Saturday afternoon against Delaware State, and as many as 16 points with 10 minutes left to play. Still, a late Hornets' rally pushed the Nittany Lions into overtime at 69-69, erasing a 10 point deficit with just 3 minutes to play.
What seemed poised to be a worst-case meltdown scenario for Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers was not, though, as the Nittany Lions overcame a 3-point deficit with 1 minute, 4 seconds left to play to earn an 80-76 win against the Hornets.
"I'm proud of this group," Chambers said afterward. "They were down three and, you know what, could have folded the tents. They could have said, 'Oh, woe is me. We lost this game. I can't believe it.'
"Last year, Lafayette, the year before, Maine, but this year, no. That's progress. That's what I'm taking out of this game. I'm trying to be positive."
However sloppy, the win was Penn State's third consecutive at home, and improved the Nittany Lions' record at the Bryce Jordan to 5-1 on the season, this time in front of a reported 5,751 fans.
Penn State guard D.J. Newbill, who led the Nittany Lions with a team-high 22 points, said flatly that the Hornets are a formidable opponent and made their inevitable run.
"We thought we had them where we wanted them, but they played hard," he said. "They're a good team and they made their run. We just have to keep playing, and that's something we gotta work on in practice.
"When we get teams down, we gotta just keep playing hard on defense and keep getting stops to try to not let that happen."
Penn State's biggest thorn, as it's been all season, was defending the perimeter against a Delaware State team that entered the game shooting a dismal 29.4 percent from beyond the arc coming into the game.
Led by guard Casey Walker, who finished with a game-high 24 points on 8 of 19 shooting from the floor, hit five 3-pointers along with Tyshawn bell's three, and 33.3 percent clip for the game.
"We have to defend much better to be able to compete in the Big Ten. We gave up ten threes again. I changed our defense to take away threes," Chambers said. "I think guys get tired and they forget who they're on and they forget the scouting report. They made some tough shots.
"Give Delaware State credit. I said to these guys in shoot-around that this team scares me because they're athletic, they're quick, they can shoot and it was only a matter of time before they got it going."
Making matters worse, the Nittany Lions struggled from the line down the stretch and into the overtime period, hitting just 4 of 8 from the line in the final period.
According to Chambers, it's simply a matter of continuing to make the improvements as a team that they've been working on throughout the season.
"We still have a ways to go here, especially defensively," he said. "We couldn't get stops in the last four minutes of that game. It also hurts not making your free throws. As a coach, you want to get to the line or get layups, and we did that for the most part. Then they came down and just drove it right down and… they made their free throws. That was a big difference."