UNIVERSITY PARK - Playing ITS first game since leading scorer Tim Frazier went down with a season ending injury, Penn State (3-2) sputtered in the first half but caught fire in the second and downed previously unbeaten Bucknell (5-1), 60-57, on Black Friday in the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Nittany Lions were led by redshirt-junior Jermaine Marshall who tallied 17 points and led the team with four steals. Freshman Brandon Taylor, who made his first career start, had a personal-best 16 points, going 6-for-11 from the field, including 4-for-8 in three-point range, in just 20 minutes of action due to foul trouble.
Redshirt sophomore D.J. Newbill posted 10 points, a career-high seven assists and seven rebounds in 37 minutes running the point in Frazier's absence. Sophomore Ross Travis led the Lions in boards with eight and also contributed nine points.
Despite shooting a dismal 16 percent and trailing 22-16 after the first half, the Nittany Lions rebounded after halftime to hit an impressive 65 percent from the floor in the second 20 minutes. The Nittany Lions hit 17-of-26 from the field in the second half, including hitting 5-of-6 from beyond the arc. Penn State won the rebounding battle, 38-31, and committed just eight turnovers without their starting point guard.
The Penn State defense doubled down on Bison leading scorer Mike Muscala, holding him to just 2-of-4 from the field and 10 points on the game, six of those coming at the foul line. The Bison shot 39 percent (16-of-41) for the game and hit 20-of-25 at the free throw line. Bryson Johnson led the Bison with 18 points on 3-of-8 from three while Muscala added 12 boards.
Trailing by six at halftime, Taylor opened the second half with two threes sandwiching a basket by Bucknell to close the gap to two. Starting with a three-pointer from Bucknell's Bryson Johnson with 17:45 on the clock, the teams traded buckets for the next four minutes. The Nittany Lions never let the Bison lead grow to more than five during the time span.
A jumper from Sasa Borovnjak with 13:05 remaining in the game had the Lions within two at 34-32. Marshall was fouled and hit 2-of-2 at the line to tie the score at 34-34 after Penn State had trailed for the previous 27 minutes. Bucknell's Cameron Ayers scored two on a layup, but Marshall banked in a 23-foot three as the shot clock expired to put Penn State on top for the first time, 37-36, with 10:57 on the clock. A free throw by Mike Muscala let the Bison tie it at 37-37, but a Newbill jumper moved Penn State back into the lead, 39-37.
Despite a foul that let Ayers hit two at the line to knot the score at 39, baskets from Taylor and Travis had Penn State with a four-point lead, 43-39. Penn State would lead the rest of the way and extended the margin to seven, 48-41, with just under 6:30 remaining thanks to a trifecta from Travis. Penn State was shooting over 70 percent at that point of the second half as the Lions' confidence grew.
After a layup from Ryan Hill moved the Bison within five, 48-43, Bucknell took a timeout. Penn State maintained its momentum and a Newbill basket had Penn State ahead by seven, 50-43, with 5:32 to play. Two free throws had the Bison back within five, 50-45, but Marshall scored two to give the Nittany Lions a seven-point cushion, 52-45. Ayers hit a three for Bucknell, but Marshall answered back with a three of his own for a 55-48 Penn State lead with 3:18 on the clock.
Bucknell used a 9-4 run lasting nearly the entirety of the final three minutes to close the gap to two, 59-57. With less than 10 seconds left in the game, Marshall was fouled and hit 1-of-2 at the line to give Penn State just a three-point edge, 60-57. Ayers missed a final three-point attempt preserving the win for the Nittany Lions.
The Bison opened the game taking an eight-point lead, 10-2, by the 13-minute mark. However, a layup and three-pointer from Taylor had Penn State within three,10-7. After a three from Bucknell, Taylor sank another trey before sophomore Pat Ackerman scored two to move Penn State within one, 13-12. Taylor scored eight of the Lions 16 points in the half.
Borovnjak fouled Muscala who hit two shots at the foul line to give the Bison a three-point edge, 15-12. Travis followed suit after being fouled and had the Lions trailing by only one, 15-14, with 6:30 remaining in the first half.
A 6-0 Bucknell run increased the Bison lead to seven, 21-14, by the 2:38 mark. Marshall went 2-for-2 at the line with less than a minute remaining, but the Bison would head into halftime with a six-point lead, 22-16.
Penn State is back in action at home in the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday, Nov. 28 against Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Action is set for 9:15 p.m. and the game will air live on ESPNU. Penn State has won four of its last five Challenge games, including downing B.C. 62-54 last year in Chestnut Hill, Mass.