Lions’ defense too much for GW

UNIVERSITY PARK – Sunday was Military Appreciation Day at the Jordan Center. So it was fitting that Penn State used a dominating defensive effort to dispatch George Washington, 64-51.

The Nittany Lions blocked 11 shots – including a career-high six by 7-foot-1 center Jordan Dickerson – in improving to 10-1, their best start since beginning the 1995-96 campaign at 13-0. The Colonials, held to their second-lowest point total of the season, fell to 6-3.

“Defending and rebounding is our staple, so we’re always going to rely on that,” said guard D.J. Newbill, who led all scorers with 20 points. “You can’t always rely on hitting shots. But we can always rely on our effort and energy – and how we talk and move – on defense. … We knew our defense was going to win us this game.”

Penn State was just too quick and too big for the GW offense. The Colonials struggled to find open long-range shots, and when they got them, they missed (going 0 for 8 from the arc).

Meanwhile, they made only seven field goals in the second half while shooting 29.2 percent from the floor.

“To see a team block 11 of our shots, I just think that’s a toughness stat,” Colonials coach Mike Lonergan said. “… As a team, we played poorly today, and it was mostly energy and effort.”

If there was a turning point in the game, it happened late in the first half. GW forward Yuta Watanabe went in for a fastbreak layup, and did not see Dickerson racing down the floor behind him. Dickerson rejected the shot and forward Ross Travis grabbed it off the backboard.

He kicked ahead to Newbill, who kicked ahead to guard Geno Thorpe. Thorpe hit a layup for a 34-26 PSU lead and the bang-bang-bang nature of the play drew a series of roars from the crowd. It was also a great example of why the Lions are off to such a hot start, as different players handled their roles perfectly.

Dickerson swatted the shot. Travis, who has been struggling offensively, did what he does best – he rebounded (one of 10 on the game). And though he is leading the team in scoring, Newbill has also made concerted efforts to get teammates involved on offense. This time he did it with the assist to Thorpe.

“You saw every guy was dialed in, totally focused and understanding their role,” Chambers said.

Knowing roles was important in the second half, too. The Colonials went to a 1-3-1 zone to try to force the action. But Penn State patiently attacked, and junior forward Brandon Taylor turned into a zone-buster. First he buried a pair of 3-pointers from the right corner.

Then, when GW adjusted, he set up shop near the top of the key and hit a couple of 17-foot jumpers. The first, at the 9:06 mark, gave the Lions their first double-digit lead of the day (52-41). The second, at 7:04, made it 54-43 and the edge never dropped below doubles again.

Taylor finished with 17, one game after being held scoreless in a win over Duquesne.

“It’s definitely a good feeling to see some of my shots falling,” he said. “As of late, I haven’t been shooting the ball as well as I would like, so it’s definitely good to see the ball go through the hoop.”

“That helps a lot,” Newbill said. “Once BT gets going from the outside, they’ve got to respect him. … We stretched their defense out and got driving lanes.”

With things clicking on both ends of the floor, Penn State led by as many as 17 (64-47) before cruising to the win. The Lions helped themselves by making all nine of their free-throw attempts in the game and by coming through with several clock-killing offensive rebounds down the stretch.

Chambers sensed he was going to get a good game out of his team, which had been playing up and down to the level of its opponents. In GW, which entered the game ranked in the top 50 of the RPI mock-ups, the Lions likely faced the best foe on their non-conference schedule.

So to walk away with a relative easy win was a positive sign for the coach.

“That’s the way we need to play,” Chambers said. “It starts on the defensive end. Our defense was really solid today.”

Game notes: Forward Kevin Larsen and guard Patricio Garino both had 15 points to lead GW. … The Colonials shot 23 free throws (14 more than PSU) but only made 15 of them. … Penn State takes the week off for finals before facing Drexel at the PPL Center in Allentown next Saturday. The Lions will be the home team for the game, which tips at 2 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.

GEORGE WASHINGTON (51): Larsen 7-14 1-5 15, Kopriva 2-3 1-2 5, Savage 1-7 5-6 7, Garino 5-12 5-5 15, McDonald 1-5 1-3 3, Jorgensen 0-1 0-0 0, Swan 0-0 0-0 0, Griffin 0-3 0-0 0, Watanabe 1-7 2-2 4, Bryant 1-1 0-0 2, McCoy 0-0 0-0 0, Cimino 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-53 15-23 51.

PENN STATE. (64): Taylor 7-13 0-0 17, Travis 0-3 0-0 0, Dickerson 2-2 0-0 4, Newbill 6-17 7-7 20, Garner 4-11 0-0 10, Banks 1-1 0-0 3, Johnson 0-3 0-0 0, Jack 1-2 0-0 2, Thorpe 3-9 2-2 8, Moore 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-62 9-9 64.

Halftime-Penn St. 34-28. 3-Point Goals-George Washington 0-8 (Garino 0-1, Savage 0-1, Jorgensen 0-1, Watanabe 0-2, Griffin 0-3), Penn St. 7-24 (Taylor 3-6, Garner 2-7, Banks 1-1, Newbill 1-5, Thorpe 0-2, Johnson 0-3). Fouled Out-Jack. Rebounds-George Washington 35 (Larsen 13), Penn St. 40 (Travis 10). Assists-George Washington 8 (Garino, Larsen, McDonald 2), Penn St. 11 (Newbill 4). Total Fouls-George Washington 13, Penn St. 20. A-NA.