The Penn State Nittany Lions opened their postseason play with a 69-65 victory over the Hampton Pirates in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational at the Bryce Jordan Center Wednesday night. While the score was a lot closer than the home crowd would have liked, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Penn State struggled all season with inconsistent play.
Although this game pitted the mighty Big Ten against the smaller MEAC, the action was competitive and the outcome wasn’t decided until late in the game.
The Nittany Lions started good at home, going up by eight points less than two minutes into the contest. They never trailed in the first half, going up by as much as 10 before heading into halftime with a 33-25 lead. That trend continued into the second half, with Penn State going back up by double-digits. However, the Pirates hung around and tied the game with just over 11 minutes to play. The game remained close, but Penn State was able to hold up the upset-minded Pirates.
Guard D.J. Newbill again led the Nittany Lions in scoring with 19 points. Unlike the previous game in the Big Ten Tournament, Newbill received good support from his teammates. Forward Brandon Taylor had a great game, pouring in 14 points and a grabbing a game-high nine rebounds. Senior point guard Tim Frazier added 10 points and seven rebounds. Ross Travis grabbed eight rebounds.
Hampton was kept in the game by Brian Darden, who scored a game-high 22 points. Deron Powers added 19 points in the loss. Besides those two, the Pirates got little production from anyone else.
Penn State was helped in this one by a big effort on the boards. The Nittany Lions dominated the Pirates on the glass 42-18.
The Nittany Lions will now face Siena on March 24 in the CBI quarterfinals.
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