Penn State Holds On For 56-55 Win Over Hartford
Claxton?s double-double helps Nittany Lions improve to 6-2
# Game Photos
# Box Score
# Postgame Quotes
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; December 6, 2006 ? Penn State junior forward Geary Claxton (West Haven, Conn.) willed the Nittany Lions to victory down the stretch and Hartford (3-4) missed two field goals and a pair of free throws that could have given the Hawks the lead in the final two minutes as the Nittany Lions held on for a 56-55 victory Wednesday night in the Bryce Jordan Center.
The win marked the 100th for the Nittany Lions in the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State began play in the building in 1996. It also propelled Penn State to 6-2 on the year, the best start in coach Ed DeChellis? four seasons and the quickest the Nittany Lions have reached six wins since going 6-1 to start the 2000-01 season.
?Geary Claxton is a winner,? DeChellis said. ?He said ?I am going to get an offensive rebound and stick it back and score, and we are not losing? Those are good basketball plays that a team hopefully makes and gives you an opportunity to win the game. I told the guys that I am proud of them. They made big plays to win the game. We dodged another bullet. We have got to grow up. We have got to learn from our mistakes. We did find a way to win by one point. We will try to build something positive out of that.
Claxton led Penn State with his 10th career double-double posting 16 points and 10 rebounds (eight offensive) in a season-high 31 minutes since returning from a broken hand. He shot just 4-of-13 from the floor but hit 7-of-10 free throws and one three. Claxton was the only Nittany Lion in double-figures as Penn State struggled from the field shooting 20-of-54 (37 percent), but dominated the glass in the second half and held a 40-29 rebounding advantage for the game, including 15 offensive boards.
Hartford had four players in double-figures despite shooting just slightly better hitting 22-of-56 (39 percent) for the game. Bo Tayler led the Hawks with 12 points and 6-5 forward Michael Turner posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards. The Hawks used a full court press most of the game to help force 16 Nittany Lion turnovers and played a match-up 2-3 zone in the half court that frustrated Penn State.
Penn State opened up as much as a 10-point lead in a cleanly played first half in which the teams combined for just eight personal fouls. Hartford cut into the margin late scoring the last five points as the Nittany Lions led 30-26 after the first 20 minutes. Both teams fired from the three-point arc in the half with neither hitting much. Penn State made six threes taking 18 of their 30 field goal attempts in the half from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Hartford faired worse shooting just 3-of-15 (20 percent) from the three-point line as the teams combined for 33 three-point attempts in the half.
Penn State changed its approach in the second half, shooting just five threes, working the ball into the paint and getting to the free throw line.
?At halftime we had shot 18 threes,? DeChellis said. ?That is way too many at half. Let?s get the ball inside. And, we got out-rebounded. That is something that we can?t do. I thought we rebounded the ball very well the second half. Our emphasis at halftime was to get the ball inside and take it up strong and try to get it to the free throw line.?
Penn State again pushed the lead to double-digits midway through the half going on a 9-2 run over two minutes to take a 49-38 lead when Danny Morrissey (Cleveland, Pa.) converted a lay-up in transition off a Ben Luber (Richboro, Pa.) pass.
However, Penn State would go scoreless for almost the next three minutes as the Hawks harassed them with the press and reeled off seven unanswered points on a pair of buckets from Jaret Von Rosenberg, one a three, and a jumper from Taylor.
?I thought we had decent energy, but we didn?t execute that well,? DeChellis said. ?We have lapses. You know, when you give teams the opportunity to come back at you and they make some shots, they start to feel good about themselves, and you get yourself in a little pickle.?
Claxton asserted himself converting on a drive to break the Penn State drought and put the Lions up 51-45 with 6:37 to play. But, Hartford responded with a bucket from Alex Zimnickas and, after a pair of Penn State turnovers and a missed three from Morrissey, Joe Zeglinski buried a three to cut the lead to 51-50 with 5:24 to play.
Claxton got to the free throw line and made one-of-two and then starters Jamelle Cornley (Columbus, Ohio) and David Jackson (Gaithersburg, Md.) were both forced to leave the floor with just under five minutes to play after twisting their ankles on separate plays. Neither player returned.
Zeglinski tied the score for the Hawks on the next possession knotting things at 52-52. Claxton again took matters into his own hands and drove hard to the whole, missed the shot but battled for two put-backs getting the second to drop with 3:23 to play.
Von Rosenberg hit a three on the next Hartford possession and the Hawks led 55-54. Penn State answered breaking the press with a feed from Milos Bogetic (Podgorica, Serbia and Montenegro) to Morrissey up the middle of the floor and the sophomore converted the lay-up for a 56-55 lead with 2:36 to play.
Neither team would score the rest of the way. Brandon Hassell (Farmersville, Ohio) played good defense on Zimnickas forcing a miss and grabbing the rebound. Penn State let the shot clock run down on the ensuing possession and Bogetic was forced to fire a desperation three. Hassell fouled Zeglinski on the next possession but the Hawk missed both free throws.
Luber missed a jumper for Penn State with 35 seconds to play on the other end and Bogetic grabbed the rebound but could not convert the put-back. Zimnickas grabbed the board and Hartford had the ball down one with 30 seconds to play. They ran the clock down to 12 and then called a timeout. Penn State played good defense and Zeglinski missed a three-point try with two seconds left to end the game.
Penn State will head to Seton Hall on Saturday for a 1:00 p.m. match-up with the Pirates at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. The game will be televised locally by FSN-Pittsburgh and can be heard on the Penn State Sports Network. It will be the first meeting between the schools since a 71-57 Penn State victory at Seton Hall in 1973. Penn State holds a 4-0 lead in the series. It will be the second road trip of the year for Penn State, which fell 77-73 at No. 21 Georgia Tech a week ago.