Brandon Taylor donned a new look Sunday, and after a memorable performance, it’s one he might want to keep.
Wearing protective goggles after a poke to his left eye earlier in the week at practice, Taylor could see just fine and scored a career-high 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting in Penn State’s 93-67 shellacking of Longwood at the Bryce Jordan Center.
With the goggles draped around his neck at a postgame press conference, Taylor smirked and said he’s “thinking about” keeping the goggles even after he no longer needs them.
As for his hot shooting day, the sophomore — who is shooting 58.3 percent from the field this season and 48.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc — attributed it to extra reps.
“I’m definitely getting in the gym more, late nights, whatever, I’m getting shots up,” Taylor said. “For this team to be good, I’m going to have to knock down shots. With Tim (Frazier) and D.J. (Newbill) penetrating and getting to the gaps, my job is to knock down open shots.”
Penn State (5-1) shot 57.1 percent from the field and five of the team’s nine made 3-pointers came from Taylor, who took nine shots from distance. The 6-foot-7 Tabernacle, N.J., native even connected on a pair from well beyond the 3-point line, which prompted Longwood coach Jayson Gee to joke Taylor should get extra points for hitting NBA-range shots.
Though they went in, the deep shots were not the favorite attempts for Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, but the coach seemed fine with Taylor attempting six more field goals than any other Penn State player.
“We always talk about earning the right,” Chambers said. “If you’re going to come in extra, you’re going to shoot extra, you’re going to make shots in the game. You put the preparation in, there’s no stress, no worry, if you have rhythm shots, take them. And he’s earned the right to take 16 shots, because he works that hard now.”
Newbill finished right behind Taylor with 23 points, while junior forward Ross Travis recorded his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
The Nittany Lions had eight players score four or more points, although they were without the usual point production from Frazier — and the team did not need it. Frazier had nine points on 4 of 6 shooting and had eight assists in 34 minutes. In a 26-point victory, that impressed his coach.
“When have you ever seen your best player take only six shots, and continue to look for others, and not try to get his?” Chambers said. “He took good, solid shots. He didn’t force anything. To me, that’s a big-time leader and that’s the kind of kid he is.”
Longwood (2-3) hung with Penn State for the first 15 minutes, as Chambers’ team had some sloppy play and nine first-half turnovers. The Nittany Lions had a 10-point halftime advantage, and breezed through the final 20 minutes.
Penn State had 56 points in just the second half against the Lancers, a total the team failed to hit in 10 games last season. The 93 points were the most the Lions have ever scored in Chambers’ two-plus seasons in Happy Valley, and they’re averaging 81.8 points per game.
“Our offense is clicking,” Newbill said. “We’re hitting shots, our offensive spacing is beautiful right now. Guys are just making plays, being simple, nobody is trying to be a hero.”
The Nittany Lions have had a balanced attack in most games this season, and as Taylor was the high scorer against Longwood, it was forward Donovon Jack who led the team in points with 18 in a win against La Salle earlier in the week. Meanwhile, Frazier and Newbill are the team’s top two scorers, both averaging better than 18 points a game.
“We’re getting better as a team,” said Chambers, whose team hosts Monmouth at 6 p.m. Tuesday. “I was not pleased with nine turnovers, to only have two in the second half really says a lot. And then we started getting stops and the ball starts going through the basket. I think our confidence level, these guys playing together, these guys are building trust, every game, every day, every practice.”