Payton Banks repeated the word “defense” three times to describe how Penn State spent its most recent practices.
The Nittany Lions worked on defense and rebounding.
In their win over Colgate on Wednesday, their defense helped them take the lead late in the first half. Penn State had struggled to contain its opponents and lost the battle on the boards in its first five games. The Nittany Lions limited Colgate in the first half and outrebounded the Raiders 43-31.
“For us to take a big step in the defensive department, on that side of the floor, was terrific,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
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After taking that step Wednesday, the Nittany Lions (3-3) will take on George Washington (3-2) on the road at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Colonials have lost their last two games, falling to Georgia 81-73 and UAB 81-74. Tyler Cavanaugh leads George Washington in scoring with 18.8 points per game and rebounding with 9.0 per game.
The Nittany Lions snapped a two-game losing streak with their win over Colgate.
They seized control with a 15-2 run fueled by their defense at the end of the first half. After Colgate’s Jordan Swopshire knocked down a 3-pointer with 5:31 left in the half, the Raiders didn’t score again until Jordan Robertson’s jumper with six seconds left.
In that span, Colgate went 0 for 4 from the field and committed three turnovers.
“We just started playing defense,” Banks said. “We have been getting stops, but we haven’t been converting on the stops on the offensive end. We just kept sticking to our guns and rebounding and playing defense, and then eventually the offense came and that’s when the run got sparked.”
As Banks said, Penn State started to finish on the offensive end.
The Nittany Lions went 5 for 5 from the field to start the run and take the lead.
But Penn State’s 30-23 halftime lead was a product of its defensive effort.
“We got stops,” Chambers said. “For us to hold a team to 23, it was really, really key for us. We got stops, we took care of the glass.”
Penn State allowed just four offensive rebounds and two second-chance points against the Raiders.
“It was a really, really good step for us in,” Chambers said of the win.
Notes: George Washington beat Penn State 76-66 last season. Cavanaugh had 18 points and 10 rebounds. ... George Washington is outrebounding its opponents 41.4-32.2. ... Maurice Joseph is the Colonials’ interim head coach. Joseph replaced Mike Lonergan, who was fired in September after his players accused him of verbal and emotional abuse. ... George Washington started the season with wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore, Siena and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Penn State at George Washington
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Smith Center, Washington, D.C.
Online: Raisehigh.tv (web stream)
Radio: WQWK 1450