Marshall coach Tom Herrion had no trouble summing up his team's 90-77 loss to Penn State at the Jordan Center Saturday afternoon.
Defensively, we were really poor today, Herrion said. You're not going to win many games anywhere giving up 90.
We got exposed early and often, he added.
Did they ever. The Herd, who rank 305th in the nation in scoring defense in the latest NCAA statistics (79.7 ppg), proved to be the perfect pillow-soft remedy for a Nittany Lion outfit coming off a physical loss to rival Pitt earlier in the week.
Penn State dominated from start to finish in this one, with the final margin slipping to 13 points only after Pat Chambers pulled his horses with four minutes to go and a 25-point lead. The Lions improved to 7-3 on the season, as all five starters reached double figures.
I would take the last five minutes out, Chambers said. I thought we did a phenomenal job against their length and athleticism and skill.
Though long and athletic and skilled, Marshall (4-5) showed little interest in playing defense, and the Lions were more than happy to take advantage. In the first half, PSU: raced out to an 11-1 lead; made 14 of 24 2-pointers; dunked five times; and led by as many as 20 points.
They weren't getting back, said PSU forward Ross Travis, who scored eight of his team-high 20 points on dunks. So one of the game plans was to push the ball as fast as we could up the floor.
Just as importantly, State was not lulled into playing poor defense itself. The Lions blocked eight shots in the first half and held the Herd to 29.7 percent from the field through 20 minutes. PSU's 10 blocks in the game were only two off the school record, and sophomore Donovan Jack led the way with a personal-best seven.
We always stress defense, Jack said. Defense starts everything.
Indeed, PSU held Marshall to three points in the first five minutes of the second half, which was when the game got out of hand. A Travis stuff off of one of Tim Frazier's game-high nine assists made it 58-37 at the 15:57 mark. The margin grew as wide as 27 (70-43).
Unlike in the loss at Pitt, when Frazier and Newbill were the only two Lions who really showed up, this was a balanced effort. Travis had 20 points and six boards. Jack had 17 points, seven rebounds and the seven blocks. Forward Brandon Taylor had 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Newbill had 17 points and seven rebounds. And Frazier? He was content to run the whole show, taking only nine shots (and making five) to finish with 11 points, nine assists, four steals and four caroms.
We ran into a buzzsaw, Herrion said, adding Penn State was the first team to really carve us up when the Herd were trying to press.
Marshall freshman guard Kareem Canty had 28 to lead all scorers, but nine came in the final four minutes. Veteran forward Elijah Pittman, who came in averaging 22.9 per game, was held to 10 on 4-of-13 shooting. He was 1 of 5 from the arc and 1 of 6 from the line.
Jack's seven blocks were the most by a Lion since Calvin Booth swatted seven against Bradley in 1999. Jack had more blocks in this one game than starting center Andrew Jones had in the entire 2010-11 season (five).
The Lions have scored 70 or more points in every game this season. They scored 70 or more in eight games all of last season.
Penn State scored 48 points in the paint to Marshall's 30. The Lions also had 19 second-chance points to the Herd's nine.
Marshall had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half. After a talking-to from Chambers on the subject at the break, PSU only allowed three in the second half.
Penn State is at Duquesne Wednesday (7 p.m. tip) before returning to Rec Hall to face Princeton next Saturday (2 p.m. tip).