Apparently the Penn State basketball team is taking cues from the football team.
The Nittany Lions got off to a slow start against Lehigh in their season opener on Friday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, but surged in the second half to beat the Mountain Hawks 70-56 in front of 5,996 fans.
Talor Battle led Penn State with 21 points on 7-for-17 shooting. In a nice change from last season, however, he got some help from his teammates. Forward David Jackson scored 14 for the Lions to go along with five rebounds. Many of those points came in the second half.
Forward Jeff Brooks came out strong for Penn State in the second stanza as well, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine boards in addition to blocking five shots, the most by a Penn State player in a game since 2003. Billy Oliver rounded out Penn State's double figure scoring with 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, but Lehigh got just enough going to take a 27-21 lead into the break behind 14 points from Anthony D'Orazio.
Coach Ed DeChellis didn't like hiss team's intensity early.
"We just weren't playing with any purpose," DeChellis said. "The seniors weren't really giving us much of anything. They've got to come out and be aggressive."
In the second half, though, it was all Penn State. The Lions scored 49 points after halftime and continued to play good defense, holding the Mountain Hawks under 50 points until the final minutes.
Jackson wasn't pleased with his first half after the game, however.
"It can't be one of those things where we go through a whole half and hide," Jackson said. "It needs to be like [the second half] from the beginning.
Freshmen Taran Buie, Tre Bowman and Jonathan Graham all made their debuts for Penn State, but only Buie got significant minutes.
Battle's half-brother contributed five points, two rebounds and an assist with an exclamation point when he ally-ooped Jeff Brooks in the second half.
Brooks had praise for Buie.
"Taran's a very talented kid," Brooks said. "He can really play, he can really score and he's really showed us that he can defend and find people as well. He's got a lot of confidence and you can really see it in his game."
DeChellis said afterward that he was glad to see Buie cut down on his turnovers against Lehigh, coming back from a three turnover performance against East Stroudsburg in an exhibition game on Sunday with no turnovers against the Mountain Hawks.
The Nittany Lions now prepare to host St. Joseph's on Tuesday night at the BJC. The Hawks fell 98-70 Friday against Western Kentucky. Before thinking about that game, though, DeChellis was just pleased to get a win against Lehigh.
"You need to have all your home games," DeChellis said. "If we want to do something in March, you have to make sure you take care of business and I thought we made a good step tonight."