Taylor leads Penn State past EMU

Posted at 4:39 PM, Dec 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-05 16:39:07-05
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Brandon Taylor is confident if he can get into a rhythm, he can do major damage from any spot on the court.
After spending large portions of Penn State's previous game on the bench in foul trouble, the Nittany Lions forward stayed out of it on Saturday, found his groove and scored a career-high 27 points in an 81-70 win over Eastern Michigan.
Taylor's contributions weren't limited to consistent shooting, however.
"He's so versatile right now," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "He's in the post. He kicked out for 3s, he drove it. He's just playing at a real high level right now. And then at the other side he's going to get you 12 rebounds."
Taylor started toward his third career double-double almost immediately. He made seven of his team's first 13 points, assisted on its first five and snagged six of its first 12 rebounds. Then he got hot from long distance to give Penn State a lead it would not relinquish.
After settling for midrange jumpers and layups early, Taylor found his 3-point shot midway through the first. He made his first of four 3-pointers to tie it 19-19. He drilled his second moments later to spark a 15-5 run the Nittany Lions (5-2) used to take a 34-24 halftime lead. Meanwhile, the Eagles shot just 4 for 12 over the final 10:45 of the first half.
"The first four minutes of the second half it was extremely important for us to play well," Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy said. "They were able to stretch the lead out. ... Give a lot of credit to Taylor. He had an unbelievable game."
Penn State led the entire second half and built a 23-point lead with 11:47 to play. Taylor scored 14 points in the second and played 37 minutes after being limited to two points over 18 minutes in Penn State's win over Boston College on Wednesday.
"Brandon is a great playmaker," Penn State guard Shep Garner said. "You put him in the middle of the zone, you know he can read the defense pretty good, like a point guard, kinda."
Payton Banks added 17 points and Garner finished with 16 for the Nittany Lions, who won their third straight.
James Thompson led Eastern Michigan with 18 points. Willie Mangum added 15 for the Eagles (5-3), who had a three-game winning streak snapped.
When the Eagles struggled to get shots to fall inside they opted for longer ones. But they had little luck from 3-point range, too. They began the second half cold, making just 5 of 14 field goals in the first 10 minutes. Five of those misses came from 3-point range and Penn State grabbed all five rebounds.
Penn State's forwards went to work on the other end.
Taylor opened the second half with a jumper while Banks and Julian Moore combined for the next nine points. Garner hit a 3-pointer then added two free throws after Ty Toney fouled him hard on a drive to the net.
Eastern Michigan: The Eagles continued to create takeaways and extended their double-digit turnovers streak to eight games, forcing 16 Penn State turnovers. But the Nittany Lions endured and became the first team with 15 or more turnovers to beat the Eagles this season.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions won their first game while allowing their opponent to shoot better than 40 percent from the field. The Eagles made 43 percent of their field goals on 23-of-54 shooting.
Toney's was one of a handful of hard fouls that drew the ire of Penn State players and fans inside the Bryce Jordan Center.
The game got chippy moments later when Eastern Michigan's James Thompson raked Isaiah Washington to the court as Washington tried a layup directly below the hoop. Washington stayed down for a few seconds and Garner got in Thompson's face before his teammates pulled him away. Thompson was assessed a technical foul for which Taylor shot and made both free throws.
"I think that brought the best out of us," Garner said. "We're a tough, gritty team too, just like them."
Penn State guard Josh Reaves was on the other end of hard contact under the basket early and would eventually leave the game with a hip injury. Reaves appeared to favor his right wrist after landing awkwardly but was sent to a stationary bike for most of the second half.
Reaves started the second half but was pulled quickly. He played just 13 minutes.
"I thought his hip was pretty banged up," Chambers said. "I just didn't want to jeopardize him getting hurt any further."
Eastern Michigan hosts Rochester on Tuesday.
Penn State visits George Washington on Tuesday.