UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Jermaine Marshall scored 17 points, including a pair of contested 3-pointers at the end of shot clocks late in the game, and Penn State parlayed a big second half into a 60-57 victory over previously unbeaten Bucknell on Friday afternoon. Bryson Johnson tallied a game-high 18 points and Mike Muscala recorded 10 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, but a rash of first-half turnovers cost the Bison a chance to put the game away early, and they fell to 5-1 on the season.
The Bryce Jordan Center continues to be a house of horrors for Bucknell, which is now 0-10 in this facility, scoring only 54.5 points in those games. Penn State's 11-game series winning streak appeared to be in jeopardy when it made only 5 of 31 first half field-goal attempts (.161), but the Bison committed 12 turnovers and shot only 35.7 percent themselves.
Bucknell never trailed in the first 20 minutes and led 22-16 at halftime, but the Bison went to the locker room feeling like the lead could have been more. Brandon Taylor, who came into the contest with two 3-pointers on the season, hit his third and fourth of the game in the opening minutes of the second half to get the Nittany Lions (3-2) within two.
Those treys sparked a complete offensive turnaround for Penn State. After hitting just the five field goals in the first half, the Nittany Lions went 17-for-26 (.654) in the second half. The hosts tied the game for the first time at 34-34 on Marshall's free throws with 12:17 to play, and they took their first lead of the day with 10:56 left when Marshall spoiled a strong defensive possession by banking in a 28-footer with a hand in his face.
Bucknell tied the game twice more, but Penn State took the lead for good at 41-39 on Taylor's turnaround jumper with 8:58 remaining. That was part of a stretch where the Nittany Lions scored on seven straight and nine out of 10 possessions.
Cameron Ayers, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half, swished a three from the right wing to trim a seven-point deficit down to four with 3:58 left. At the other end the shot clock was again set to expire, but Marshall threw up a high-arcing shot with a defender draped all over him, and the ball hit the rim three times and dropped in.
After back-to-back jumpers by Joe Willman and Ayers, Bucknell had two possessions down by three points just under the two-minute mark, but could not convert. Willman had a baseline jumper rim out, and after a pair of Penn State misses, Ryan Hill was stripped on a baseline drive.
D.J. Newbill shot an air ball at the other end, but Sasa Borovnjak put back the miss to give the Lions a 57-52 lead with 38 seconds remaining. Johnson and Marshall traded free throws, and after Newbill missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Ayers hit a pull-up 3-pointer to make it 59-57 with 0:08 left.
Marshall left the door open by making only 1 of 2 free throws, but after a time out Ayers could not connect on a possible tying 3-pointer from the right corner.
Johnson opened the game with a trey and hit three free throws to spark an early 10-2 run. Johnson's second 3-pointer at the 8:39 mark accounted for Bucknell's only points in a stretch of nearly seven minutes, and a couple of threes by Taylor helped Penn State pull within 13-12.
Bucknell held the Nittany Lions two just four free throws in the final 7:30 of the half, however, and stretched the lead back to six by halftime.
Penn State, which was playing without injured leading scorer Tim Frazier, received 16 points from Taylor, who had 16 points all season coming in, and 10 points and seven assists from Newbill.
"This was a disappointing loss from our perspective, but give a lot of credit to Penn State," said coach Dave Paulsen afterward. "They played with great emotion, which we knew they would playing without their star player. They were the tougher team tonight, and when you are the tougher team you deserve to get those kinds of breaks with some of those tough shots late in the shot clock. We had a chance to get some separation in the first half, and in the second half they came out and made shots. They doubled Mike [Muscala] all night and really pressured our guards, and unlike some earlier games this season, we did not do a good job responding."
Muscala was limited to four field-goal attempts, but he went 6-for-8 from the line and recorded his 28th career double-double. The five blocks were a season high.
Johnson's 18 points marked a season-high, and he moved up three spots to 26th on Bucknell's career scoring list with 1,093 points.
Bucknell missed a chance to go 2-0 against the Big Ten this season, and the Bison were trying to start a season 6-0 for the first time since 1983-84.
The Bison are back in action on Tuesday at home against Dartmouth at 7 p.m.