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Nittany Lions used big second half to beat Lehigh

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Lions score 49 in second to win 70-56

Penn State (1-0) roared to life in the second half using a 19-3 run and shooting 59 percent from the floor to take as much as a 20-point lead on defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (0-1) before cruising to a 70-56 victory in the Nittany Lions' season opener Friday.

More than 2,500 Penn State students brought the Bryce Jordan Center to life as Penn State recovered from a rough offensive first half to post its sixth-straight season opening win to begin coach Ed DeChellis' eighth season at the helm.

The senior Nittany Lions took charge as forwards David Jackson and Jeff Brooks scored 21 of their 24 combined points in the second half and Talor Battle led all scorers with 21 points while turning in a stellar defensive effort on 2010 Patriot League Player of the Year C.J. McCollum. Battle added six rebounds to his 31st career 20-point game while helping hold McCollum to seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, well below his average of 19.1 ppg posted last season. Jackson logged 14 points, 13 in a strong second half, and five rebounds. Brooks posted 10 points, nine rebounds and a career-best five blocks, the most by a Nittany Lion since Jan Jagla in 2003. Sophomore Billy Oliver added 10 points in 29 minutes and senior Drew Jones had nine boards and four points on the night.

"We had four guys in double figures," DeChellis said. "I thought Billy really came off and made some shots and had a couple of defensive plays. That was nice to see because this is really his first action. He's been out for two years with the concussions and I thought he was tremendous off the bench. I thought Andrew Jones was tremendous on the glass all night."

Anthony D'Orazio led Lehigh with 17 points, 14 in the first half, on 4-of-7 shooting from three. Mackey McKnight added 13 points for a Lehigh team that shot 36 percent from the floor. Penn State dominated the boards to the tune of 45 to 27 and shot 40 percent for the game after a 6-of-30 effort in the first half. The Lions also hit 14-of-17 at the foul stripe and dominated scoring in the paint 30 to eight.

Penn State trailed 27-21 at the half after a sluggish start, but Battle's buzzer beating three at the half sparked the Lions, as did DeChellis' halftime speech.

"We just weren't playing with any purpose," DeChellis said. "The first half guys that were seniors weren't really giving us much of anything. We have to have those guys play and do some things for us. They responded at half time and came out and played completely different. It was a tale of two different halves. The second half is where I think we can play and hopefully they've learned something. They have to come out and be aggressive."

Penn State was a completely different team in the second half led by an aggressive Jackson who went 3-of-3 from the floor and scored seven of the Lions first nine points. Brooks had the other two and a big swat.

"He (Jackson) was tremendous," DeChellis said. "He came out of the locker room and we challenged him at half time. We said you guys have to play the way you can play. We need to take some shots and be aggressive."

Battle then hit back-to-back threes to give Penn State its first lead, 36-33, since leading 6-4. The threes culminated an 18-6 Nittany Lion scoring spurt that started with Battle's first half closing three.

Penn State wasn't done. After Lehigh closed to within one, 38-37, on McKnight's jumper Drew Jones took an assist from Tim Frazier, one of six on the night, and slid down the lane for a lay-up that began a 19-3 Nittany Lion run to seize control of the game.

Frazier followed with a lay-up of his own on a nice assist from Jones and the Lions were running as they hit eight of 10 shots to race to a 17-point lead, 57-40, with 6:14 to play. Jackson got a lay-up and a put-back. Freshman Taran Buie hit a three. Jackson knocked down a pair of free throws. Battle grabbed a steal, hit ahead to Buie who drove and then flipped an alley-oop to Brooks for a dunk that had the Jordan Center roaring.

Brooks followed a Buie miss with a put-back and then fed Battle for a lay-up and in just over six minutes Penn State went from a nail biter to all but wrapping up their first victory of the season.

The Lions would eventually push their lead to as many as 20 on a Battle lay-up with 2:44 to play before clearing their bench in the final minutes. On the night Battle passed former teammate Geary Claxton (1,542) for sixth on the all-time Nittany Lion scoring charts. He'll take 1,547 points into Tuesday's game with Saint Joseph's, just 24 shy of passing DeRon Hayes (1,570) to move into the top five.

Penn State struggled through the first 20 minutes going 6-of-30 from the floor and 2-of-12 from three to trail by six, 27-21, at the half.

Both team struggled out of the gate going a combined 3-of-24 from the floor and committing nine turnovers in the first eight minutes. Lehigh started 1-of-11 from the floor as Penn State played solid early defense and kept Mountain Hawk leading scorer McCollum silent.

The Lions hit just three of their first 18 from the field though as Lehigh built an early 12-6 lead after an 8-0 run sparked by D'Orazio. Penn State was leading 6-4 when D'Orazio hit the first of three first half threes to put Lehigh up 7-6.

Battle attempted to save a ball from going out of bounds and left the game at the 9:05 mark with a lower leg injury. He would return later and the injury does not appear to be a factor going forward. Lehigh seized the moment to build a six-point lead behind a pair of free throws from Rob Keefer and a D'Orazio three-point play.

Oliver stemmed the tide briefly with a three from the top of the key, but D'Orazio caught fire scoring eight-straight points on a short jumper and a pair of threes as Lehigh built a 20-11 lead.

Battle returned with 9:05 to play, but Lehigh built it's lead to 10 after a spin move and short jumper in the lane by McKnight.

Battle scored seven of the Lions' last nine points of the half, hitting four straight free throws to get Penn State within six, 22-16. McCullom scored his first points of the game with 2:58 to play with a 15-foot jumper. Buie answered for Penn State with his first points as a Nittany Lion on a drive and short eight-footer.

Lehigh got a three-point play from McKnight to go up 27-18, but Battle breathed needed life into the Lions with a three-pointer at the buzzer as Penn State went to the locker room.

The Nittany Lions return to action Tuesday when they take on intrastate rival Saint Joseph's in a 7:30 p.m. tip at the Jordan Center. The game can be seen on ESPN3.com (webstream) or heard on the Penn State Sports Network.

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