UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State scored the first seven points and never looked back in taking down took down Saint Francis 83-53 Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
It was the third straight win for Penn State who outscored St. Francis 46-18 in the first half. PSU scored early and often. Nine players scored before break.
“Everywhere I’ve been I’ve always talked about ‘let’s build an army,’” Penn State head coach Mike Rhoades said in his postgame presser. “Let’s flat out build an army and an army is everybody’s got each other’s back and the other day was Kanye (Clary)’s day. Today was Demetrius (Lilley)’s day.”
Penn State finished with double-digits despite a second half where St. Francis held the Penn State offense to only 34.3 percent shooting.
“I thought we came out in the second half and I don’t like to single out one person in a team sport but I thought Bobby Rosenberger gave us a huge lift,” Saint Francis head coach Rob Krimmel said.
Rosenberger paced the Red Flash with 19 points and eight rebounds in his fourth career game.
“He’s a young man that actually had struggled through the first three games and was really hard on himself and it was great to see him come out and impact the game not necessarily with the jump shot, but with how hard he rebounded,” Krimmel said.
But Rosenberger’s hard play was no match for Clary and a dynamic Penn State defense that held the Red Flash to 35 percent shooting on the night.
“I think he’s a good player, but I just think he’s going to up, up, up,” Rhoades said. “A year from now, two years from now, he’s going to be so dynamic.”
Clary finished the night with 14 points while Zach Hicks and Qudus Wahab pitched in 12 a piece. Ace Baldwin, Jr. chipped in 11 of his own for Penn State
While a comfortable win is nice for Penn State, the best news for the team Tuesday was the debut of North Carolina transfer Puff Johnson.
Johnson played 16 minutes and scored six points while adding four rebounds in his first action of the season. He might not have lit the scoresheet up, but his impact was felt in a multitude of other ways for Penn State.
“It was just great to have him out there. He’s a high IQ guy. He plays really hard. He’s physical,” Rhoades said. “He’s always around the ball, but he also can shoot it put on the floor a little bit. He has a good feel so he knows where to be at the right time and has patience on the back side or on defense, to be in the perfect help position. He’s a vet.”
Rhoades recalled telling Demetrius Lilley he’d have to come back to school in the fall in the best shape of his life or he might not see the floor. Since then, Lilley has transformed himself into being what could be a big force for Penn State.
“To his credit. He came back in great shape,” Rhoades said. “Since I got here he’s lost 42 pounds and I’m saying that as an unbelievable compliment because he’s trying to impact winning. He’s trying to help us. He wants to get on the court.”
He found himself in the right place at the right time quite a bit for Penn State Tuesday night. He only racked up 10 minutes of action, but scored 10 points and hauled in five rebounds.
Penn State hosts Morehead State Friday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.