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Rules of the Game

Basketball is a winter indoor team sport.  The court is 94 feet long by 50 feet wide, divided into two equal halves. A 6 foot by 3.5 foot backboard, containing a ring (rim) 18 inches in diameter, is placed on supports on each end of the court; the rim must be ten feet above the floor.  A foul shooting line is delineated directly in front of and 19 feet from the rim; a three-point semi-circular shooting line is delineated 25 feet from the court line directly under the rim.  Penn State’s home basketball games originally were played in the Armory, then moved to Rec Hall in 1929; since 1996, the Lions have played in the Bryce Jordan Center.

The object of the game is to throw or tap a 30 inch ball through the rim, and prevent the other team from scoring.  A team is awarded two points for each successful shot, three points for each successful shot made by a player standing completely outside the three-point shooting line, and one point for each successful shot made from the foul line (awarded due to an opponent’s foul).

Each team fields five players (it must field at least two players, unless it has such a lead that it cannot lose even if fielding only one player).  A game lasts for forty minutes, divided into two twenty-minute halves.  If at the end of this the game is tied, the teams will play at least one (and more if needed) complete five-minute overtime period until a winner is determined.  A men’s team is given up to 35 seconds to shoot so that the ball at least touches the rim (a women’s team has 30 seconds).  Players are disqualified after five fouls.

Penn State Men’s Basketball History

The Penn State men’s basketball team lost its very first game, in 1897, at Bucknell, but then beat the Bison in State College for the first win in school history.  Burke Hermann, the Lions’ first coach (1916-17, 1920-32), won 148 games.  Hugo Bezdek, best known as a Hall of Fame football coach at Penn State and other schools, coached the Nittany Lions to an 11-2 season in 1919; there was no coach in 1918.

Penn State first appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1942, losing to Dartmouth.  Under Coach Elmer Gross, the Nittany Lions lost a first round NCAA Tournament game in 1952 to top-ranked Kentucky. They made it all the way to the NCAA Final Four in 1954, losing in the semi-final game to second-ranked LaSalle, but then defeated USC for third place nationally.  Jesse Arnelle, one of Penn State’s all-time multi-sport athletes, and currently a member of the Board of Trustees, led the team to 18 wins.

John Egli became coach the following year, and the Lions lost a second round NCAA Tournament game to fifth-ranked Iowa.  Future NBA star Bob Weiss led the 1965 team that lost in the NCAA first round by two points to eventual Final Four participant Princeton and future Senator and NBA star Bill Bradley.  The following year, the Lions made their first NIT appearance.

Over the next 20 years, the only bright spot was an appearance in the 1980 NIT.  But after the 1983 season, things began to improve with the hiring of Bruce Parkhill as coach.  Under Parkhill’s direction, the Lions appeared in four NITs, beat national power UCLA in the 1991 NCAA Tournament after winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and began play in the Big 10 in 1993.  John Amaechi starred for Penn State from 1993-95, earning Big 10 honors all three years; he was named Academic All-American of the Year in 1995.

Jerry Dunn succeeded Parkhill after the 1995 season.  Penn State played in the 1996 NCAA Tournament and the 1998 and 2000 NIT.  In the 2000 Big 10 Tournament, the Nittany Lions upset 4th-ranked Ohio State, 71-66.  The stunning victories continued the following season.  Led by Titus Ivory, Gyasi Cline-Heard, and Joe Crispin, they defeated defending national champion and 2nd-ranked Michigan State in the Big 10 Tournament, 65-63.  Nine days later, the Nittany Lions defeated 5th-ranked North Carolina 82-74 to advance to the “Sweet Sixteen.” 

Ed DeChellis took over after the 2003 season.  In 2006, the Lions produced another national shocker, defeating 6th-ranked Illinois 66-65, ending the Illlini’s national-best 33 game home winning streak.  After falling behind 13-0, Travis Parker scored the winning basket with 8.5 seconds left.  Illinois is the highest ranked opponent that the Nittany Lions have ever beaten on the road; the victory propelled Penn State into the 2006 NIT, where they lost an opening round game to Rutgers. 

In 2009, DeChellis led Penn State to the most victories in a season in its history (27).   The season was capped off with Penn State’s first national post-season tournament championship in the National Invitation Tournament that included wins over Florida on the road and then Notre Dame and Baylor in New York’s famed Madison Square Garden.

In 2011, Penn State was runner-up in the Big 10 Tournament, lost a first-round NCAA Tournament game on a buzzer-beater by Temple, and finished with a 19-15 record.  Along the way, the team defeated 5 ranked teams.  Talor Battle, arguably the greatest player in Nittany Lion history, was named first-team All-Big 10, honorable mention All-American, and became the school’s all-time leading scorer (2,213 pts.); breaking Jesse Arnelle’s 55 year old record (2,138 pts.).  Battle became the 3rd player in NCAA Division I history to score over 2,00 points and total over 600 rebounds and over 500 assists, and the first Big 10 player with over 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists.  He is the Big 10’s all-time leader in minutes played (4,799) and Penn State’s all-time leader in starts (131).  Battle is Penn State’s first 2-time first team All-Big 10 player.

Following the 2011 season, DeChelllis left to become the head coach at Navy.  Philadelphia native Patrick Chambers, coaching then at Boston University, was selected to succeed DeChellis. 

In April, 2016, Cumberland Posey, who was Penn state’s first African-American student-athlete, was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Posey played for two seasons with the Nittany Lions (1909-10 and 1910-11); he also played baseball at Penn State (1910).  Posey went to become a player and eventual owner of the Homestead Grays of the Negro Baseball League.  Posey was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, in 2006; he is the only person to be enshrined in both the Basketball and Baseball Halls of Fame.

Tom Hovasse, who played at Penn State from 1985-89, was an assistant coach on Japan’s women’s basketball team at the 2016 Olympics.


The 2017-18 season was a memorable one.  Penn State compiled a 26-13 record (9-9 in the Big ten).  The Lions defeated Ohio State 3 times – at Columbus on a last-second Tony Carr 3-point bomb, at the BJC (where they led by 30 points at one time), and in the Big Ten Tournament quarter-finals on a closing-seconds layup by Josh Reaves.  Missing the NCAA Tournament, Penn State instead won the Championship in dominating style, winning games at Notre Dame and Marquette, and then beating Mississippi State by 15 points and Utah by 16 points in Madison Square Garden.  Tony Carr led the Big Ten in scoring (19.9 points per game) and was a 1st Team Al-Big Ten selection, Josh Reaves led the Conference in steals (56) and steals per game (2.2) for the second consecutive year, and Shep Garner set the Big Ten and Penn State record for 3-pointers in a season (120) and the Penn State record for a career (336).  Carr, Garner, and Lamar Stevens all scored over 1,000 points, only the second time this has happened in Penn State history.


Team Accomplishments

NCAA Tournament
1942, 1952, 1954 (Final Four), 1955, 1965 ,1991, 1996, 2001 (Sweet Sixteen), 2011

National Invitation Tournament (NIT)
1966, 1980, 1989, 1990 (3rdplace), 1992, 1995 (3rdplace), 1998, 2000, 2006, 2009 (champions), 2018(champions)

College Basketball Invitational Tournament (CBI)

Atlantic 10 Tournament Champions

Notable Coaches

John Egli (1955-1989)

Winningest coach in Penn State history (187)
Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame

Ed DeChellis (2004-2011)

2 NIT appearances, 1 NIT championship
2011 NCAA Tournament
2009 Big Ten Coach of the Year

Patrick Cahmbers (2011-present)

2018 NIT Championship

Bruce Parkhill (1984-1995) 

1 NCAA Tournament, 4 NIT appearances 
1990 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year

Notable Players

Jesse Arnelle (1952-1955)

Only Penn State 1st team All-American and 2-time All-American
All-time Penn State rebounding leader

Bob Weiss (1963-1965)

4 yr NBA playing career 
NBA head coach

Talor Battle (2008-2011) 

2009, 2011 1st team All-Big 10 
2011 honorable mention All-American
All-time Penn State scorer (2,213), starts (131)
All-time Big 10 minutes played
3rd NCAA Div I player with 2,000 pts., 600 rebounds, 500 assists
1st and only Big 10 player with 2,000 pts., 500 rebounds, 500 assists

Player Recognition

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: Cumberland Posey (1909-11) 2006.

Team All-American -- Jesse Arnelle (1954 - 1st team, 1955), Bob Weiss (1965), Carver Clinton (1966), Pete Lisicky (1997), Talor Battle (2011)

1st Team All-Atlantic 10-- Mike Lang (1983); Tom Hovasse (1989); Ed Fogell (1990); DeRon Hayes (1990)

1st Team All-Big 10-- John Amaechi (1995); Matt Gaudio (1996); Jarrett Stephens (2000); Joe Crispin (2001), Talor Battle (2009, 2011); Tim Frazier (2012); Tony Carr (2018)

Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year-- DeRon Hayes (1990).

Atlantic 10 Tournament Most Valuable Player -- Freddy Barnes (1991)

Big 10 Freshman of the Year – Jamelle Cornley (2006)

Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year – Calvin Booth (1998)

ECAC Scholar-Athlete – Ted Kubista (1959)

Academic All-American of the Year – John Amaechi (1995)

NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship – Mike Edelman (1989); John Amaechi (1995)

2016 Olympics – Tom Hovasse (Japan, assistant women’s coach)

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