Patrick Chambers

Penn State to return to its old home on December 14

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Currently the Penn State basketball program plays its home games at the Bryce Jordan Center, an on-campus facility that seats more than 15,000 fans and is named in honor of the man who helped shepherd the school into the Big Ten Conference.

But many of the Nittany Lions’ best moments as a basketball program came when the team called Rec Hall home. On Wednesday the school announced that Penn State would return to Rec Hall for one game this season, as they’ll host Princeton on Saturday, December 14.

The Nittany Lions haven’t played a game at Rec Hall since 1996, with their final game being a 79-50 win over Wisconsin on January 7, 1996.

“This is a very exciting day for our program, alumni and fans of Penn State basketball,” Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said in the release announcing the news. “I watched Penn State basketball in Rec Hall when I was younger, and it was electric. When I think of Rec Hall I think of passion, energy and tradition. We listened to our alums and fans and we wanted to bring that Rec Hall experience back.

“I’m very grateful to [athletic director] Dr. [David] Joyner, the administration and my fellow coaches who currently occupy Rec Hall who have been incredibly cooperative in making this game a reality.”

Currently used by the school’s volleyball (men’s and women’s) and gymnastics programs, Rec Hall will be configured to seat some 6,300 fans for the game with 2,100 of the tickets being set aside for students.

This marks the second consecutive season that a Big Ten team has played a game in its old gym, as Michigan State played an exhibition against Tuskegee last season to commemorate the anniversary of the 1963 “Game of Change” played between Loyola (Chicago) and Mississippi State at Jenison Field House.

Penn State won nearly 74% of its games at Rec Hall, posting a record of 514-183. And while there’s something to be said for the Nittany Lions’ struggles (from a talent standpoint) for much of their time in Bryce Jordan Center, many will say that the atmosphere had as much of an impact on opposing teams as the talent did.

VIDEO: Duke’s Grayson Allen beats No. 7 Virginia at the buzzer

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.