The Pat Chambers era began in winning fashion, as Penn State delivered a 70-55 knockout blow to a Hartford team that was playing its second game in just as many days. I was fortunate enough to attend this game after having watched an emotional football game right beforehand. The crowd was probably around 3,000-4,000 people, all of whom were eager to see the dawn of a new beginning for Penn State basketball which surely, they have to be satisfied with. The Nittany Lions face Radford tomorrow night at the Jordan Center at 7:00 PM ET.
I'm about to hit the road out of Happy Valley as I type this, so I'll keep it short with several bullet-points:
- Trey Lewis looked like anything but a guy playing his first ever collegiate basketball game, leading PSU with 17 points, and nailing a Talor Battle-esque shot in the process (dribble around top of the key, launch a three when realizing the defender is relaxing on you). He will play a critical role in filling up the craters left by all the scoring that graduated last year, and it will be fun watching this kid further develop as the season goes on.
- Tim Frazier has picked up where he left off after last season: 16 points, 6 assists, and accounting for 1/3 of the teams 15 steals (that's 5, for you non-math majors). This should not come as a surprise to anyone, since Pat had been hyping him up as the team's leader since the first day he took over as head coach.
- Billy Oliver and Cam Woodyard look like completely different players, not unlike when Steve Urkel used one of his inventions to turn himself into Stefan Urquelle on Family Matters. Woodyard had a career best 14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4-for-7 from 3 point range, while Oliver nailed a trey and grabbed a few rebounds, and looked like a far more confident player than last year. This where the difference between Ed DeChellis' and Pat Chambers' coaching styles really begin to stick out.
- This team is already looking far scrappier defensively than I can ever recall: Plenty of traps, which led to a plethora of steals, and a heavy emphasis on rebounding. Plenty of dives for loose balls were taken, as well (this is actually a stat that the coaching staff keeps track of). While this may raise concerns about injuries occurring from such aggressive play, I welcome it with open arms after seeing too much passiveness and indecisiveness on the floor over the course of the DeChellis era.
- I've also noticed Pat has been substituting rather freely, almost like a hockey coach does line changes. 9 guys saw double digit minutes of action, which may be a by-product of trying to find what works, but it also re-emphasizes Pat's desire to play an up-tempo game, which requires plenty of substituting in order to pull it off successfully.
- Post play will still be a major weakness: Several layups were given up due to a lack of a shot-blocker, and the best rebounding forward was Ross Travis with 7 (who projects to be more of a small forward type). Hopefully Sasa and Jon Graham will continue to improve as the season goes along, but the bulk of the rebounding once again, will fall on the shoulders of the guards and small forwards.
- I'm already convinced Pat Chambers is the Brian Kelly of the hardwood. During one timeout, I saw him come out to the court, hold up two fingers and yell (and I'm paraphrasing a little bit): THAT'S TWO OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS WE JUST GAVE UP. Pat also got out of his chair just 30 seconds into the game, took his jacket off, and never sat back down. I can totally used to this, by the way.