Penn State shut down their second straight opponent in a row and were able to overcome some tough stretches to defeat the Radford Highlanders last night, 62-46. Tim Frazier continued to stuff the statsheet with a Talor Battle-esque 20 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and a block. He likely would've had a few more assists if
Billy Oliver PSU would've shot better than 2-10 7-25 from behind the arc. Jermaine Marshall also returned from his short suspension and saw his first game action of the year, chipping in 4 points in 10 minutes.
The Nittany Lions got off to an ugly start, letting Jareal Smith put Radford up 11-5 about 5 minutes into the game. At that point, Penn State starting making some shots as they rattled off 14 straight points that put them in the lead for good. Jareal Smith cooled, Jonathan Edwards was in foul trouble, and Radford was never able to pull closer than 4 the rest of the way. A barrage of three-pointers by the Nittany Lions blew the game open to start the second half, extending a 29-20 lead to 38-22.
Radford and Hartford are not good basketball teams, but these games have been great for Chambers' to ease this young team into his new era. There's already been a noticeable difference in intensity, defense, and animation on the bench. Chambers' has been subbing quite often, something no one around here is used to seeing (presumably to maintain that level of persistent intensity the entire game). I love quotes like these from his post-game press conference:
- On PSU's 25 3PA - "It is a concern though. My teams don't shoot twelve free throws. They shoot 20 plus and it's the first thing I looked at, and I just think we're shooting too many threes."
- On Marshall's Return - "For me, you've got to earn that jersey. There's nothing like putting on a Penn State jersey. If you don't take great pride like the way I think it should be, then your not going to wear it."
- On Substitutions - "I don't pull guys out for shots. I normally pull them out for defense and rebounding."
But I love these stats more:
Penn State's defense has been superb in the first two games of the season. They are forcing a crazy amount of turnovers while rebounding the crap out of the basketball. Granted, the level of opposition must be considered and it's not like DeChellis' teams never shut down overmatched opponents, either. But Chambers' emphasis on defense and rebounding has paid off these first two games.
With Marshall slowly getting back into the fold, it's likely Nick Colella's brief run in the rotation is over. Chambers has used 9 guys for the bulk of the first two games. He continues to experiment with different lineups, throwing out a few four guard looks. There were times when Billy and Ross were paired in the frontcourt while the most interesting lineup came when PSU fielded 5 guys over 6'4" with Trey Lewis and Tim Frazier on the bench.
Offensively, PSU would benefit greatly from the emergence of either Sasa Borovnjak or Jon Graham to establish a presence inside. Graham had a nice game scoring 7 points early and grabbing 4 boards after going 0-6 against Hartford. But if neither of them can be consistent, PSU will continue to settle for jumpshots, and as we saw last night, when they aren't falling, this team will struggle to score.
We will get a better idea of just how far away this Penn State team is in the coming week. Tomorrow night is a tough test with an experienced LIU squad who will be desperate to avoid a 0-3 start. Then the Hall of Fame Tip-Off at the Mohegun Sun Casino against #2 Kentucky and either South Florida or Old Dominion. Yours truly will be making the trip to the northeast to witness the greatest upset ever (or win some cash).