Despite leading for most of the game, our young Nittany Lions found themselves letting the game slip away at the under 8 media timeout. They had just missed 6 straight shots and the Blackbirds were gaining momentum as they built their largest lead of the game (4 points). Tim Frazier had carried the Lions all game, but whatever Coach Chambers said to his team at that timeout changed the outcome. He inserted the right lineup and PSU finished the game on a 21-8 run. Here's what that lineup produced over those final 8 minutes:
It was a total team effort on both ends of the floor as LIU didn't make one field goal in that span either. It was a fantastic stretch of winning basketball that capped off an ugly game marred by fouls and general early-season sloppiness.
Penn State continued to have trouble being aggressive on defense without fouling, but that will take time. They were whistled for 25 fouls and gave LIU 35 FTAs for an astounding 74.5% free throw rate. Even though I was less than thrilled with the whistle-happy referees (which included Gene Steratore), PSU was caught being overaggressive multiple times. As they gain more experience, they will develop better judgment over which balls really are worth diving for. That said, their crazy intensity really ups this team's likability as a fan. Matt Glover's all-out dive to knock away an LIU dribble was pretty fantastic.
Frazier once again showed he is not afraid of carrying the load, scoring 26 points with 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. He has put to rest any concerns about his scoring ability with 62 points in three games. He is your favorite to win the season opening Big Ten Player of the Week award next week. He was helped by his co-captains in Woodyard (13 points, 6 rebounds) and Oliver (9 points, 10 rebounds). The PSU frontcourt in Jon Graham (6 pts, 5 reb, 3 blk) Sasa Borovnjak (9 pts, 5 reb), and Ross Travis (2 pts, 2 reb, 1 blk) took a positive step forward with their individual games. Trey Lewis was slowed by foul trouble and ill-advised shot selection. Jermaine Marshall continued to play more, but struggled from the field (0-4 in 19 min).
Offensively, PSU continues to manufacture good looks, but they still struggle to knock them down at a high percentage. Hopefully as the season wears on this team grows some confidence but at this point they are just a mediocre shooting team taking way too many jumpshots (they were 5-20 from three before hitting 4 of 7 down the stretch). Defensively, PSU has to cut out the fouling habits while maintaining their ball pressure.
Next up for the Lions is the incredibly intimidating #2 Kentucky Wildcats, who are fresh off their dismantling of Kansas. If the Nits want any chance of running with Cal's fabulous freshmen, they'll need to shoot much better than they have in the opening three games. There will be more to come on the Hall of Fame Tip-off in the next few days.