Many will take a quick glance at the box score of this game and see more ugliness. A 58-47 win at home against a rebuilding Ivy league team will do nothing to bolster fans' hopes for this team in the rugged Big Ten. But for a team still finding it's way without their do-everything point guard, any win is a 'feel-good' win and this one was no exception.
Against a scrappy UPenn bunch coached by Chambers former high school teammate, Jerome Allen, the Lions gained control of the game in the first half and never let go of their lead. Despite a sloppy start with some bad turnovers, Penn State rebounded and put together a strong first half on both ends of the floor, taking a 31-22 lead to the break.
The offense reverted back to the outfit we're used to seeing for most of the second half. They blew a golden opportunity to really extend their lead at the start as UPenn couldn't do anything right for the first five minutes. The Quakers' four turnovers led to just two breakaway dunks by DJ Newbill, so the game was never put out of reach. The 13-point lead didn't last long as the Lions began missing shot after shot, while the Quakers found some offense and made some runs.
The lead fluctuated between 4 and 10 points the rest of the way, but the Lions were able to finish it off thanks to some key plays by Jon Graham, Ross Travis, and Jermaine Marshall. It also helped that Penn State stifled the Quakers main attack all game long as their two leading scorers, Miles Cartwright and Fran Dougherty, were held to just 11 combined points on 5-19 shooting.
The Quakers played a similar 'all-out' style under Allen that Chambers employs at Penn State. He attributed it to their high school coach, Dan Dougherty at Episcopal Academy. They harassed PSU's ball-handlers for most of the game, but PSU kept their composure and relatively limited their mistakes on offense (13 turnovers).
Jermaine Marshall led the way with 18 points, building on a nice performance the other night against Boston College. Marshall brought the ball up more often than in past games to help assist DJ Newbill at the point. The two combined for 31 points, 8 assists, 5 steals, and just 3 turnovers, so we might be seeing this strategy some more as the two get accustomed to their new roles.
Ross Travis didn't have the greatest statline - 7 points on 2-6 shooting - but he was much more aggressive on offense, attacking the basket instead of settling for jump shots. Despite the less than stellar results, his new mentality was certainly encouraging. Many would rather see Ross utilize his athleticism to work inside-out instead of forcing his jump shot.
Brandon Taylor came up big again with 11 points, all of which came in the first half. The true freshman's confidence continues to grow. He also contributed greatly to the defense of Fran Dougherty in the paint. Nick Colella made more hustle plays than usual and even scored his first two-pointer of the season on a strong baseline drive that no one saw coming. He logged 31 meaningful minutes.
And while Jon Graham might not have been a main factor thoughout, his back-to-back buckets towards the end of the game were huge. He finished with a different hand on both of them and displayed confidence in finishing that Chambers has been searching for. For the first time this season, he didn't go 100 mph when given the ball down low. It looked quite a bit like the player who finished strong down the stretch last year. Chambers obviously was loving every second of that minute sequence.
The team improved to 4-3, but now faces another Philadelphia opponent. They have a stiff road test Wednesday against La Salle at the Palestra. The game recently got picked up by NBC Sports Network for a 9:00pm tip.