It's here! It's really here! Can you feel the #ATTITUDE in the air? It's all around you! Ok, so this game didn't count, but I saw it -- real, live, Penn State basketball. The first charge taken by Ross Travis was like seeing the first robin of springtime. It was glorious.
Penn State took down The School Formerly Known as Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science by a count of 79 to 54 in the first open-door game of the season. Before tipoff, head coach Pat Chambers presented his mentor and Philly U coach Herb Magee with a ball commemorating the legendary coach's induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame. Chambers was Magee's point guard from 1990-94 and undoubtedly owes a lot of his basketball knowledge to Magee, and the admiration Chambers had for his former coach was evident during the pregame ceremony,
Ok, game stuff: Tim Frazier (shockingly) led the Nittany Lions with 17 points to go along with eight assists, but the standout performer of the day was Jon Graham. The redshirt sophomore came off the bench to score 16 points and grab seven boards in a mere 19 minutes. Coaches had raved about Graham's development in the offseason, and he did all he could to prove them right. He looked much lighter on his feet than last season, and his post moves seemed much improved. Yes, he played much of the game matched up with former PSU "carefrontation" victim Pete Alexis (who played very well in his own right), but all signs point to a good year from Graham, which PSU will need in order to compete for any kind of postseason spot.
Today's contest also marked the debut of D.J. Newbill, who for the most part lived up to the hype. Newbill saw time at both guard positions, which could prove invaluable for Tim Frazier's health in the long run. The sophomore shot just under 50% from the field (5-11) and was 2-4 from beyond the arc, a great sign for a player who only had 14 three-point attempts his freshman season at Southern Miss. His ability to stretch the defense with deep looks will create even more space for Frazier to operate.
As for the freshmen, only one saw significant minutes in the presumed regular rotation. Brandon Taylor didn't have a great game shooting the ball (1-6), but he showed a willingness to bang underneath. He finished with two points and five rebounds in 13 minutes, and although his shot wasn't falling, Chambers kept encouraging the 6-8 forward to keep firing when he had an open look.
A few quick thoughts:
- The other freshmen, Akosa Maduegbunam and Donovon Jack, saw limited minutes playing next to the regular contributors. Maduegbunam was 0-3 from beyond the arc in eight minutes of action, and took a couple of unwise attempts. While he played with confidence, it seems the guard out of Boston may need a little more seasoning before he sees significant playing time. Jack didn't take any shots in ten minutes, but if you were to base the probable rotation in order of appearance, he seems to be preferred to Pat Ackerman off the bench.
- Nick Colella was 2-2 from three-point range. So expect that all year. Here's the full boxscore.
- Frazier, Newbill, Jermaine Marshall, Travis, and Sasa Borovnjak were the starting five. The main rotation appears to be those five, Graham, Taylor, Colella, and possibly Jack or Maduegbunam.
- Joe Crispin's young son participated in the halftime "dribbling-race-with-oversized-clothes-on" contest. He didn't win. The future looks bleak.
- Pete Alexis (19 points, 11 rebounds) sank the free throw off an 'and one' early in the first quarter and made a double crotch chop motion towards the Penn State bench in celebration.
(Okay, not really)
The official season begins this Friday at the BJC against St. Francis (PA). Tip-off is set for 7:00pm. The season is here at long last.