With his team down one and losing momentum early in the second half, something clicked for senior Tim Frazier.
Though he was struggling to shoot the ball, Frazier knew he had to make something happen for the Penn State men’s basketball team. The point guard took the ball from the top of the key and attacked the lane for a runner to put the Lions up by a point. On the next play, Frazier stole the ball in transition and drove hard to the basket, finishing on the lay-up and drawing a foul.
The playmaking of Frazier pushed the Nittany Lions on a cold shooting night as the Lions went on to defeat St. Francis in their regular season opener, 65-58.
Coach Pat Chambers was asked about his All-Big Ten guard’s ability to take over a game when the Lions need it.
“He has a little of that, but I still have to [push him] — I don't yell at him like I did last year,” Chambers said. “I might put my arm around him and say, ‘Look, this is what we need, and this is where you have to contribute.’ I think we just need to make simple solid plays.”
During a night in which Penn State shot 36.2 percent (17-47) from the field and 12.5 percent (3-24) from three point territory, these simple plays were crucial in fending off a scrappy St. Francis team.
Penn State led after a sloppy first half, which included 11 turnovers by both teams. St. Francis came out firing in the second half with three baskets from behind the arc in the first four minutes to make it 31-30, but Frazier halted their run and allowed the Lions to take back momentum.
The Lions continued to battle with the Red Flash, until Frazier found senior Nick Collela in the corner to knock down a three, making it 51-47. A little more than a minute later, redshirt junior Jermaine Marshall hit another three to give Penn State some breathing room and make the score 56-47. Newbill iced things for the Lions, hitting a baseline jumper with three minutes remaining to make it 60-49.
Sophomore Ross Travis helped to create opportunities for the Lions with 10 points and nine rebounds. His five offensive boards allowed for several second chance points.
“They were huge because when you're not shooting the ball well and you're not making the threes to get another opportunity because they ran the clock down,” Chambers said. “They were trying to wear us down, which was good because it shows our conditioning is there. But for him to get us extra possessions, extra chances, extra shots, it was really big for our team.”
Frazier led the way for the Lions with 23 points on 3-of-9 shooting, as well as six assists. Though the point guard struggled from the field, he was able to attack the basket constantly and draw fouls. Frazier shot a superb 17-18 from the free throw line.
In his first game in a Lions uniform redshirt sophomore D.J. Newbill also stepped up from the line despite shooing woes. The transfer student put up 16 points and seven rebounds going 3-of-10 from the field but 9-10 on free throws.
“Those are two really good guards, and two of the better players we'll see all year,” St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said. “We knew it couldn't be a one-man show and we tried to provide help for whoever was guarding those guys. A few times on some of the ball screens we probably got too aggressive and put Tim on the free throw line, where obviously with 17-of-18 he's pretty good.”
Even with the shooting problems and 17 turnovers in the game Chambers stressed the fact that this was the first game of the season for his team.
I think our guys were a little nervous for the first game of the year,” Chambers said. “It is a learning experience and only game one. We are going to watch film tomorrow. We will get better and better for the next contest.”