It wasn’t pretty, but the Penn State men’s basketball team managed to pull out a 65-58 win in its season opener against St. Francis University.
The Lions’ shooting ability has been in question since the preseason and proved to be an issue as they went on to shoot 3-of-24 from three-point land.
“We always prepare for nights like this,” coach Pat Chambers said. “I think our guys were a little nervous first game of the year, had a little butterflies. I hope it doesn’t happen often. We need to be able to not make shots and continue to play hard.”
Senior Tim 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 penetrate through the St. Francis defense time and time again and draw fouls. Frazier shot 17-18 from the free throw line.
Redshirt sophomore D.J. Newbill had a solid performance in his first game as a Lion. The transfer student put up 16 points and seven rebounds. Newbill also had an off shooting night, hitting 3-of-10, but was productive from the line going 9-10 on free throws.
“When you’re not making shots you got to figure out what you’re doing well,” Chambers said. “At halftime I’m seeing that we’re shooting good free throws, so I just told them to drive the basketball.”
The first half was a defensive struggle, ending 26-20 Penn State. Both teams gave up 11 turnovers in the half. St. Francis was able to take advantage of a struggling Penn State offense early in the second half hitting three three-pointers in the first four minutes to take a 31-30 lead.
With the game starting to slip for Penn State, Frazier took over, hitting a runner in the line, followed by a steal and an and-one finish on a fast break for a one man 5-0 run.
The teams continued to battle back and forth until Frazier found senior Nick Collela in the corner to knock down a three, making it 51-47. A little over a minute later, redshirt junior Jermaine Marshall hit a three of his own to create some separation putting the Lions up 56-47. Newbill iced things for the Lions hitting a baseline jumper with three minutes remaining to make it 60-49.
“This year we have a different mentality that we’re never out of games, keep a great attitude, keep grinding and keep making plays” Chambers said. ”They took the lead they went up and we came right back down we had a couple good possessions and got to the free throw line again.”
The Lions were able to create numerous second-chance opportunities with 13 offensive rebounds. Sophomore Ross Travis led the charge pulling in nine boards including five offensive.
“The second chance opportunities were huge, when you’re not shooting the ball well and you’re not making threes to get an extra opportunity to get us extra chances and extra shots, it was really big for our team,” Chambers said.
The Lions will resume action Thursday as travel to San Juan to take on NC State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament.