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November 23, 2012With his team trailing 22-16 to visiting Bucknell on Friday afternoon, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said he went with his best Knute Rockne impersonation.
Having just gone out and shot a paltry 16.1 percent from the floor (5-of-31), his Nittany Lions needed to know the game plan for the second half.
"Keep shooting," Chambers told them.
His approach worked.
Hitting as high as 70 percent of their shots late in the game, the Nittany Lions finished with a 65.4 percent clip in the second half and topped certain NCAA Tournament team Bucknell in front of 7,713 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center.
"We practice every day for not making shots," Chambers said. "It's the way we play, and that's why our practice team, our starters are always in the dark jersey. We always simulate that we're on the road, and sometimes it works for home, too.
"I just thought our kids played hard. That's a great team. They're going to be an NCAA Tournament team, no question. And our kids played hard. That's the bottom line. They didn't let missing shots or turning the ball over affect their effort. We're headed in the right direction."
Playing their first game without senior star point guard Tim Frazier, who will miss the entire season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, the Nittany Lions needed to find help in previously unknown places.
True freshman forward Brandon Taylor's 8-point first half led the Nittany Lions while guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall struggled to a combined 1-for-13 shooting.
According to Newbill, the shooting woes were simply on account of missing open opportunities.
"We just gotta stay in the gym and keep getting up shots. Eventually, they're going to fall," he said. "We were getting good looks. We were getting wide open jump shots, wide open threes, and midrange pull-ups. It just wasn't our night first half."
Of course, the second half was a much different story.
A Taylor 3-pointer opened the half to cut Bucknell's lead to three, and by the 12 minute, 17 second mark in the second half, Marshall sank two free throws to send the game to its first tie, 34-34.
The Nittany Lions kept scrapping, with wing Ross Travis chipping in with critical rebounds and made layups and a wide open nailed 3-pointer to give Penn State a 48-41 lead with 6:26 left to play.
Said Chambers, "That drive, bigtime play. That three, huge.
"He's one of the hardest working guys on this team. If he's not in his room, he's shooting. If he's not in class, he's shooting. He wants to be a great player, and he did some real good things."
Travis finished with nine points, eight rebounds and no turnovers alongside Marshall's game-high 17, Taylor's 16, and Newbill's 10 points and seven rebounds - all of which came without the help of Frazier for an entire game the first time this season. According to Chambers, it's a result and effort Penn State fans should grow accustomed to this season regardless of the dire prognostications following Frazier's injury.
"I think you see the direction we're headed in. These kids believe in one another. They have faith in one another, where I think all around us, everybody wanted to mail it in," he said. "We didn't feel that way. We felt like we can compete, we can play, and I was really proud of their approach to practice the last three days to this game.
"They didn't let the distractions of the outside bother them. They just said, 'You know what coach, we're going to play Penn State basketball. We're going to play hard, and we'll see what happens.'
"The results look pretty good."
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