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December 7, 2012Penn State put together one of its best halves of the season Wednesday night against La Salle in Philadelphia.
The problem, of course, was that it wasn't enough and, more important, didn't last, as the Explorers went on to decimate the Nittany Lions in an 82-57 blowout at the Palestra.
Saturday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center, the first half offered much of the same as the Nittany Lions bounced to a 40-28 lead at the half on the back of 56.3 percent shooting from the floor as a team and 20 combined points from Ross Travis and Jermaine Marshall.
"I just think guys are finding their flow," redshirt sophomore guard D.J. Newbill said. "We had some shooting days at practice this week where we just got up shots and worked on our habits. This morning, we all got up a lot of shots in walk-throughs and I think it transferred over to the game, so that's a positive on our end."
This time, though, the flow didn't disappear in the second half.
Struggling through a rotation of primarily seven players, the Nittany Lions allowed Army to get back in it, finding their 10 point lead dip to just 2 after Black Knight guard Kyle Wilson dumped a layup at the 12 minute mark in the second half. Penn State's Nick Colella responded, though, nailing a deep 3-pointer on the other end to boost the lead back to five points.
Said head coach Patrick Chambers, "It was a big shot for that kid at a crucial point in the game.
"Nobody works harder than Colella. He is in the gym as early as I'm in the office, and he's in there shooting. I look down, the ball bounces, and it's him shooting. He wants to be a great player, he wants to make shots, he plays so hard. It was great to see him make those shots."
According to Chambers, without star senior point guard Tim Frazier and his 40 minutes a game, the Nittany Lions are struggling to stay fresh on both ends of the floor through the entirety of the game, hence some of the second half letdowns the team has experienced the past few weeks.
In fact, for the first time in Chambers' recollection, he'd used all of his team's timeout in the second half before the 6-minute mark.
"It's challenging," he acknowledged. "Every team is going to press us and then you're asking them to play hard on the defensive end. It's almost like something's gotta give.
"For whatever reason, we look like we're tired. And then we find it again when we dig a little deeper. We need some consistency, and we need to go a little deeper on the bench."
Saturday afternoon, Chambers got it, as his Nittany Lions featured four scoring in double-figures for the first time on the season. Newbill's 19 led the way, with 16 points added by Marshall and a pair of 14-point performances by freshman Brandon Taylor and Travis.
The Nittany Lions will now play just three games in the span of the next three weeks before opening the Big Ten conference slate against Wisconsin on January 3.
"You just had a crazy stretch," he said. "Now we have some time off and give them a couple of days to get their minds and bodies right. It's a big concern.
"Hopefully you continue to get better. It's a win, regardless of how I feel, it's a win and we'll take it. Again, nobody thought we'd win a game, we just won three, so there's some positive right there."
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