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November 3, 2013

Lions find balance in exhibition rout

Trailing Northwood University, 11-2, more than two minutes into the Nittany Lions' first and only exhibition of the 2013-14 season, Penn State men's basketball head coach Patrick Chambers called timeout.

No more than 40 feet from one of his boyhood coaching idols, former Villanova coach and current Hall of Famer Rollie Massimino, Chambers wanted to see his "jacked up" team respond in front of the friendly Bryce Jordan Center crowd.

"Northwood jumped us. They're a well-coached team. Those kids were ready to go and I give coach Massimino a lot of credit, but I was proud of our guys," Chambers said. "They responded well. I think in years past, we might have got a little nervous, got a little worried there, but when we called that timeout, I just told them to relax, exhale."

They did exactly that.

By the 8 minute, 32 second mark in the first half, Penn State had taken a commanding lead following a 28-3 run capped by a dunk from leading scorer Ross Travis (17 points). Though Massimino's Seahawks would regain their composure and head to the locker room trailing 52-30, Chambers' Nittany Lions shot an outstanding 47 percent from the floor and nearly 45 percent from beyond-the-arc to pull away for a 98-61 win.

Said Massimino, "They're extremely well coached and (Chambers) seems like he really, really has a handle, after two years of trying to prepare for a season like this, not to win the national championship, but they're certainly going to be very, very competitive. Their response to being down 11-2 was amazing. They shot terrific from three-point range and they offensive rebounded extremely well."

In fact, in an area that Chambers was frequently questioned about leading up to the season, Penn State's 43-24 edge in rebounding against an athletic Northwood team prompted a little early-season banter between the Nittany Lions' third-year head coach and the media.

Nearly 6 minutes into his post-game press conference, Chambers highlighted some of the strengths and weaknesses of his team's performance, eventually landing on the very lopsided rebounding numbers that included a 17-5 edge on the offensive boards, thanks in part to four boards each from Travis and sophomore center Donovan Jack (10 points, 7 rebounds).

"They only got five offensive rebounds. Nobody is going to ask me about rebounds, ehh?" Chambers asked with a smile. "That's been the big concern in the preseason here, and that's a team that plays hard and they send four guys to the glass. So, it was really good to see that our points of emphasis are starting to come through."

The other points, a "solid, forty-minute basketball game" also came through, with no Nittany Lion eclipsing 28 minutes played as the likes of newcomers Graham Woodward (11 points), Geno Thorpe (7 points), and senior transfer Allen Roberts (11 points, 7 rebounds) contributed on both ends of the floor.

Meanwhile, the healthy return of senior point guard Tim Frazier (11 points, 6 assists) and his pairing with redshirt junior guard D.J. Newbill (11 points) brought a preview of what Chambers expects to be a strong combination in the Lions' backcourt throughout the season.

"I said this the other day - he got mad at me - but I'm going to say it again. He's going to be a little rusty," Chambers said. "He's getting used to a whole new team, playing alongside D.J. and Ross, and these guys are more talented than they were the past two years. So, to instill that faith and trust and have him comfortable out there, I think that's what you saw in the first half.

"Try to let things come to him and make plays for others, which was great, and in the second half, make plays for himself. There's gotta be a happy medium, and I think he found that."

The Nittany Lions return to the BJC floor Saturday at 4 p.m. against Wagner.




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