Senior night wouldn't have been complete for the Penn State men's basketball team without exorcising some past demons.
With senior point guard Tim Frazier hitting one of a pair of free throws with 7 seconds left to play, the Nittany Lions closed out - albeit tenuously - a 65-63 win against the No. 20-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at the Bryce Jordan Center. The win completed a season sweep against the Nittany Lions' neighbors while bringing many of the 8,736 fans onto the hardwood to celebrate.
"It was very emotional. It was an emotional game," said Frazier. "My games are coming down to an end here, and for the game to happen the way it happened tonight was very special for me."
Led by 23 points from junior guard D.J. Newbill, the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes battled in a physical contest that saw a combined 48 personal fouls called between the two teams.
Not until the Nittany Lions overcame an early double-digit deficit, though.
Trailing the Buckeyes by 11 points at the 8:54 mark in the first half, the Nittany Lions were able to cut the deficit to just 2 points at the halftime break, 28-26. With senior point guard Aaron Craft on the bench with two fouls for the overwhelming majority of the first half, playing just 4 minutes after picking up his second foul early, the Nittany Lions were able to claw back.
"He was rolling tonight. In some ways, that was the first half," said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. "That was huge."
Though the Buckeyes were able to retake a 7 point lead in the early moments of the second half, a Penn State 7-0 run tied the game at 33-33 with 17:05 left to play. Trading buckets for the next few minutes, the Nittany Lions finally put broke out for a 47-42 lead with 9:06 remaining, again aided by a run of 7 straight points from Newbill.
Plagued by an inability to close out wins when leading late in games for much of this season, the NIttany Lions took a 50-49 lead at the 6:38 mark and, though there was a pair of missed Ross Travis free throws and inopportune turnovers down the stretch, wouldn't relinquish it.
Seeing his Nittany Lions fight through a potential year-end doldrum to climb into a ninth-place tie in the conference following the win, Chambers said he was proud of his team.
"We could have mailed it in," he said. "4-10, we got beat pretty bad the last two games, these guys really competed and I'm really proud of them."
The Nittany Lions return to action Sunday afternoon for a noon tip against No. 14-ranked Wisconsin. The game will be televised on the BTN.