Nittany Lions dominant in exhibition opener

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Pat Chambers’ Nittany Lions struggled in the first half before pulling away for a 25-point victory. (Photo: OnwardState.com)

Austin Lederman (@austinlederman)

After struggling for the majority of the first half, the Penn State Nittany outscored D-II Philadelphia University 33-14 in the second half to beat the Rams by a score of 79-54.

Tim Frazier showed why he was selected as a preseason All-Big Ten player, leading the Nittany Lions with 17 points.  Frazier only scored five points in the second half but did a much better job of setting up his teammates, and ended up with eight assists on for the game. He also finished with five rebounds and a steal.

“We just played Penn State basketball,” Frazier said in reference to the 15-0 run to close the first half, which catapulted the Nittany Lions to victory. “When we play Penn State basketball we’re a very special team. We play gritty, we play hard, smart together, run our offense and it really starts on the defensive end.

Sophomore Jon Graham had a huge game for the Nittany Lions as well, going for 16 points (6-of-8 FG, 4-of-6 FT) and seven rebounds–five offensive–in only 19 minutes of action.

“I let the game come to me,” Graham said. “Just take opportunities when I see them and finish around the basket like I’m supposed to.”

Also chipping in for the Nittany Lions was Southern Mississippi transfer guard D.J. Newbill, who scored 15 points, dished out three assists and collected two rebounds. Sophomore forward Ross Travis played with a lot of energy and scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds, and stole the ball 3 times.

The Nittany Lions honored Philadelphia University head coach Herb Magee, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history. With 941 victories, Magee was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. His squad struggled mightily in the second half, only scoring 9 field goals. The Rams shot 38.8 percent (19-of-49) from the field and 18.2 percent (4-of-22) from beyond the arc. They also had trouble controlling the ball, coughing it up 18 times, which led to 25 points for the Nittany Lions.

The Rams were led by 6-foot-10 transfer Peter Alexis, who played for the Nittany Lions last year. He played the entire game and finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds on a very efficient night (7-of-11 FG). Senior captain Jim Connolly struggled from the field shooting 3-of-12 (2-of-10 3PT) and ended up with 11 points, eventually fouling out of the game.

“They’re not used to seeing that overall size and pressure,” Magee said. “Connolly had to score and he didn’t.  He had a terrible game and so did (Nick) Schlitzer.  They’re our two leading scorers.”

Schlitzer, a sophomore guard, shot 3-of-10 from the field for seven points. Guard Andre Gibbs shot 3-of-7 from the field for 11 points.

The Rams were without freshman guard Derek Johnson, who scored 14 points in the Rams’ exhibition loss against James Madison 77-69.

“Our best kid is out with a broken hand and that’s no excuse,” Magee said, “but it is an excuse because with him on the floor, he’s gonna get like 18, 19 points for us.”

After shooting a putrid 18.2 percent (2-of-11) from beyond the three-point line and 41.2 percent (14-of-34) from the field in the first half, the Nittany Lions got its shooting percentage up to 47.6 percent (30-63) and slightly improved their three point shooting to 27.3 percent (6-of-22).

“You know what, we’ve been shooting a ton,” Chambers said in relation to his team’s poor 3-point shooting. “I’m really, really surprised that we didn’t shoot the ball better.  We’ll continue to work on it. I think we got good shooters. Ross Travis has worked hard, Tim’s worked hard, Jermaine has worked hard. Those guys are getting shots up often. It is a concern because usually the team that makes the most threes wins, so we gotta do a better job of more open, in rhythm jump shots.”

The Nittany Lions controlled the glass, outrebounding the Rams 37-27 (16-9 offensive) and outscored the Rams 38-16 in the paint.

Penn State will open the regular season against St. Francis (Pa.) on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.

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