UNIVERSITY PARK — With central Pennsylvania air back in the team’s lungs, Penn State got a chance to rest and reflect after a five-day stretch in which the team played a total of three games in Brooklyn and Pittsburgh.
The Nittany Lions, however, dropped their last two contests, and will make their first home appearance in 11 games when they host Marshall at 4 p.m. this afternoon in the Bryce Jordan Center.
Penn State — like in every game this season — had second-half leads in losses to both Ole Miss in the final of the Barclays Center Classic, and at in-state rival Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center. But the Lions failed to make crucial plays late, and is 6-3 on the season.
“We’re really close to being 8-1,” coach Patrick Chambers said. “A couple of possessions here and there, a couple stops, a couple defensive rebounds, being in better positions. Just little things. …Those little plays, we have to clean up and we have to finish games. You’re up one at Pitt, finish the game. Up seven against Ole Miss in the second half, a lot of time to go, but you still need to methodically get it done.”
Penn State had a two-point advantage at halftime against the undefeated Panthers, and stretched the advantage to as much as five in the final 20 minutes. However, fouls plagued the Lions as their trio of starting big men (Donovon Jack, Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor) combined for 12 fouls, compared to 14 points.
Fueled by free throws, Pittsburgh went on a 14-5 run to put the game, which was Penn State’s fifth in 10 days, out of reach.
“They had fresh legs, we looked like we wore down a little bit, got a little tired at the end there,” Chambers said after the loss. “Probably poor scheduling by me.”
While the frontcourt had its struggles on Tuesday, guards Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill delivered, as usual. The duo went off for 45 points on 15-of-30 shooting, and one month into the season, Frazier and Newbill are the top two scorers in the Big Ten, averaging 19.4 and 19.3 points per game, respectively.
Frazier also leads the conference in assists, as he dishes out seven per game, and Newbill’s 6.7 rebounds per game are second on the team and 11th in the Big Ten. The tandem is 1-2 in another conference stat category, but it’s one Chambers may like seeing change before the team begins Big Ten play at the end of the month.
Newbill averages 36.2 minutes per game, the most in the Big Ten, and Frazier is right behind him, as he is on the court for 35 minutes. The Lions have three games in the next eight days, but then play just one game in a 16-day span before Michigan State visits Happy Valley on New Year’s Eve.
First things first, Penn State will play a Thundering Herd squad that is 4-4 on the season, but 0-3 on the road, and fell by two points at Vanderbilt on Thursday night.
Frazier will see a lot of freshman point guard Kareem Canty, who scored 17.1 points and hands out 6.9 assists per game. Forward Elijah Pittman leads Marshall with 22.9 points per game, and coach Tom Herrion’s side is 20th in the nation in scoring (85.8 points per game).
“They remind me of the last three teams we played, especially Ole Miss,” Chambers said of Marshall. “They have talent, they’re long, athletic, they have a good point guard. They have a big-time four man. Another big challenge, that’s what we wanted in this nonconference.”