The cameras were trained on Tim Frazier as he stretched in the hour leading up to the opening tip.
Lenses remained focused on Penn State’s star guard during the national anthem. And they surrounded him again as he gave a postgame interview amid the chaos of a court-storming celebration on the Bryce Jordan Center floor.
Thursday night, Penn State’s senior night, was all about Frazier. His family walked onto the court during the pregame ceremonies, and the fans cheered him for all he’s accomplished leading the program in the last five years.
But the Nittany Lions upset No. 22 Ohio State 65-63 thanks to contributions from their role players surrounding Frazier and D.J. Newbill. Frazier finished with 16 points and Newbill scored a game-high 23 as the Lions lone scorers in double figures. But Penn State closed out the victory late behind big plays by freshman guard Geno Thorpe and sophomores Brandon Taylor and Donovon Jack.
“This was definitely a team effort,” Newbill said. “Everybody contributed major. That was like the deciding factor today. Everyone chipped in. Everyone did their job as coach said everyone did their job.”
Penn State (14-14, 5-10) fell behind the Buckeyes (22-7, 9-7) early as Frazier tried to play through the emotions of senior night.
Frazier air balled his first shot attempt from beyond the arc and committed two turnovers in the opening minutes. Graham Woodward checked in for Frazier just more than six minutes into the game to give him a chance to relax.
“I’m telling myself to settle down but it’s not happening, and I kind of made a look over to coach and we made a little eye contact and he had to take me out, settle me down,” Frazier said. “That’s all part of the game. I got to trust in my teammates when they come in, they run the show and take care of the ball, and Graham did that and Geno did as well.”
Woodward drilled a 3-pointer to pull Penn State within 15-9, and Frazier reentered play for Ross Travis after just more than a minute on the bench.
The Lions trailed 22-11 with 8:54 remaining in the first half. But Penn State trailed just 28-26 at the break after closing the half on a 15-6 run.
Penn State used a 7-0 run to tie the game at 33-33 at the start of the second half, and Taylor drilled his only shot of the game, a 3-pointer, to give the Lions a 36-35 lead with 15:15 left.
“Brandon Taylor, I know he didn’t shoot the ball well, but he hits a big 3, gets seven rebounds,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said as he emphasized the importance of team’s role players in the win.
Penn State never trailed after Taylor’s 3, but the Buckeyes remained within one possession for much of the final 15 minutes.
And the Lions needed plenty of big plays to hold them off.
Thorpe came through with perhaps the most impressive play down the stretch. The freshman guard, who finished with nine points, used his quick hands to come up with a steal at the top of the key and raced down the floor for an emphatic right-handed jam to push Penn State ahead 52-49 with 6:04 to play.
“That was huge,” Chambers said. “Geno Thorpe, steal, dunk. I mean he made some big-time plays. He drives the ball so tough and physical, he doesn’t mind the contact. I mean they were big-time plays.”
Newbill knocked down a 3-pointer to extend the lead to four points. And after a Frazier turnover and Sam Thompson layup pulled Ohio State within 57-55 with more than two minutes to play, Jack came through in the low post.
The 6-foot-9 forward backed down Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross and finished through contact. His free throw gave the Lions a 60-55 lead with 1:59 to play.
“What a big-time move that was to get an and-one and then make the free throw,” Chambers said. “Just little plays like that can really help a team with their confidence. So we need contributions from everyone.
“Look, we lose together as a unit and we win together as a unit, and those guys know that. Tim and D.J. get the glory, no question. But they understand that they need all these guys.”
Ohio State had a chance to win the game with 15 seconds left, but Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s three missed. And after a Frazier free throw, Smith missed another open look from three in the final seconds.
Frazier secured the rebound. And the fans streamed onto the floor to cap an emotional day for the star guard.
“It was an emotional game,” Frazier said. “My games are coming down to an end here. I’ve had a great career and just for it to happen the way it happened tonight with a win, it was very special to me.”