Coming off a tough two-point loss, Penn State coach Patrick Chambers found a silver lining in the form of 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman forward Julian Moore.
Moore had scored 21 points in 20 games before Saturday’s game against Illinois.
The big man paced the Nittany Lions with eight points in the first half and finished with a career-high 10 in the 60-58 setback.
“Julian Moore, man, wasn’t that awesome?” Chambers said Monday.
Chambers expressed excitement at seeing a handful of young players develop into trusted contributors rather than focusing on the team’s seventh loss in the Big Ten. Moore’s impressive day was on Chambers’ mind as he spoke enthusiastically about getting back to work ahead of Penn State’s matchup at Maryland at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
While freshman guard Shep Garner and sophomore guard Geno Thorpe have been crucial pieces for Penn State (14-8, 2-7) since November, Moore played sparingly until he logged 22 minutes against Rutgers just more than a week ago.
“He was patient,” Chambers said. “No phone calls. No people calling me. Nothing. He was patient and he earned his way onto the floor.”
He did it by making strides at practice.
Chambers said he noticed a difference in Moore from late December to the first few weeks of January.
“You could see him starting to slow down,” Chambers said. “Things were coming to him a little bit easier. He’s really starting to finish strong, and he played hard. We have this attitude club, we keep stats in practice. He was in the top three for like six or seven straight days, just getting after it, just leaving it out there.”
Moore grabbed five rebounds in a season-high 22 minutes during the Nittany Lions’ 79-51 win over Rutgers. He then scored consecutive buckets in a 39-second span against Minnesota last Wednesday, knocking down a deep jumper and finishing down low, but he picked up two fouls in one second to limit his playing time.
After the game, Chambers sensed Moore was on the verge of breaking out.
He lived up to his coach’s words against Illinois.
Moore finished a putback slam and hit a pair of free throws with more than nine minutes left in the first half. He checked back in just before D.J. Newbill went to the bench with his second foul with 6:20 to play.
Moore showed a soft touch on two hook shots that kept Penn State within four points at the break.
“We were just waiting for him to get more game experience,” Newbill said. “And I think it’s paying off for him that he’s been working extremely hard.”
Moore, who was out sick from practice Monday, provides Chambers with another option at power forward.
And he’s another high-energy player coming off the bench.
“He’s got so much talent and potential,” Penn State center Jordan Dickerson said. “He’s a really good player. He gives that spark.”
Taylor back to practice
Brandon Taylor practiced Monday with a brace on his right knee.
Taylor has missed the last two games due to the knee injury suffered against Rutgers on Jan. 24. The starting forward is second on the team in scoring with 9.9 points per game.
“We’ll see how he responds to going up and down and cutting and running and doing some things like that,” Chambers said with two days until the Nittany Lions meet the Terrapins.
Dickerson providing lift
Dickerson has asked himself recently how he can help his team.
The 7-foot-1 center has appeared to find answers as he’s put together two straight productive games for Penn State.
“You play the game and you figure you’re playing as hard as you can, but you always go back and think about what you could have did more,” Dickerson said. “And I’ve looked myself in the mirror these past couple of games and weeks and trying to figure out how I can just, you know, better myself so we can be a better team.”
Dickerson scored six points — his season-high — against both Minnesota and Illinois. He recorded three blocks and three rebounds in 16 minutes in the win over the Golden Gophers, and he had three blocks and six rebounds in 24 minutes in the loss to the Fighting Illini.
The center said he focuses on small goals during games to stay at his best.
“I always tell myself I got to get this done,” Dickerson said. “I like to make little milestones, like if I’m in the game and I only have like one or two rebounds, I’m like, ‘Oh, I got to get to four,’ and these kind of increments.”
And Dickerson realizes the Nittany Lions need his production to be successful.
Said Dickerson: “The better I am, the better we are.”
Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee is one win away from 1,000 for his career.
“That’s just incredible, isn’t it?” said Chambers, who played for Magee from 1990-94. “I mean, think about it. He’s been doing it for 48 years. Are you kidding me? I’m in my year four. Look at me, look at him. Holy cow, the guy looks great. It just shows loyalty. It shows commitment from him, the university. He could have left, but he was smart. He didn’t mess with happy.”
Chambers started his career at NCAA Division II Philadelphia as a walk-on and left as the school’s all-time leader in assists. Chambers said he vacations with Magee, who still influences how he coaches at Penn State. Magee has been Philadelphia’s coach since 1967 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
Magee can join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who hit the milestone just over a week ago, as the only NCAA men’s basketball coaches with 1,000 wins when Philadelphia takes on Wilmington (Del.) on Tuesday night.
“He impacted me in so many different ways, gave me a scholarship, started me,” Chambers said. “When people didn’t believe in me, he did. And then when I was done and looking to get into coaching — because of his connections, because of who he is — he helped me get the job at Villanova.
“He’s an incredible guy, a big-time father figure for me.”