UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers, the Nittany Lions are 1-0 following an 86-75 win against Campbell in the 2017-18 season opener.
"We had some unusual lineups out there, but for the most part, we're 1-0," Chambers said. "We're 1-0 and I'm going to take a lot of positives from it."
Among the positives, Chambers was most pleased with the defensive effort, noting the Nittany Lions were able to execute defensively for 30 minutes, needing just 10 more minutes in the future.
Although Campbell's Chris Clemons finished with 39 points, his shooting ability wasn't anything the Nittany Lions weren't prepared for.
"I knew it was going to be a hard game and I knew the way they played at the end of last year," Chambers said. "I knew all about Clemons. He reminds me a lot of Allen Iverson, just a guy that can score and get to the free throw line. I knew he would be able to try and keep his team in it."
While Penn State committed just three turnovers in the first half, it struggled to build its lead to more than five points for most of the opening frame.
With 5:24 remaining in the first half, Lamar Stevens drained his first 3-pointer of the game to spark some momentum. Less than two minutes later, Shep Garner connected on his first triple to give Penn State its then-largest lead of the opening half, 28-22.
Campbell cut the advantage to four before Jamari Wheeler drove through traffic for layup to bring the Nittany Lions back up by six, 30-24, with fewer than four minutes in the first half.
Building on the advantage, Julian Moore dropped in a pair of free throws to send Penn State ahead by as many as eight before a Tony Carr jumper sent the Nittany Lions into the locker room leading 36-28.
Penn State shot out to the second half and built on the advantage to as many as 17 points.
Campbell quickly responded with a 14-4 run, but Carr broke it up with a 3-pointer, before completing the and-1 to bring Penn State ahead, 67-5, with less than 5:30 remaining in the game.
"He made big buckets, and he made some great passes too that put us in position to be successful, which is great," Chambers said. "He showed some leadership. You could see he was disappointed they had made a run on us, and he wasn't going to let us lose this game. He was going to come out and compete, and he did that. He took it on his shoulders."
Campbell arrived no closer than five as Carr finished just shy of a triple double with a career-high 33 points in addition to nine rebounds and seven assists.
"I just try to make the best plays for my team, whether that's shooting or passing or diving on the floor, doing anything," Carr said. "I just try to do what my team needs of me, and at that point in time, it was just to score the basketball. I just wanted to have a scoring mindset down the stretch and lead us to the win."
Penn State saw a few new faces on the court with true freshmen Jamari Wheeler and John Harrar both contributing.
"That's a freshman playing his 15 minutes," Chamber said reflecting on Wheeler's performance. "He had some excellent finishes. I mean he went up that guy's chest, he walled up, and he still finished. That's what he's capable of doing. He took a really good opening three. Jamari definitely brings that spark off the bench, that toughness that we need. He's going to really bring pace to our team.
Penn State has a quick turnaround, returning to action Sunday against Fairleigh Dickinson at 5 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.