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Nittany Lions Prepping for Final Non-Conference Stretch

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Off to the program's best start since the 1995-'96 season, the Nittany Lion basketball team (10-1) is focused on finishing the non-conference portion of the schedule in a positive manner.

Penn State will begin its final two-game stretch before the Big Ten opener (Dec. 31 at Wisconsin) against Drexel (2-7) on Saturday inside Allentown's PPL Center (2 p.m.). The Lions will then closeout the non-conference slate at home on Monday against Dartmouth (4 p.m.).

After knocking off George Washington last Sunday (64-51), the Nittany Lions were off during final exams week. The team shot around in the gym on Wednesday before a full practice on Thursday. Thanks to it's 10-1 start, Penn State received votes in the Associated Press poll this week. While it's great news for the direction the team is headed, head coach Patrick Chambers is not focused on anything but getting better this week. The Lions know they still have plenty of work to do.

"We are in unfamiliar water right now," Chambers said. "The great thing is, though, our staff has been there before. We can continue to keep them humble and hungry and stay on task of getting better...They know about the Top 25 stuff. They know about the projections of the NCAA Tournament. They see all that stuff. But we've got to say, hey man, it's December 18th. That stuff really doesn't mean much right now. It's great for the fans, great for the University and great for recruiting. There are a lot of positives, but we've got to stay on task and continue to get better."

Chambers highlighted how challenging the final two non-conference games usually are. Playing at a neutral site is never easy without the benefit of a homecourt advantage, and the final game of the non-conference slate is always up against the team's holiday break. Nonetheless, the Lions are focused at the task at hand and understand the importance of taking momentum into the Big Ten season.

"This week, (with more time) we can really get back to the drawing board and focus on making better habits," senior guard D.J. Newbill said. "Rebounding, some of our schemes, defending the basketball, cleaning up some of our offense, really it has been about working on everything."

After playing at Bucknell in November, the Lions will visit the Lehigh Valley on Saturday. During the past three seasons, the Lions have done their best to play games scattered across Pennsylvania, whether it be Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Chambers sees games in a variety of locations as way to energize the fan base across the state.

"I'm just trying to engage with the fan base," Chambers said. "I know we have a great alumni base in the Lehigh Valley, so it was a no-brainer to go down there. Students are going home (for break), so I thought it was a good time to do it...Moving around (the state) can only help (with awareness)."

Drexel enters Saturday's game on a three-game slide after dropping contests to University of Sciences (54-52), La Salle (65-55) and at Buffalo (80-70). Prior to the three-game skid, the Dragons tallied two-straight victories against Cornell (61-59) and Southern Mississippi (59-36).

Junior guard Damion Lee is Drexel's top offensive threat. Lee is the lone Dragon player averaging double-figures, but he has been superb thus far during the 2014-'15 season. Lee is averaging 20.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The scoring leader in the CAA, Lee has five 20-point games this season, including 32 markers against USC. As a team, the Dragons are averaging 56.7 points per game.

The Nittany Lions and Dragons will be meeting for the fifth time on Saturday afternoon. Penn State leads the all-time series, 4-0. The two teams have not met since the 1992-'93 season.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Taylor Sparks Nittany Lions' Win Over George Washington

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10626353.jpegBy Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It only took 24 seconds for Brandon Taylor to make his presence felt on Sunday afternoon.

Against George Washington, the Penn State forward wasted no time establishing himself on offense, hitting a jumper to give the Nittany Lions an early 2-0 lead. It was a sign of things to come for the junior.

In a game that Penn State dominated in multiple facets, Taylor played perhaps his best all-around game of the year, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds and two steals as the Lions beat the Colonials 64-51.

"BT made some great shots and made some great passes that put [George Washington] on their heals a little bit," Chambers said. "We did some good things and got the ball to the middle of the floor."

One of Penn State's best 3-point shooters, Taylor had an efficient day from behind the arc, going 3-for-6 from long distance. While it was his fourth game of the season hitting at least three 3-pointers, it was the first time he did it while also shooting 50 percent on those shots.

The only game this season in which the 6-foot-6, 235 pound forward finished with more points was Nov. 20 against Charlotte, when he finished with 19 in a double overtime contest. The eight boards also tied his second highest rebound total of the season.

After struggling with foul trouble and going 0-for-5 from the field during Penn State's 64-62 win over Duquesne on Wednesday, it was certainly a welcome performance for a player considered one of the Nittany Lions most important offensive weapons.

"It was definitely a good feeling to see some of my shots fall in," Taylor said. "As of late I haven't been shooting the ball as well as I'd like so it's definitely good to see the ball go through the hoop."

Much of Taylor's production came in the second half, when the Lions outscored the Colonials 30-23. After halftime, the Tabernacle, New Jersey, native had 12 points and seven rebounds while going 2-of-4 from three.

Still, Taylor really hit his stride at the second half's 13:15 mark, with the Lions holding on to a 42-39 lead following four consecutive George Washington points. The junior captain drilled two straight threes and scored 10 points during a 13-4 Penn State run that lasted just over six minutes.

While it was his sixth double-digit scoring effort of the season and his fourth game totaling at least eight rebounds, Taylor did more than just rack up stats.

Not only did his passing play a big part of Penn State's ball movement, he also opened up the floor for his teammates to score. The Lions starting guard tandem of D.J. Newbill and Shep Garner combined for 30 points and clearly benefitted from the extra attention that they Colonials were forced to pay to Taylor.

"[Taylor's shooting] helps a lot," Newbill said. "Once BT gets going from the outside, they gotta respect him. We stretch their defense out so we get driving lanes. So even when he doesn't have the ball it creates so much tension. I can remember one time after he hit a three, I drove, and they stayed with him and Shep got a wide open three so that helps us out a lot on offense."

After averaging 9.2 points and 4.9 rebounds as a sophomore, Taylor is now up to 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds after 11 games this season. More importantly though, the Nittany Lions have already won 10 games after it took them until Jan. 23 to reach double-digit victories last season.

Sunday's win was a perfect example of how good Penn State can be when each player fulfills his intended role. Along with Taylor's strong performance, the Lions got 20 points from their leading scorer in Newbill, 10 boards from top rebounder Ross Travis and six blocks from 7-foot-1 center Jordan Dickerson as they took down a George Washington squad coming off three consecutive wins.

"You know I think everybody of the team does understand their role," Taylor says. "I think that really helps us. Geno [Thorpe] knows that if he gets in the game to play defense. Payton [Banks] knows to get in and do the little things. I think everybody on the team is understanding of where they should be and what they should do on this team."

At 10-1, Penn State is off to its best start since the 1995-'96 season. Still, Chambers knows his team has plenty of things to work on with the start on Big Ten play less than a month away.

Chambers' goal for his team all season has been to see them play a complete 40-minute game. By holding the Colonials to 23 points and a 29 percent shooting performance in the second half, the fourth-year coach feels his team is almost there.

"We're getting there, we're definitely getting there," Chambers said. "I don't think we started the game off real well. GW brought the best out of us and once the game got level I really like what our team did."

2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. George Washington

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. Today, the Nittany Lions face George Washington in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Live Blog 2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. George Washington

Red-Hot Lions Looking Ahead to George Washington

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10620782.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It would be easy for Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers to bill Sunday's non-conference tilt as a benchmark for the team with the Big Ten slate looming on the calendar at the end of the month.

Off to the program's best start since 2000-'01 season, the Lions (9-1) enter the weekend at No. 43 in the NCAA RPI. Sunday's matchup (Noon on ESPN3) will pit the Lions against George Washington (6-2), which comes into the game at No. 45 in the RPI.

On paper, it has the makings of a pivotal clash in the big picture of the season, but that's not how the Chambers and the Nittany Lions approach each game on the schedule. The matchup is a big game because it is the next game. And it's another opportunity for Penn State to grow following a 64-62 win over Duquesne on Wednesday.

"We need to continue to get better, and we have," Chambers said. "The fact that we won the other night without three of our best players - Ross (Travis) having a sprained ankle, D.J. (Newbill) not playing well, BT (Brandon Taylor) not scoring - and we still found a way. That's progress in my world. That's encouraging. We have to continue to get better."

Chambers and the staff put great emphasis into the non-conference schedule as means to prepare the team for the rigors of the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions have faced a wide-range of styles and personnel during the first 10 games of the season, and Sunday's game is another chance to face a talented team.

"GW is a great opportunity for us. It's the next game on the schedule," Chambers said. "Our goal is to be the best team that we can be by the time we face Wisconsin. I think we are getting to that point. We are getting battle tested. There is no question about it. And GW will do that for us, as well."

The Colonials head to the Bryce Jordan Center on a three-game winning streak, which includes victories over Charlotte (78-70) and DePaul (81-68).

"I put them up with the Michigan's and Wisconsin's (in terms of style)," Chambers said. "Maybe they don't shoot threes as good as those two teams. The way they execute, the way they share the ball. It's a great opportunity to play a great team at home."

A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, George Washington played in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Lions are eager for the challenge to play against the type of team that will pay dividends when it comes to playing in the Big Ten.

"The A10 is a great league," Chambers said. "I've always admired the A10...It's a competitive league. I think they got six teams in the NCAA Tournament last year. Again, you've got GW coming in. It's going to be a battle. These are the type of games we need to continue to get better and strive for success and really see where we are once this non-conference slate is over."

George Washington and Penn State have met 31 times in a series that dates back to 1907. However, the two teams have not played since 1982. The Nittany Lions lead the all-time series, 19-11.

The Colonials are led by junior guard Patricio Garino, who lead the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game. Garino is shooting 60 percent from the field. He is one of four Colonial players averaging double-figures. George Washington is averaging 73.9 points per game and shooting 48 percent from the field.

Riding a seven-game winning streak, Chambers just wants to see a complete 40-minute performance from the Nittany Lions on Sunday.

"I just want to go out, and I want to compete," said Chambers. "If we compete, play Penn State Basketball and try to get 40 minutes - and we haven't seen that yet - we'll like the outcome. But until I feel like we are in that direction, we just need to continue to get better and work on our habits."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Thorpe and Jack Lead Strong Bench Effort Against Duquesne

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10618067.jpegBy Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Eight...not five.

All season long, that has been Penn State men's basketball coach Pat Chambers' response to how many starters his team has. With capable bench players like Donovon Jack, John Johnson and Geno Thorpe, Chambers feels the Nittany Lions lose very little firepower when he makes substitutions.

That was certainly the case Wednesday night against Duquesne. During a game in which the Dukes refused to go away, Jack and Thorpe proved to be two difference makers in a 64-62 Penn State win.

"I thought our bench was huge in this victory," Chambers said. "Geno Thorpe obviously and Donovon Jack. Payton Banks I thought gave us great minutes. Our bench...they were the key tonight."

In a game in which the Lions needed every point they could get, Jack and Thorpe both registered double-digit scoring efforts, with Thorpe leading the team with a career-high 19 points and Jack chipping in with 11.

More importantly, both players scored in clutch moments, particularly from the free throw line. In the game's final 4:55, the pair combined to go 8-for-8 from the charity strip as the Lions held off a late Duquesne rally.

Overall, Penn State's bench finished 18-for-23 from the line and contributed 35 of the teams 64 points. Thorpe, who attacked the basket at will all night, finished 11-of-14 on foul shots while Jack was an efficient 5-for-6.

"Finally made our free throws," Chambers said. "Free throws won us the game tonight. [Duquesne] played great defense give [head coach] Jimmy [Ferry] a lot of credit. Donovon Jack and Geno Thorpe down the stretch there, they were huge. And we needed every point."

Though other bench players like Banks also contributed, Wednesday was really a banner game for Thorpe, who surpassed his previous career best of 14 points from earlier this season against Charlotte.

Arguably the best defender on the team, the Pittsburgh native is known for his non-stop energy and hustle. Although he showed plenty of that against the Dukes, he also exhibited a tremendous amount of poise.

On one hand, the 6-foot-3 guard zipped around the court like usual, leaping above taller players to grab four rebounds and getting a key steal that led to a dunk and a 25-24 Penn State lead with 2:21 remaining in the first half.

At the same time, Thorpe also was composed enough to convert his free throws and score when it was needed the most. After four consecutive Duquesne free throws whittled a 58-53 Penn State lead to 58-57 with 2:30 left in the game, Thorpe calmly hit two shots from the line to give his team breathing room.

"Every time I [play] that kid he does something positive," Chambers said. "He was jacked up, he did a lot of good things, a lot of extra effort plays, winning plays, culture plays to help his team win. When our top scorers are struggling a little bit, it's refreshing to know we can go to different guys and they can step up and make plays and help our team be successful."

On a night in which leading scorer D.J. Newbill got off to a slow start before rallying down the stretch to finish with 11 points, Thorpe's production during his 28 minutes of playing time were irreplaceable.

After averaging just 3.2 points as a freshman and reaching double digits just once, Thorpe has already reached double figures five times this season and has raised his scoring average up to 9.2 after Wednesday. Chambers was so impressed by his play before halftime, the coach made the decision to start the guard in the second half.

"I just try to let the game come to me and I just try to make the smart play," Thorpe said. "I don't try to force anything and if I'm open I'm a shooter.

"It's a team effort and we all had to pick it up as a unit. We were all in the loop to start the half and we all had to pick it up, not just D.J."

As for Jack, the 6-foot-9 forward was limited to only 12 minutes because of foul trouble yet finished third on the team in scoring with his first double-digit effort of the season. Besides his clutch free throws, the junior scored seven points on 3-4 shooting in the first half.

"For whatever reason, Donovon Jack's been playing really well in practice, "Chambers said. "It's a shame he got into some foul trouble but his go-to moves and catches and going up strong, making his free throws. It was critical." 

Once again, the game came down to a last-second missed shot by Duquesne. Still, Chambers knows that if the Nittany Lions are going to take the next step as a program, learning to win close games is key.

"Those kids [at Duquesne] played really hard and tough," Chambers said. "It's not going to be pretty, it's going to be ugly and it's going to be close. Just get used to it." 

2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Duquesne

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. Tonight, the Nittany Lions face Duquesne in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Live Blog 2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Duquesne

VIDEO: Madison Square Garden Hockey & Hoops Announcement

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NEW YORK - Penn State fans will be in for a treat on Jan. 30, 2016 when the Nittany Lion men's hockey and basketball teams compete in a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden against Michigan.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany confirmed the hockey-hoops doubleheader announcement on Tuesday evening inside MSG. Additionally, the conference announced that the 2018 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament would be played in Madison Square Garden (Feb. 28-March 4).

Attendees at the press conference included ESPN's Jay Bilas and Andy Katz, ABC/ESPN's John Saunders and Big Ten hockey alums and current New York Rangers Carl Hagelin (Michigan) and Derek Stepan (Wisconsin).

Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour was in attendance at the press conference and was thrilled with the news for two of Penn State's teams.

"It has been a great day in New York, and I think this is a really exciting announcement for Penn State, Penn State Men's Basketball and Penn State Hockey," said Barbour. "Any time the Penn State nation has the opportunity to come to New York is always an exciting time. And the opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden is something I think our student-athletes will really enjoy, as will our community."

The marquee along 7th Avenue outside of Madison Square Garden was lit with Big Ten signage as the press conference took place. The Big Ten is thrilled to make a new home inside Madison Square Garden, and it will be an exciting opportunity for the approximately 32,000 Penn State alums in the New York City metro area to see Penn State teams in action at "The World's Most Famous Arena".


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Lions Looking to Extend Winning Streak at Home

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Off to its best start since the 2000-'01 Sweet 16 season, the Nittany Lion basketball team (8-1) returns home on Wednesday for its first of two-straight games in the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State and Duquesne (3-2) will tip at 9 p.m. (TV - BTN).

Thanks to a 73-69 victory at Marshall on Saturday, the Nittany Lions extended their winning streak to six-straight games, marking the longest active winning streak among all 14 Big Ten teams and the program's longest since the 2007-'08 season.

But head coach Patrick Chambers knows how long the season is, and he is just looking for the team to progress each time it steps on the floor.

"I feel like we have a lot of room for growth," Chambers said. "I think we have leadership and great veterans. And that's why you are winning games. And we are making plays in the last four minutes to have that 8-1 record. Through the course of a 40-minute game, though, there are still a lot of habits we need to work on."

Ranked fourth in the nation in scoring average, senior D.J. Newbill has been lights out for the Nittany Lions through the first nine games of the season. Newbill enters the Duquesne game averaging 23.3 points per game on 48.3 percent shooting from the field.

"The last couple games, he is getting so much attention," Chambers said. "You see he's getting a little frustrated, but he has held it together. He made a great pass to Donovon Jack late in that game. He made two big free throws. In the second half, he is letting the game come to him a little bit more. He's doing it all. He's making his pull-ups, his floaters, his threes. He's getting himself to the line...I don't think he's so caught up in scoring. I just think he wants to win basketball games."

The tandem of Brandon Taylor and John Johnson equaled Newbill's scoring output of 17 tallies in the win at Marshall. Like Coach Chambers has talked about throughout the season, Taylor and Johnson pacing the Lions illustrates the team's depth. Granted, Newbill has led or tied for the team lead in scoring in all nine games this season. But the senior guard has not been forced to carry the team's offensive output. Taylor and Johnson are two players growing in confidence by the game.

"He is maturing into a complete player," Chambers said of Taylor. "He's very comfortable now on the block. He hit two really nice floaters. A man of his size, he's really talented. BT plays with a lot of emotion, a lot of passion.

Penn State and Duquesne will meet for the 46th time on Wednesday night. In a series that dates back to 1924, Penn State owns a 26-19 edge. The series record includes a 16-4 Penn State record in games played in Happy Valley. The Lions have won two-straight games against the Dukes, including last season's 68-59 victory in Pittsburgh.

Duquesne is 3-2 on the season following a 76-62 setback to cross-town rival Pittsburgh. The Dukes entered the week ranked first nationally in 3-point field goal percentage (.458). The Dukes have shot north of 50 percent from the arc in three of the five games this season. Junior guard Derrick Colter leads the nation (through Sunday's games) in individual 3-point percentage (16-25, .640). Freshman forward TySean Powell began the week as the nation's leader in field goal percentage (26-34, .765). Colter and Powell are two of three Duquesne players averaging double-digits.

"It's an in-state rivalry game. It's always been a dogfight every time we play Jim Ferry's team," Chambers said. "He's a great coach. They are a lot better. I just watched some of the game versus Pitt. That was a battle. So I expect another hard fought down to the last four minutes type of game that hopefully we can find a way."

The Nittany Lions enter the contest 4-0 in games played in the Bryce Jordan Center this season.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Heading to Marshall on Saturday

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10602300.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the heels of a 61-58 win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday, the Nittany Lion basketball team again showed its poise down the stretch in a tight ballgame.

Heading into Saturday's 6 p.m. tilt at Marshall (3-4), Penn State (7-1) has played six-straight contests decided by eight points or fewer. The Lions have illustrated an ability to make plays, on both ends of the floor, when the game has been in doubt. It's a sign of maturity from a group that is no stranger to close games.

Penn State is 5-1 during the span of games decided by fewer than 10 points. Last year? The Lions went 10-11 in those games.

"We are confident, but I think that comes from the experiences we had last year," Chambers said. "We are confident in one another to make plays at the end. Our defense obviously saved us in some games. And then we've had different guys step up...I think our depth, our leadership, our ability to play different lineups can counter some of the adjustments opposing coaches and teams make. I do think it is a more confident, mentally tough bunch right now."

You can't pinpoint one player or one sequence during the six-game span as the main catalyst for Penn State's confidence in tight games. Granted D.J. Newbill has been the MVP for the Lions during the first three weeks of the season, but John Johnson has accounted for a host of huge plays, Ross Travis has been clutch, Shep Garner's free throw shooting has played a big role. And the list goes on.

But it all comes back to Penn State's depth, which is a topic Coach Chambers has been preaching since the team began practicing in October. The bench is deeper, and the Lions can rely on eight to 10 players to step into the rotation and produce.

"It feels good to be able to go to the bench, and the bench lifts us up," Chambers said.

Chambers said on Monday that he wanted to see more on defense and on the glass. The Lions answered the bell with a tremendous defensive performance against Virginia Tech, limiting the Hokies to 39 percent from the field. And thanks to 32 combined rebounds from the front line, the Lions out-rebounded Virginia Tech, 47-38.

Now, Chambers is looking for more ball movement on offense. The Nittany Lions had just four assists on 20 made field goal attempts against Virginia Tech.

"When you are really good, you are selfless on offense," Chambers said. "So we have to work on sharing the basketball and doing the little things to get easier shots. I thought we made it very difficult on ourselves against Virginia Tech...We need better balance on both ends."

Marshall enters the game looking to snap a four-game losing streak. The Thundering Herd has been off since Monday (L, 77-59 vs. South Carolina). Redshirt sophomore Ryan Taylor leads Marshall in scoring at 16.0 points per game. The Herd is averaging 68.6 points per game on offense and has allowed 67.7 points per game on defense.

Penn State and Marshall will collide for the seventh time (PSU is 6-0). The Nittany Lions topped the Herd, 90-77, on Dec. 7 last season.

"They had a week off, so they have been preparing for us for a week," said Chambers. "It's a Saturday at 6 o'clock, so my gut tells me there will be a lot of fans there. We have to be ready for a very difficult road game. Again, another close game down the stretch and hopefully we can find a way to come out on top."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Outmuscle Virginia Tech in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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10599027.jpegBy Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the days leading up to the Penn State men's basketball team's contest against Virginia Tech, head coach Patrick Chambers had a simple message for his players - focus on defense and rebounding.

While the Nittany Lions had held opponents to just 37 percent shooting during their 6-1 start, Chambers felt they could improve on the boards after averaging 39 rebounds to their opponents 37 in their first seven games.

Against the Hokies, the Lions' frontcourt had its best game of the season on the glass, outrebounding Virginia Tech 47-38 while gutting out a 61-58 win.

"I tell you what, in the second half, look at their statistics," Chambers said. "I feel like our [forwards] did a pretty good job. I felt like we did such a good job chesting them and walling up that they were missing those layups that they would have made in the first half. Very pleased with their effort."

Making the performance even more impressive was the number of Lions that contributed to that advantage. Four of the team's big men, forwards Donovon Jack (seven), Brandon Taylor (seven) and Ross Travis (10) and center Jordan Dickerson (eight) all grabbed at least seven rebounds.

For Travis, Penn State's leader in rebounds the past two seasons, the performance was expected. At the same time, it was encouraging for the 6-foot-7 forward to see his teammates give him the support he needed.

"It's huge man, it takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders," Travis said. "Coach is always telling me I have to get every rebound so it's nice to have some help, especially from the 7-footer (Dickerson) grabbing some boards."

Although Dickerson played only 16 minutes and scored just two points on one shot, the 7-foot-1 center consistently made his presence felt around the basket, grabbing six of his eight boards in the second half as the Lions outrebounded the Hokies 23-17 after the break.

For a player that has seen his role continue to expand since transferring from SMU prior to last season, it was a big step forward. Afterwards, Chambers said he was pleased with the junior, whose career high for rebounds entering the game was six.

"Defensively, really happy with Jordan Dickerson, he did some great things," Chambers said. "He had eight rebounds, that might be a career high."

Although he expects similar numbers from Travis, Chambers was still especially proud of the senior captain's effort. Travis scored six points in 27 minutes, but it was his six offensive rebounds that continuously helped the Lions keep their possessions going on a night in which they weren't having their best shooting game.

Those kinds of effort plays are what make Travis such an important player in Penn State's rotation. Though he may not be the most skilled guy on the roster, he brings an attitude and intensity to the court that the entire team feeds off of.

Apart from singling out Travis for his defense and rebounding, the fourth-year coach also praised him for two clutch shots he made in the first half, a 3-pointer and a putback between the 12:55 mark and the 10:22 mark that helped kick start the Lions' offense.

"He makes winning plays," Chambers said. "The tapback on the free throw line, I mean we couldn't find the bottom of the basket. He makes winning plays, he had 10 rebounds ... and his free throws are going to fall, nobody works harder than that kid. He's in the gym, he lives in the gym, he wants to be a great player and he wants to be on a winning team. You gotta let him play."

In a game that came down to a missed 3-pointer on the final possession by Virginia Tech guard Ahmed Hill, the Lions certainly weren't perfect. Still, they showed plenty of resolve by holding off a late Hokie rally to improve to 7-1 on the season.

From the 11:39 mark of the second half when Justin Bibbs hit a three, to the 5:49 mark when Bibbs finally added a pair of free throws, the Lions held the Hokies without a point. During that 5:50 stretch, the game changed from a 42-34 Virginia Tech lead to a 48-44 Penn State advantage.

"They're not pretty numbers by any stretch of the imagination. However, we find ways to win and good teams do that," Chambers said. "I think we're a good team but we haven't even scratched the surface of how good we could be."

There was one more thing that also made the game memorable. On a night in which the Nittany Lions wore pink-and-black uniforms for the second straight game to celebrate the school's original colors, the Bryce Jordan Center hosted a tremendous student crowd, which provided an excellent atmosphere for college basketball.

"What a great student section, man that fired me up," Chambers said. "I gotta give [marketing directors] LC (Loren Crispell) and Rob [Roselli] a lot of credit. That was outstanding. In my four years here that was the best crowd, the best student section I've seen. Penn State men's basketball says thank you."