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Nov. 17, 2011
By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Everyone on the Penn State men's hoops coaching staff knew that Wednesday's non-conference tilt with Long Island in the Jordan Center was going to be a stiff test.
Playing in their third game in five nights, the Nittany Lions embraced the physical challenge and battled their way to a hard-fought victory over a solid Long Island team.
Wednesday night's game was a high tempo, back-and-forth affair for 40 minutes. Every time the Nittany Lions appeared to be on their way to a comfortable lead, the Blackbirds battled back.
But each time Long Island surged, Penn State pulled itself off the mat with an answer. The Lions ultimately finished the game on a 21-8 run to seal a 77-68 victory and a 3-0 start to the Patrick Chambers era of Nittany Lion basketball.
"We told them how good this team was going into the game and I thought our guys really respected this team," Coach Chambers said. "They really have a lot of talent. We were down four and that is where attitude comes in. That is where you are trying to handle adversity."
Long Island guard C.J. Garner tallied a field goal with 8:22 to play, giving the Blackbirds a 60-56 advantage. The basket capped off a 5-0 run for LIU after Penn State had led 56-55 with 10:22 to play.
The Nittany Lions wasted little time answering. Senior Cam Woodyard stepped up like a seasoned veteran scoring four points and pulling down a pair of rebounds to help fuel a rally. Junior forward Billy Oliver knocked down a pair of clutch 3-pointers, including one that put the Lions up 72-64 with 2:57 to play.
Simply put, the Nittany Lions collectively stepped up on both ends of the floor and did whatever was necessary to win.
"They showed me something," Coach Chambers said. "Some of my teams in years past, when you're at home and you're losing they might fold the tents. They might have ended up losing by 10 or 15 points, but not tonight. They showed me a little something. They showed me some grit. They showed me some heart. It is great to see Tim [Frazier], Cam [Woodyard], Billy [Oliver] and Sasa [Boronvjak] - the four guys who have been here the longest. It was nice to see them step up."
For the second straight game, Frazier was tremendous. The junior point guard poured in 26 points on just 18 shot attempts to go along with 10 assists, five rebounds, two steals and one block. The way Frazier gets everyone on the team involved is superb.
The Texas native creates opportunities for everyone on the floor.
"Tim was terrific," said Coach Chambers. "He was a great leader tonight. He took big shots and made big shots. He wanted the basketball down the stretch. He got crucial steals, got big rebounds and took a big charge. He did everything you ask your point guard to do tonight."
Coach Chambers joked after Frazier's 20-point, 10-assist outing on Monday against Radford that he was looking for more out of his junior point guard.
What did he think of Frazier's 26-point, 10-assist game on Wednesday?
"He missed a couple bunnies," joked Coach Chambers. "He could have had 32 points. I'm greedy and I told you I am greedy (laughter)."
The Nittany Lions head on the road for the first time this season with two games at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Connecticut. The first is a matchup with No. 2 Kentucky on Saturday at Noon. With a 3-0 mark, Coach Chambers just wants to continue to see improvement.
"They are a great team, (John Calipari) is a great coach and it is a great program with a lot of tradition," Coach Chambers said. "It is the next game on our schedule and we need to take steps. We took another step today by beating areal good team, tomorrow is another step, Friday is another step. Saturday we need to keep tapping at that stone until it breaks."