Oliver Clutch as Lions Win

The junior forward fuels late run as Penn State beats Long Island at the Jordan Center.

As Penn State's tight game with Long Island unfolded at the Jordan Center Wednesday night, there was a noticeable refrain on the floor.

“Keep shooting Billy.”

It came from first-year Nittany Lion coach Pat Chambers. It came from point guard Tim Frazier, who had another monster outing for PSU with a career-high 26 points and 10 assists. And it came from wing Cammeron Woodyard (13 points and six rebounds).

They were talking to forward Billy Oliver, who -- despite the outstanding production from his teammates -- ended up being THE key guy for the Nittany Lions. Oliver, you see, made his first shot early in the game and then proceeded to miss six in a row.

A year ago, such a streak of futility would have doomed Oliver for the night. But Chambers has told the 6-foot-8, 230-pounder that he'll never be pulled for missing good shots, provided he does not let it impact the rest of the his game.

Wednesday night, the confidence-building strategy paid its first dividend. Oliver had a career-high 10 rebounds. And he was clutch when it mattered most.

Trailing 60-58 in the final seven minutes, Oliver missed a 3-pointer. But Woodyard came down with the offensive rebound. The Lions worked their offense until Frazier drove the lane and the defense collapsed. He found Oliver in the left corner -- right in front of the PSU bench and only a couple of feet away from Chambers -- and Oliver drew all net.

It was the key shot in a 12-4 run that allowed Penn State (3-0) to take a 72-64 lead before cruising to the 77-68 victory. Oliver had two triples in that stretch.

“He's huge to this team,” Frazier said. “He started off pretty bad, couldn't make a shot. But he does everything else. He took charges, got rebounds, deflections. …Then when we need him to make a big shot, he makes it.”

“Confidence is a big thing,” Oliver added. “These guys are great, they say, 'Keep shooting, keep shooting.' Coach, as well.”

Oliver finished 3 of 8 from the arc in the game for nine points. The 10 boards doubled his career high. He also had a couple of assists and a steal.

What did Chambers think of the performance?

“Ten rebounds,” he said. “That is fantastic. That's what we need out of Billy. Ten rebounds, and you know what, he kept shooting. That was a big, big three he hit in the corner. That was huge. And it takes a lot of guts to take that shot.”

Chambers added that Oliver “earned” that shot because he kept playing hard, even when earlier shots were not falling.

Meanwhile, Oliver, who entered the game as a career 23.7-percent shooter from the arc, said he intends to keep on heeding the advice he hears so often.

“It is a testament to the guys on the team and Coach, who told me to keep shooting,” Oliver said of his late-game production. “Usually I wouldn't keep firing like that. But these guys, I know they trust me, so that's what I'm gonna do.”

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