Nittany Lions Ram Home a Victory

But Chambers still has a few nits to pick after Penn State’s defensive domination of Fordham at the Jordan Center.

With 4:31 remaining in Penn State's game against Fordham at the Jordan Center Sunday, Ram forward Chris Sengfelder found a crack in the Nittany Lion defense and drove to the basket. He was fouled by PSU center Jordan Dickerson.

Lion guard and team captain D.J. Newbill shouted and pumped his fist in anger, letting his teammates (and the entire arena) know such defensive lapses are not acceptable.

Oh yeah, and Penn State (2-0) was leading 67-48 at the time, and well on the way to a 73-54 domination of the young Rams.

Newbill knows little defensive lapses may not matter in a blowout of an overmatched Atlantic-10 outfit. But it will be a different story when Big Ten play starts in late December.

PSU coach Pat Chambers knows it, too, which is why he wasn't exactly heaping praise on this squad after it held an opponent below 30 percent shooting (29.3) for the first time since clobbering New Hampshire in December of 2012.

“We're still a work in progress,” he said of the defense. “We can be a whole lot better on certain things.”

High on the list is improved communication, which is especially important considering how deep Chambers is going into his bench. Newbill was the only Lion who logged more than 25 minutes (32) Sunday. Eight others played between 13 and 25 minutes.

The coach saw glimpses of what will be important in the Big Ten.

“There was a situation out there (Sunday), we were playing zone,” he explained. “All five guys were talking. If we can get to that level, now you're back to being the best defensive team in the league. And I'm talking about the Big Ten. That's what we're striving for.”

What they did Sunday was more than good enough to dispatch Fordham (1-1). Asked about the difference in the game, Ram coach Tom Pecora said, “I think it was their physicality and their defensive intensity.”

Trailing 10-5 at the 16:22 mark of the first half, Penn State turned up the heat on defense. Switching between man and zone, the Lions used their superior athletic ability to fluster the Rams, who feature six true or redshirt freshmen in a 10-man rotation.

Fordham went 10 and a half minutes without making a field goal, missing 12 straight attempts. The Rams also had six turnovers during the dry spell. Their only point in a 20-1 PSU run came on an Antwoine Anderson free throw.

A Geno Thorpe steal that led to a Newbill dunk (shown above) made it 24-11, and the Lions added a free throw shortly after to make it 25-11.

“We were getting a hand up on every shot, and made every shot contested,” Newbill said. “We got in passing lanes, got a few deflections on them. It was just good defensive rotations.”

And no Fordham player was more troubled by State's quickness than 6-6 rookie guard Eric Paschall, who opened the season with 31 points in a 94-77 blowout of some outfit known as the New York Institute of Technology Friday. Against the Lions, he made only 3 of 10 shots and only 1 of 5 triples.

That led to frustration on the defensive end, as he fouled out early in the second half with only seven points. Penn State led by as many as 25 in the final stanza before cruising to the victory. To his credit, Pecora understood running into such a defensive buzz saw will probably serve his troops well later in the season (and perhaps when the Rams face new Big Ten member Maryland on the road Thursday).

“I didn't yell at them, they're young,” he said. “I still cut their meat for them at pregame meals.”

As for Chambers, well, even in victory he felt his team had plenty to chew on.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “I saw certain things during that game that we need to clean up to be a really good Big Ten team.”

SCORING SHEET

Newbill led the Lions with 18 points and five assists, while freshman guard Shep Garner continued to shine by making 4 of 8 3-pointers for a dozen points. … Forward Brandon Taylor and guard John Johnson had 11 each. … Forward Ross Travis nine rebounds. … Guard Nemanja Zarkovic (14) and Sengfelder (10) -- a pair of freshmen -- were the only Rams in doubles.

DRIVE TIME

Johnson did some nice work off the bench, consistently driving and getting to the line 11 times (making seven). He shot 22 free throws all of last season.

“He's gonna be tough to guard,” Chambers said. “I give him credit. He's playing to his strengths.”

PLEASED TO MEET YOU

True freshman Isaiah Washington (one point), redshirt freshman Payton Banks (one point) and juco transfer Devin Foster (no points) all saw the first action of their respective PSU careers. Chambers said all three better be ready to play in case foul trouble becomes an issue for one of the regulars.

“It's gonna happen,” he said. “They need to be ready.”

NEXT UP…

…for the Lions is a trip to the Charleston Classic, where they will face Charlotte in the first round Thursday at 5 p.m.

HEAR PAT CHAMBERS’S PRESS CONFERENCE HERE


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