Tim Frazier is back, and he wants you to know it.
In the player introductions before Penn State’s 98-61 rout of the NAIA Northwood Seahawks, the Nittany Lions’ pump-up video montage showed star point guard Frazier, who is returning after missing most of last season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, roaring “I’m baaaaack” to a mostly subdued crowd of 4,000.
Despite the awkward intro, Frazier certainly was back to his old self Sunday afternoon. In 26 minutes of play, the All-Big Ten guard recorded 11 points, six assists, and three rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field. More importantly, he seemed to have his explosive speed and acrobatic agility tuned to mid-season form, as he consistently blew past his defenders and led the Nittany Lions on fast breaks.
While Frazier’s return was reassuring, it was the play of Ross Travis that was the biggest surprise. The junior forward paced the Nittany Lions with a team-leading 17 points and eight rebounds.
“Ross Travis looks like a confident guy,” said head coach Pat Chambers after the game. “He’s ready to step up and be that second or third scorer.”
Newcomers Graham Woodward and Geno Thorpe, both freshmen, and Miami (OH) transfer Allen Roberts also shined in their Penn State debuts. Woodward, a guard, scored eleven points on 4 of 5 shooting with a trio of three pointers. The Minnesota native was lights out from behind the arc – his only miss rattled around the rim twice before ultimately falling out.
Fellow freshman guard Geno Thorpe looked confident as he led and finished two fast breaks. The Pittsburgh native scored seven points and dished out three assists in 12 minutes.
Roberts filled up the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes of play. Roberts was also the first player to come off the bench for the Nittany Lions, establishing himself as the team’s sixth man and the third guard in a deep backcourt.
The game began with a quick 11-2 run by Northwood. Chambers called a timeout to settle his team, and the Nittany Lions came out with a forced turnover and a long Taylor three-pointer that sparked a 50-19 run to end the first half.
Chambers said he played the first 20 minutes as he would a real game, and thus the second unit played most of the second half. Three pointers by Taylor and Woodward with 8:41 and 7:29 remaining pushed the lead to 38, the largest it would be before Kevin Montminy pushed it to 39 with a minute to go.
D.J. Newbill, Penn State’s leading scorer last season, left with 16:25 remaining with an apparent knee injury. He spent the remainder of the game on the bench with ice on his knee. However, Chambers confirmed it was only a cramp.
After Sunday’s game, there are reasons abound to be excited about Penn State basketball. The team shot well all game, a rare occurrence during the first two years of the Chambers era. Penn State went 31 of 66 from the field, 24 of 27 from the foul line, and 12-17 from three. Penn State also won the battle on the boards, outrebounding Northwood, 43-24.
“We worked extremely hard in the offseason on our skill set and I think it’s showing; it’s coming through,” Chambers said.
Northwood coach Rollie Massimino, who famously led Villanova to its 1985 NCAA championship, praised the Nittany Lions as well by putting their win over the Seahawks — who won thirty games last year and started the year ranked fifth in the NAIA — into some perspective.
“This is our worst loss in our exhibition history,” Massimino said. “We didn’t lose to Kentucky this bad, or Michigan State.”
Penn State opens its regular season at home this Saturday at 4 p.m. against Wagner.