Penn State Basketball Shows #ATTITUDE
Expectations for the 2011-2012 Nittany Lion basketball team hovered near the basement of the Big Ten heading into the season, and they may prove accurate at season’s end. However, the groundwork being laid by Pat Chambers and his staff gives Penn State fans hope for a bright future for a fan base dying to believe in one.
After a lackluster showing against an even more lackluster non-conference slate, I wasn’t sure what to think about this team as conference play began. Yes, they hustle and scrap, but the lack of talent on the floor seemed too large for intangibles to overcome. An 0-2 start, including a loss to Northwestern on New Year’s Day, seemed to confirmed those concerns.
The past few days, however, a funny thing happened. A blowout victory over Purdue (Purdue! In basketball!), highlighted by seven three-point field goals from Billy Oliver (Billy Oliver!), showed what this team, and this program, can become under Pat Chambers. Then, against a top-15 Indiana squad that boasts wins over Ohio State and Kentucky to date, they hung around enough to almost pull off an upset yesterday at the BJC. They did so with tough defense, timely shooting, and resilience, a formula that fans should expect to see more of as this season progresses.
As I walked into the bowels of the BJC following yesterday’s loss, I heard loud cheering as the team left the floor. Though fans in attendance saw the team fall to 9-8 overall and 1-3 in conference play, they knew what they’d seen marked growth, a baby step forward even in defeat. The Nittany Lions that scrapped against a hot-shooting Indiana team, one that figures to challenge for the conference title this year, looked like a completely different team than the group that lost at home to Lafayette only a month ago.
Besides (possibly) Tim Frazier, who leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and minutes (kind of like another undersized Penn State guard you may have heard of), this team has no real stars. Rather, they thrive on guys like Billy Oliver and Jermaine Marshall, who scored 20 points in yesterday’s loss to Indiana, to step up each night. Sophomore Matt Glover and freshman Ross Travis have made names for themselves already with their balanced play and undeniable effort, and Jon Graham’s return from mono should give the Lions an inside presence.
This semester only provides six chances for students to catch this team at home, beginning with Sunday afternoon’s contest vs. Minnesota on THON Hoops Day. All student ticket proceeds will go directly to THON, and what better way to support Penn State basketball than to support THON at the same time?
Attitude and pure energy. Pat Chambers expects his team to exude those two concepts every time they take the floor. Now, finally, it seems we can expect it too. Get to the BJC this semester and see for yourself.