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Penn State Hoops Drops B1G/ACC Game to Pitt, 78-69

Penn State hoops (6-3) fell to in-state rival Pitt (8-0) 78-69 on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh in what will surely go down as one of the Nittany Lions’ toughest losses of the season.

The game was a matchup in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and the first match-up between the two in-state rivals since 2005, when the Panthers hosted the Nittany Lions and obliterated them by 37 points. While this game was much closer — perhaps even closer than the final score would suggest due to Penn State needing to foul at the end of the game — the loss hurt just as badly.

Tim Frazier got things going for the Lions, knocking down his first shot of the game to give Penn State a (very) early 2-0 lead. The two teams exchanged blows all half, and neither team led by more than seven points during the game’s first 20 minutes.

Frazier came out in the first half playing like a man possessed. This was the first time that the redshirt senior has been on a game televised by ESPN since his return from the achilles injury that held him out all of last season. He led the Nittany Lions into one of college basketball’s most intimidating venues — Pitt came into the game 105-3 in the Peterson Events Center versus non-conference opponents and 184-22 all-time, according to Black Shoe Diaries — to a 30-28 lead at the half. It was the first time that Pitt trailed at the half this season, and Frazier went into the locker room with 15 points.

“I hope people start taking us seriously,” Pat Chambers said after the game. “Because I feel like we’re tired of everybody talking about us like we’re not a good team. ‘Are you proud to be on the same floor?’ What does that mean? What does that really mean? We’re a good team. We’re a good basketball team. Get used to it.”

Coming out of the break, Penn State continued to jump on Pitt, and raced out to a 39-33 lead with 15:58 remaining in the half. However, Pitt, behind senior big man Talib Zanna, began to impose its will on an undersized Nittany Lion frontcourt that was in foul trouble for most of the second half.

The Panthers consistently fed the ball down low to the native of Nigeria, who punished Penn State all night and ended the game with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Because of Zanna’s dominance, mixed with foul trouble for Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor, and Donovon Jack, Pitt was able to attack the rim at will, and 15 of the Panthers’ 17 made baskets during the second half were layups.

Despite this, Penn State battled valiantly, and at the 5:14 mark, were able to tie the game at 59. However, Pitt closed out the game on a 19-10 run, and thanks to some dubious officiating and mental mistakes by Penn State, were able to survive a scare from a the Nittany Lions.

“We came out and took the lead,” Frazier said. “We executed in the first half, but hats off to Pittsburgh, their players and coaches for coming back and fighting through, and making the game winning plays they needed to down the stretch.”

Frazier led all scorers with 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. D.J. Newbill was the only other Nittany Lion to score in double-digits, as he dropped 18 and grabbed 5 rebounds.

“(Frazier and Newbill are) definitely the best guards that we’ve played,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said after the game. “I don’t know if we’ll play better against better guards. Old is good in college basketball and those are old guards with a lot of experience.”

In the game’s waning moments, Pitt’s student section, known as the Oakland Zoo, showed its usual class and respect, as a “hit the showers” chant rang throughout the Petersen Events Center. As we all know, nothing says “we love our basketball team” quite like a chant that pokes fun at the sexual abuse of children. Good form, students.

Penn State will look to bounce back on Saturday afternoon when it hosts Marshall. The game tips off at 4 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.

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