The Nittany Lions hit 70 percent of their 3-pointers in the first half in forging a 21-point lead, only to see the Penguins make 67 percent of their triples in the second half while clawing back in it.
But another double-double (26 points, 11 assists) by PSU guard Tim Frazier and a strong showing by the aptly named rookie Trey Lewis (12 points, 3 of 5 on triples) were too much for YSU to overcome. Penn State improved to 5-1 while Youngstown State dipped to 3-1.
The Nittany Lions were 7 of 10 from the arc in the opening half and finished a solid 11 of 22. This after going a combined 12 of 47 while splitting a pair of games at the Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Conn., over the weekend.
“I would say confidence,” Lewis said in a postgame press conference that was a bit rushed because the facility was about to be powered-down due to routine maintenance. “We came out here with a better mind-set and knew what we had to do before the game.”
First-year coach Pat Chambers had a different take. Since returning from the tournament, he said the players, “took a lot of shots.” He was told they did so in a captains' workout Monday (no coaches were involved).
“Practice (Tuesday), we took a ton of shots,” he added. “Walkthrough today, we took a lot of shots.”
Five different Nittany Lions made 3-pointers in the first half. Frazier would either drive and score himself (he had 14 points) or dish out to an open teammate. The lead reached 44-23 with just over a minute left before the break when Frazier scored on a layup.
The tide shifted in the second half as YSU found its range. Guards Blake Allen (7 of 12) and Kendrick Perry (5 of 8) combined to hit 12 of the Penguins' 14 triples in the game. They drew within nine on several occasions but the more athletic Lions had an answer every time.
In Frazier's mind, it never should have been that close.
“I think that's something we really need to work on, putting teams away,” he said.
“There is a lot to learn,” Chambers added. “We have to put teams away. But let's give them some credit.”
YSU was scrappy, to be sure. But even with the strong 3-point shooting in the second half (10 of 15), it was only still in the game because the Lions kept hurting themselves. They had 18 turnovers and went 19 of 31 from the free-throw line.
When asked about the poor foul shooting -- Penn State is now 72 of 110 on the year (60 percent) -- Chambers joked to a reporter, “I have no clue. Maybe you can come to practice and we can work on it.”
He was in a good mood, and for good reason. Given State's first six opponents, the best-case scenario heading into Thanksgiving was to be 5-1. And the Nittany Lions were exactly that.
Asked what he had to be thankful for as the holiday neared, he mentioned his wife, kids and family, and then continued by saying his team and the university.
“Forty years old, and I'm the coach at Penn State,” he said. “Who would have dreamed it?”
Then he paused. A light went on in his head.
“Me,” he said with a smile.
See the box score: