It wasn't the way many envisioned Pat Chambers' second year at Penn State starting. Not 17 of 47 from the field, a putrid 3 of 24 from beyond the arc or whopping 17 turnovers.
But fortunately for Penn State, the statistics of the 2012-13 season-opening win over St. Francis weren't indicative of the final result.
The Nittany Lions picked up their first victory of the season by beating back a relentless Saint Francis side 65-58 in front of 7,329, getting 23 points from guard Tim Frazier, 17 of which came at the free throw line. Redshirt sophomore D.J. Newbill scored 16 points while pulling seven rebounds in his debut in blue and white.
It wasn't pretty. But on the first day of the college basketball season, there could have been a worse result. It was avoided by scrappy defense that resulted in 16 Red Flash turnovers and a monster night on the glass that saw Penn State collect 38 rebounds to Saint Francis' 22, including a 13-2 edge in the offensive boards.
We always prepare for nights like this, Chambers said. Obviously, they happened too often last year, but I think our guys were a little nervous for the first game of the year.
But I was pretty proud of the way we defended, he added. We were taking away threes so they had to drive to the hoop and got lay-ups, but we need to be able to make shots and continue to play hard.
We are exactly where we are suppose to be on Nov. 9.
The Nittany Lions led 26-20 at the break, paced by seven points apiece from Frazier and Newbill. But the visitors got hot midway through the second half, erasing a five-point deficit with a 3-pointer from guard Ollie Jackson and a pair of buckets from Stephon Whyatt before Kam Ritter's layup put Saint Francis (0-1) up for the first time in the second half at 43-42.
But the under 12 media time-out was lurking, and once it hit, Chambers' rallied his club to grab back the momentum. Frazier began a 13-2 Nittany Lion run with a pair of free throws and Newbill put an exclamation mark on the end of it with soft jumper that put Penn State up 60-49 with 3:33 to play. Newbill's free throw just over two minutes later gave the Nittany Lions (1-0) their largest lead of the night at 12.
We knew they'd be more physical then we were, and the rebounding numbers indicate that, first-year St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said. Krimmel is a State College native and his brother, Ken, played on Penn State's 2001 Sweet 16 team.
But our guys battled for 40 minute, he added. The difference is we just didn't execute in stretches, and we were giving some young guys the opportunity to get their feet wet.
We just can't that many mistakes, especially in an environment like this, and against a team like Penn State.
Guard Ollie Jackson paced Saint Francis with 19 points, and was red hot from beyond the arc, cashing four of eight 3-pointers.
Penn State us back in action next Thursday with a trip to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic, where the Lions open with sixth-ranked N.C. State.