Penn State coach Pat Chambers can't afford to be picky about any Nittany Lion win this season. With leading scorer Tim Frazier out for the year and different faces in new roles all over the court, a measure of beauty can be found in any victory.
Take Saturday's closer-than-it-should have been 78-70 win over Army at the Jordan Center, a game that saw the Nittany Lions (5-4) blow most of a 15-point lead, commit 17 turnovers and shoot 65 percent from the foul line.
It's a win, regardless of how I feel right now, Chambers said. It's a win, and we'll take it.
Nobody thought we'd win a game (when Frazier went down with a ruptured Achilles' tendon), he added. We've won three. There's positives there.
It should be noted that those three victories -- which were each preceded by a loss -- have come against Bucknell, Penn and Army. That said, Chambers was correct in noting that there were any number of pluses to be found in the win over the Cadets (4-4).
Coming off an 82-57 blowout to La Salle in Philadelphia Wednesday, the Nittany Lions appeared none the worse for wear vs. Army. They opened with a 7-0 run and dominated most of the first half, leading 33-18 with 4:20 left before the break.
It was the most well-rounded offense PSU has shown all year, with steady guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall pushing the pace (each had breakaway a dunk), and forwards Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor both finding their range.
All four would finish the game in double figures in scoring, the first time this season more than three Lions tallied at least 10 points.
It's big, Newbill said of the shared scoring load. That's one thing we try to do, is share the ball and play with confidence. A guy gets open, shoot it. That's what coach tells us to do and that's what we're doing.
The lead was a dozen at intermission (40-28), but early in the second half PSU got sloppy and Army went on the attack. Trailing 46-36 at the 16:06 mark, the Cadets used a swarming defense to generate offense, leading to a 14-6 run that cut it to 52-50 at the 12:00 mark.
Chambers spent three timeouts in the first eight minutes of the second half to try to keep his crew from coming completely unglued.
For whatever reason, we looked like we were tired, he said.
Guard Nick Colella snapped the Lions out of their funk with a 3-pointer and just like that PSU was back in control.
At that point, it's about attitude, Chambers said. We just took a big punch. Now we have to get off the floor and fight back.
It also helped that Army's best player basically took himself out of the game in the second half. Gifted forward Ella Ellis had 14 points and no fouls in the first half.
But in the second half, he lost control. He picked up five fouls in an 11:10 stretch (including four in a span of 7:03) and was disqualified with his team trailing 63-54 and 6:41 remaining. Ellis finished with 23 points in only 22 minutes of play and without him, the Cadets had no chance.
This was by far Penn State's best offensive game of the year, topping the previous season-high point total of 65 (set in a win over St. Francis).
Newbill had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Marshall had 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. The only downside for the duo was that they combined for nine turnovers.
Travis continued to be a force on the glass with 10 rebounds and rounded out his second career double-double with 14 points. He also had a monster dunk off an alley-oop pass from Newbill. Taylor had 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
And Colella finally got dialed in from the arc, making 3 of 5 attempts, including the big run-stopper.
It's a big shot for that kid at a crucial point of the game, Chambers said. But it goes back to attitude.
A winning attitude, to be more precise. And an attitude that any win is a good win.
Sasa Borovnjak replaced Jon Graham at starting center for the Lions. But both big guys continue to struggle. Borovnjak had four points and three rebounds while being limited to 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Graham also had foul issues and managed two points and three boards in 13 minutes.
PSU takes the week off for finals before facing Delaware State at the BJC next Saturday (2 p.m.).