Then and Now Preview: Penn State

WNUR’s Michael Stern (@MichaelJStern23) previews each of Northwestern’s opponents by looking at how each team did for the first few years under their current head coach. Today: Penn State and Patrick Chambers.

There are then and now success stories everywhere across the Big Ten conference: from Tom Crean at Indiana to Tom Izzo at Michigan State, there are several examples of teams that rebuilt quickly under a new coach. Unfortunately, rebuilding isn’t so easy for everyone. Penn State has had a tough time becoming a consistent contender in the Big Ten, and as the Nittany Lions finish their third season under coach Patrick Chambers, the then and now preview looks to see if there is hope on the way for Penn State fans.

Then: In his eighth season at Penn State, Ed DeChellis had finally turned the Lions around. A Penn State alumnus, DeChellis took over the team in 2003, suffered through several rebuilding years, won the NIT in 2009, and finally took Penn State to the NCAA Tournament in 2011 for the first time in 15 years. Shortly after the 2010-2011 Lions, led by seniors Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks, and David Jackson, fell in the first round of the big dance to Temple, DeChellis resigned to become the head coach at Navy. Rumors swirled that one of the reasons DeChellis left was that he felt a lack of commitment from Penn State’s athletic department, who did not give raises to his assistants. So, weeks after reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996, Penn State hired former Boston University head coach Patrick Chambers to lead the Lions back to the promised land. The 2010-2011 team was full of seniors, so Chambers had his work cut out for him. Junior Tim Frazier and sophomore Jermaine Marshall took care of most of the scoring during a disappointing 2011-2012 campaign which saw the Lions lose a non-conference game to Lafayette, fall twice to Norhtwestern, and finish 11th in the Big Ten. 2012-2013 was worse, as Frazier went down with an injury after four games, leaving the scoring load to Marshall and sophomore DJ Newbill. The Lions finished the season 10-21, needed overtime to beat Delaware State, and won only two conference games, against Michigan and Northwestern.

Now: Things have gotten a little bit better for Penn State this season. The Lions sit at 14-15 overall and 5-11 in conference play. After opening conference play with a six-game losing streak, Penn State rattled off three straight wins against Ohio State, Nebraska, and Purdue. The Lions finished off a surprising season sweep of the Buckeyes last Thursday in Happy Valley. Jermaine Marshall transferred to Arizona State in the offseason, where he was eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer, leaving the scoring load to Frazier (granted an extra year of eligibility after last season’s injury) and Newbill. Newbill is the team’s leading scorer at 17.8 points per game. He takes 13 shots a game and still shoots 46 percent from the field. Frazier averages 15.8 points a game, but also tries to get teammates involved and is averaging 5.6 assists a night. Remarkably, both Newbill and Frazier average over 35 minutes a game. Forwards Brandon Taylor and Ross Travis each average 9 points a game, with Taylor shooting 86 percent from the free throw line and Travis grabbing nearly 7 rebounds a night. Sophomore Donovan Jack rounds out the starting five and averages 7 points and 3.5 fouls per game. Pitt transfer John Johnson (7.3 points per game) and Miami of Ohio transfer Allen Roberts (5.7 points per game) are the Lions’ main bench players,

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