UNIVERSITY PARK - Rob Krimmel returned home to State College on Friday night, but he left glad he wouldn't be seeing any more of Tim Frazier.
Frazier, last year's first-team all-Big Ten guard, took the Penn State men's basketball team on his shoulders in the second half, and the Nittany Lions thwarted St. Francis' upset bid in Krimmel's debut as Red Flash head coach, 65-58, in the season-opener for both teams at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Frazier came up with 23 points - going 17-for-18 from the line -and six assists for the Lions. He scored 16 to go along with four assists, a block and a steal after the intermission to help Penn State overcome Ollie Jackson's hot shooting for the Flash along with his own team's 3-for-24 effort from beyond the arc and 17 turnovers.
"We knew one-guy couldn't stop him. Tim proved he's one of the best guards in the country tonight," Krimmel said. "He did a great job controlling the tempo of the game. Even when we made a little bit of a run, he doesn't get rattled. We knew [Lion guard] D.J. Newbill was going to be a challenge for us because of his size. Those are two really good guards, two really good players and two of the better players we'll see all year."
Newbill, the Southern Mississippi transfer, chipped in with 16 points and seven rebounds for the Lions, while Ross Travis came up with 10 points and nine rebounds. Penn State outrebounded St. Francis by 16 (38-22) and had 10 second-chance points to the Flash's none.
"We always prepare for nights like this. Obviously, they happened too much last year. I think they were nervous, first game of the year. I hope it doesn't happen often," Lion coach Pat Chambers said. "The fact that we won tonight, and we shot 3-for-24 and had 17 turnovers, that says a lot about where we're headed. Last year, we probably lose this game.
"Sometimes, it's going to be ugly."
For a time, it looked like they might lose it anyway. Krimmel, whose hiring in the offseason by his father - St. Francis athletic director Bob Krimmel - one day after Don Friday was fired stirred some controversy, almost gave critics of the move something to chew on. Sparked by Jackson's 16 points and 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, the Flash held a 31-30 lead early in the second half and only trailed by a point at 48-47 on Umar Shannon's driving layup with 7:24 left in the game.
St. Francis, though, didn't make another field goal until Jackson's trey with 32 seconds remaining. Penn State held its largest lead of 12 at 61-49 with 57 seconds left.
"We knew coming into a place like this, our margin for error was not going to be very big. We had to execute for 40 minutes. Give Penn State credit. There was a stretch there where they took us out of some things we were trying to run," Krimmel said.
Chambers was forced to go with a smaller lineup and didn't feel he could press full-court because of the Flash's perimeter quickness. During the crucial part of the game, the Lions began switching on screens, and that seemed to be the decisive move.
In the meantime, Frazier was stepping up just like big-time players are supposed to do. The 6-foot-1 senior from Houston hit a hanging one-hander, then stole the ball and scored on a nifty scoop while drawing the foul early in the second half to stem the tide to St. Francis' momentum.
Then, with 7:07 remaining, Frazier did it with his passing, drawing the defense and finding Nick Colella with a skip pass in the corner for the Lions' second 3-pointer in 21 attempts at that point to put Penn State up by four, 51-47.
"That was a one-man spurt by Tim, which was great," Chambers said. "I don't want to rely on that every night. We need five guys to play together."
After going 6-23 last season, St. Francis seemed like it might have given itself a shot in the arm as it moved ahead.
"It's disappointing, but I feel this gave us something to build on," Jackson, a 6-3 sophomore from Dallas, said. "I know a lot of people are sleeping on us because we're a small team, but we're here."
GAME NOTES: None of Penn State's players were made available for postgame interviews. ... There was a lot of local flavor. In addition to Krimmel, who played at State College High School, whose brother was part of a Sweet 16 team at Penn State and whose parents both worked for the university, Penns Valley graduate Kevin Montminy got into the game briefly and Central Cambria product Zach Vigneault was on the bench for St. Francis. ... Shannon had a solid return game after missing a year because of an ACL tear - he had nine points and four assists, although he was just 2-for-12 shooting. ... St. Francis returns to action at Niagara on Tuesday. Penn State next heads to the Puerto Rico Tipoff Tournament, where it will face North Carolina State on Thursday.