UNIVERSITY PARK - Like Knute Rockne, Penn State men's basketball coach Patrick Chambers' can give a good pep talk.
And like the former Notre Dame coach often found with his team, Chambers' club responded well.
Penn State overcame a dismal first half shooting wise to knock off unbeaten Bucknell, 60-57, Friday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, outscoring the visitors, 44-35, in the second half to win their first contest without senior guard Tim Frazier, who was lost early this week for the season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon.
"When we were missing in the first half, I went in and had a great Knute Rockne at halftime; keep shooting, shoot with confidence," Chambers said.
"That's what they did, and they played hard, which always helps."
Penn State was stymied for much of the first half, struggling to find the net in a 5-for-31 first half performance from the field that resulted in a 22-16 halftime deficit.
But following Chambers' lead, the Nittany Lions kept shooting, and eventually, shots, as lead, started falling.
It started with a pair of threes from true freshman Brandon Taylor out of the break which pulled the Nittany Lions (3-2) within a bucket at 24-22, and came to a climax when Marshall sunk a 3-pointer with just under 11 minutes to play in the game, putting Penn State up for good, 37-36, even though the Bisons' made it interesting late.
"We got good looks in the first half. We just have to stay in the gym and keep getting our shots," Newbill said of the first half performance.
"We struggled a bit in the first half, so seeing the ball go down like that in the second half was a great boost of confidence," Marshall added when discussing the Nittany Lions 65 percent shooting in the second stanza.
Penn State led by as much as seven in the second half, but junior guard Cameron Ayers hit a deep 3-pointer from the wing to pull Bucknell (5-1) within two at 59-57, capping off a 5-2 Bison run after Sasa Borovnjak extended Penn State's lead to 57-52 with a baseline put-back.
Ayers' couldn't make lightning strike twice, though, as his corner 3-point attempt was contested and fell short as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
"It's a real disappointing loss for us. I thought we were well prepared, but you have to give credit to Penn State; they were the tougher team, and we should have had some more separation in the first half with the way we were playing," Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said.
"I think in the second half we lost some of our edge defensively, and they did a great job of doubling [center] Mike [Mascala]."
Mascala was held in check for most of Friday nights' contest, scoring just four points from the field on four field goal attempts, both season lows, but added six of eight free throws for his 10-point total.
"I didn't do a good job of getting good post position, and I sort of panicked when they doubled," Miscala said.
But Paulsen was quick to distribute the blame to his guards, too.
"He has to do a better job, but our guards have to do a better job of finding him. Our bigs have to be good; we're not going to win against a Big Ten team on the road with Mike getting four shots," Paulsen said.
"They didn't handle it with the type of poise that I would have expected or desired."
Friday nights' win is the type that builds much needed confidence for a team that certainly could use it, and for Chambers, it was just another example of what he calls Penn State basketball.
"I think you see the direction we're heading in. Our guys have faith and believe in one another," Chambers said.
"I'm really proud of their approach to practice the last three days. They didn't let the distractions on the outside bother them. They told me 'Coach, we want to play Penn State basketball' and that's what they did.
"We're going to play hard and see what happens."
Bryson Johnson led Bucknell with 18 points in the losing effort, while Marshall paced Penn State with 17.
BUCKNELL (5-1): Willman 2-7 0-0 4, Muscala 2-4 6-8 10, Hill 1-4 0-0 2, Johnson 3-8 9-11 18, Ayers 5-11 2-2 14, Kaspar 2-4 2-2 6, Fitzpatrick 0-0 1-2 1, Frazier 0-2 0-0 0, Hoffman 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 16-41 20-25 57.
PENN ST. (3-2): Taylor 6-11 0-0 16, Graham 0-3 0-0 0, Travis 3-5 2-2 9, Newbill 5-18 0-4 10, Marshall 4-11 7-11 17, Colella 0-4 0-0 0, Borovnjak 3-4 0-3 6, Ackerman 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-57 9-20 60.
Halftime-Bucknell 22-16. 3-Point Goals-Bucknell 5-18 (Johnson 3-8, Ayers 2-6, Hill 0-1, Muscala 0-1, Frazier 0-2), Penn St. 7-19 (Taylor 4-8, Marshall 2-3, Travis 1-2, Newbill 0-2, Colella 0-4). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Bucknell 31 (Muscala 12), Penn St. 38 (Travis 8). Assists-Bucknell 7 (Kaspar, Muscala 2), Penn St. 9 (Newbill 7). Total Fouls-Bucknell 19, Penn St. 19. A-7,713.