There was one moment of high drama in Penn State's 58-47 dispatching of Penn at the Jordan Center Saturday. Fortunately for Nittany Lion coach Pat Chambers, even that turned out to be less dramatic than it first appeared.
With PSU leading 52-44 in the final two minutes, Lion guard Jermaine Marshall made a steal and broke free for a dunk. But he was tracked down from behind and steer-wrestled to the ground by Quaker guard Jamal Lewis.
The hit was so vicious it earned Lewis an ejection from the game, and it looked like Marshall might be seriously injured.
Already missing star guard Tim Frazier for the rest of the season due to a ruptured Achilles' tendon, Chambers never allowed himself to think the worst about Marshall.
"You know me, I'm a positive, optimistic person," Chambers said with a smile after the game. "So I was running over to help him up. Then I was making sure the bench didn't go (onto the floor). I stayed positive, (thinking that) he'd bounce right up. And he bounced up, which was great."
Marshall bounced up ready to fight before teammate Nick Colella held him back. And the entire Jordan Center breathed a sigh of relief.
Because with Frazier out, Marshall and sophomore D.J. Newbill are now being asked to do a little of everything in the Penn State backcourt. And against Penn Saturday, the duo once again came through for Chambers and the rest of the team.
Though neither is a natural point guard, they alternated bringing the ball up the floor. The Quakers tried to press to make things more uncomfortable for Marshall and Newbill, but in the end they finished with two and one turnovers, respectively.
"I thought D.J. and Jermaine for the most part did a pretty good job (vs. the pressure)," Chambers said. "They got winded -- those Penn guards are quick and tough. ... But overall, I thought they handled (the point) very well."
Marshall logged 39 minutes and played another extremely efficient game. He was 4 of 10 from the field and got to the free-throw line 10 times, making nine. With 18 points Saturday, he has now scored 17 or more in three straight outings. That sort of consistency was missing from his game before this season.
"It's important, not just for me but for the team," Marshall said of the consistent play. "Everyone has to bring it."
That has not been a problem for Newbill, who had another stat-stuffer against Penn -- 5-of-8 shooting, 13 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals.
And Chambers got clutch play from others Saturday, as well. Rookie forward Brandon Taylor gave the Lions an early scoring punch from the arc. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from distance.
Sophomore forward Ross Travis had seven points and a game-high eight rebounds. Even struggling center Jon Graham got in on the act, with a pair of second-half baskets right when it looked like the game might get interesting.
But really, you never got the sense Penn State (4-3) was in any sort of danger in this one. The Lions took the lead for good on a pair of Marshall free throws midway though the first half. The edge grew to as many as 13 in the second period before a Quaker spurt made it 43-39 with 7:22 showing.
Then PSU became interested again. Marshall scored inside. Then Graham -- who shot a combined 1 of 9 in State's previous two games -- made back-to-back layups to push the lead to 49-39.
It was smooth sailing for the Lions from there. Except for the hard foul on Marshall, of course. And afterward, even he admitted it wasn't all that big of a deal.
"It's part of the game," he said. "They didn't want to give us a free bucket."
As the refs were sorting things out, Chambers called Marshall over and bent his ear for a minute or so. That's been a familiar scene on the PSU sideline this year.
"Out of anybody on this team, I'm all over him because of who he should be and who he can become," Chambers said. "He's slowly starting to head that way."