Despite a late comeback bid from the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes (13-13, 5-8 Big Ten), Penn State was able to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since December, getting the victory 69-64.
Led yet again by an 18-point performance from junior Tim Frazier, it was redshirt freshman Jon Graham who essentially sealed the victory for the Nittany Lions.
Coming out of a timeout with 25 seconds to go in the game, Penn State inbounded to the 6-foot-8 forward, who was fouled immediately. Coming into the game, Graham was 10-27 from the line on the season – a 37 percent free throw shooter. He calmly stepped up and made both, putting Penn State up five and putting a stamp on the Lions second straight home win.
“I'm just so proud of him for showing the confidence that he had to knock those down,” praised Pat Chambers after the game. “I think you are going to see a much better, more confident Jon Graham now. I think this is going to help him. He's only a freshman. This can only build his confidence and self-esteem.”
Graham, who scored a career-high 10 points last night and added six boards, mirrored his coach’s sentiments, exuding confidence as he was isolated on the foul line.
“Well, it was a big surprise for them, right? Going to the line, I just had a clear head,” he said. “I wasn't thinking about anything. I work really hard on my free throws.
“Whenever I have spare time I go to the gym. I shoot a ton of free throws. It's just routine. Just knock it down with confidence.”
Despite the team-leading 18 points, Frazier was just 1 of 6 from the field in the first half, yet the team was up 14 at the break.
“We are willing to do anything for each other,” said senior Cam Woodyard, who scored 13 points. “When a leader, like Tim struggles, every one picks him up, it's kind of hard to not feed off each other. When one person picks up for another person, it's easier for another person to step in and pick up for the next.”
There is no time to savor the win, as Penn State faces a quick turn around, with a trip to Madison on Sunday to face Wisconsin. The No. 17 Badgers are coming off a loss to No. 8 Michigan State, but downed the Nittany Lions over two weeks ago in State College, 52-46.