Buckeyes spoil senior day with dominant win
It was Senior Day at the Bryce Jordan Center, but a freshman stole the show, as the No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes (21-8, 11-6 Big Ten) defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions (15-15, 3-14 Big Ten) 77-66 in the final Penn State home game of the regular season. Ohio State freshman guard D’Angelo Russell scored a game-high 28 points, while Big Ten leading scorer D.J. Newbill led the Nittany Lions with 17.
Despite the loss, it was a special day for Penn State seniors D.J. Newbill, Ross Travis, Kevin Montminy, and Alan Wisniewski, as they were honored with a pregame celebration with the entire BJC reflecting on their careers as Nittany Lions. All four seniors were part of head coach Pat Chambers’ starting lineup, marking the first career starts for Montminy and Wisniewski in their final Penn State home game. The pair played for the first two minutes of the game, and saw a minute of action at the end, when the contest was already well out of hand.
“It was nice to see Kevin [Montminy] and Wiz [Wisniewski]. I think they played to a stalemate before I took them out which is typical for those guys,” said Chambers in his postgame press conference. “Didn’t surprise me at all that we didn’t really miss a beat with those guys in the game. What a great way to end it for them.”
Ross Travis, who has been playing some of his best basketball of the season as of late, scored 12 of his season-high 14 points in the first half, with several of his baskets coming on rim-rattling dunks. The Minnesota native added eight rebounds along with two steals and paced the Nittany Lion offense for the entire first half, leading Penn State to a 30-29 halftime lead.
“Ross is playing great basketball down the stretch here,” said Chambers. “It’s great to see and I hope he does it again in Minnesota, his hometown where he can finish the regular season.”
“I grew as a person, as a leader, and as a man,” said Travis after the game when asked about his experience with Penn State basketball. “It was nice to feel appreciated and I’d like to thank all the fans who have supported us seniors throughout these four years.”
While his senior day will always be a day to remember for D.J. Newbill, the game also marked the 2,000th point of his collegiate career. Newbill, who began his career at Southern Mississippi before transferring to Penn State, needed only six points on the night to reach the milestone, a mark he hit just over 8 minutes into the first half with a smooth free throw.
“Pretty amazing what that kid has accomplished when every defense is geared towards him,” said Chambers afterwards. “Very impressive. I wish we could win more games for him.”
Newbill finished the night with 17 points on 5-15 shooting from the floor, as well as two assists and a rebound to close out his final home game. In just three years as a Nittany Lion, Newbill sits comfortably at fourth on Penn State’s all-time scoring list
“He’s a great player for this league,” said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. “He gets shots in so many ways, and he’s a prolific scorer.”
Penn State opened up the second half on a 6-0 run, before Ohio State’s freshman phenom hit three straight three-pointers to vault the Buckeyes back into the lead, one that they would not relinquish.
“He’s that good. He took over the game. He only needed a crease to get shots off. He was hot,” added Chambers.
With three NBA scouts in attendance, Russell put on a show, scoring 19 of his 28 points in the second half. After shooting a paltry 33 percent in the first half, Russell went 5-7 from the field and 4-5 from three-point range in the second half, bringing his field goal percentage for the game to an even 50 percent. The Louisville, Kentucky native also stuffed the stat sheet in other areas, adding six rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
“The great thing about D’Angelo is that it’s not just the scoring,” Thad Matta said after the game. “He’ll find guys too, and I think our guys feed off that.”
Though it was Russell who stole the night for Ohio State, the Buckeyes also received contributions from another freshman as well as a senior of their own in forward Jae’Sean Tate and guard Shannon Scott. Tate finished the night with 13 points and five rebounds, while Scott tallied 13 points of his own, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
“Jae’Sean is a warrior. He’s a winner,” said Matta. “This university means a lot to him and he plays like it every time he steps on the floor.”
For Ohio State, the win moves them into a tie for fourth place in the Big Ten, as they continue to jockey for position heading into the conference tournament. On the other end of the spectrum, the Penn State loss guarantees that the Nittany Lions will not be seeded any higher than 13 in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Nittany Lions will travel to Williams Arena on Saturday to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-12, 6-10 Big Ten) who Penn State defeated in their first matchup of the season.
Uriah Tagle is a senior majoring in communication arts and sciences and economics. To contact him, email email@example.com.