Newbill Struggles, Penn State Outlasts Duquesne
After a brutal fight to the buzzer, the Penn State Nittany Lions (9-1) defeated the Dukes of Duquesne (3-2) for their ninth victory of the season and seventh consecutive.
“For three years we haven’t won the close games and now we’re taking that experience and utilizing it this year,” said a proud head coach Pat Chambers afterwards.
Most of the game was a back and forth battle, especially the first half.
“These close games are helping us be more comfortable in uncomfortable situations” said freshman guard Shep Garner.
Both teams had key players struggling through the first half.
Duquesne’s Micah Mason finished the half 0-6 from the field, while D.J. Newbill went into the locker room 1-8 with two turnovers, easily his worst half of the season.
“D.J. was definitely struggling today,” said Penn State guard Geno Thorpe.
To replace the effectiveness of Newbill, three players stepped up for the Nittany Lions. One of these was Garner. The freshman finished 5-10 with 13 points for the game.
“Coach always tells me if I’m open, shoot it and my teammates give me confidence to take the open shot,” said Garner.
Garner forced Duquesne to keep a man glued to him, opening up the floor for Thorpe to get into the lane and do what he does best—get to the foul line.
“Geno is really aggressive and he’s done a really good job of figuring out his role; he’s an energy guy,” said Duquesne head coach Jim Ferry.
Among these heroics from the Nittany Lion bench was Donovon Jack, who finished 3-for-4, and converting on five of six free throws.
“They were huge and we needed every point,” said Chambers.
Duquesne had a strong offensive performance of their own in Jordan Stevens, who finished with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting.
Chambers said of the Duquesne star, “I think 35 (Stevens) is really quick, (he) got down the court really fast.”
And that’s exactly what he was doing, turning Penn State’s eight first half turnovers into points.
After switching leads through the entire half, Stevens hit a three near the buzzer to pull the Dukes to within one, 29-28, at the half.
Changes to the lineup were evident at the start of the second half as Thorpe took a leading role.
“Coach decided to start me in the second half and told me to be aggressive, so that’s what I did,” said Thorpe.
The sophomore guard attacked the defense of Duquesne, getting to the line, putting the Dukes in foul trouble, and building a ten-point lead for his team.
“It’s a team effort so we had to pick it up as a unit,” said Thorpe of Newbill’s struggles.
“We rely on D.J. every game and for once we picked him up,” added Chambers.
In the second half, Newbill began to turn down some open looks that he typically would take. A steal and layup from Stevens, and a slam from TySean Powell, pulled the Dukes to within four, 50-46, with eight minutes to play.
Ferry commented, “I give my kids credit to come here on the road and play a team like this and give ourselves a chance to win the game.”
Duquesne truly had their chance. Down five with 4:30 remaining, the Dukes created three sets of free throw opportunities.
They only converted on four of the six free throws, leaving the Dukes down by one, 58-57. That’s when Penn State had its opportunity.
Thorpe hit two free throws, followed by two from Jack, allowing them to pull ahead 64-60 with 1:33 remaining.
“Finally made our free throws, free throws won us the game tonight," Chambers said.
Stevens hit another crucial driving layup to pull the Dukes to within two. They would get the back with just seconds remaining.
The ball went to Mason, who had struggled all night, and the Nittany Lion defense covered it beautifully as the three-point heave from the junior guard failed to scrape the rim.
“We ran a play at the end and they did a great job of switching up on it,” said Ferry.
Next up for Penn State, 5-2 George Washington travels to Happy Valley for a noon start. ComRadio’s coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. with the Penn State Basketball Pregame Show.
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Abby Drey)
Mike Carnuccio is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org