When Tim Frazier went down to the floor with a ruptured achilles in Puerto Rico, many wondered if Penn State would score more than 50 points the rest of the year. Joking, of course, but the underlying theme was a valid concern. An anemic offense had just lost the one rock it could lean on. Flash forward 5 weeks and we just witnessed Penn State put the finishing touches on their non-conference schedule with an 84-point performance, their fourth straight 70+ output (first such stretch since 2008, per Brian Siegrist).
Their fourth straight win didn't come without worry, however, as the Lions once again let a large lead slip away. The Dukes came back from a 22-point second half deficit to just 5 with under a minute remaining. But the Lions' superior play in the first 30 minutes proved to be the difference.
DJ Newbill led the way with his first double-double as a Lion, scoring a career high 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds (with 5 assists to boot). But it was Nick Colella and Sasa Borovnjak that stole the spotlight with their senior-like play. Colella, the beleaguered 25% career three-point shooter, found the bottom of the net a career-high 5 times on 7 attempts for 15 big points. Borovnjak continued his strong play since entering the starting lineup by scoring 14 points on 9 attempts with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks, giving Penn State a low post presence they've desperately needed.
It was a strange game that was marred by fouls. In total, there were 54 of them, including four technicals and 36 second-half fouls. The Lions really hurt themselves by giving Duquesne 26 second half free throw attempts that helped jumpstart their comeback. Colella and Jermaine Marshall fouling out with significant time on the clock didn't help matters either. The second half foul-a-thon put a damper on what looked to be another promising defensive effort on the Lions' part.
Thanks to Duquesne's style, this was Penn State's fastest game of the year at 76 possessions. They managed to score at a 1.12 clip despite shooting under 50% eFG%. The Lions cashed in on their size advantage over the smaller Dukes in rebounding, dominating the boards on both ends of the floor (64% reb%).
Penn State now heads into conference play next week with some momentum after winning four straight games. Not sure if anyone thought they would be 8-4 at this point after Frazier's injury, but the games get real now. The journey starts in Madison against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center on Thursday.