"Keep digging." That's what Pat Chambers was preaching to his huddle all game, according to game-winner D.J. Newbill. Penn State had to dig pretty darn deep to record what is arguably the most impressive win of the Chambers era, and dig deep they did. Time after time, the Nittany Lions looked buried against a top-5 KenPom defense, but they dug their way out of every situation to snag a 71-70 victory. Tim aptly captured Nittany Nation's emotions soon after the win, but this one deserves some extra analysis.
First, how it happened: Penn State came out of the gate hot, spurred on by Graham Woodward and Brandon Taylor, both of whom were extremely impressive throughout the night. The Buckeyes, not to be outdone, got an unlikely contribution of their own from Amedeo Della Valle, a frizzy-haired sub who I really hope is not Jesse's cousin or something. The usual suspects got involved, of course; Newbill went 4-6 from the field for eight points in the first half, and OSU's leading scorer LaQuinton Ross had his shot going to the tune of nine points.
The second half saw Ohio State lead for much of the way. You wonder if the game would have even needed an overtime had Tim Frazier been on his game. The fifth-year senior looked flustered all night, and it's only fair to give Aaron Craft his due here. Dan Dakich's would-be number one overall pick was up to his usual tricks, timing his (legal) pokes and reaches perfectly on Frazier all night, helping to account for Timmy's six turnovers. Penn State would've never won this game had Chambers not given point guard duties to Newbill in the final few minutes of regulation. The adjustment took Craft away from the both the ball and Frazier, who was able to run off some screens and attract a new defender, as he did before delivering a huge assist on a Newbill three that tied the game with 1:11 to play.
Frazier missed a couple of free throws after one of the worst blown calls you will ever see in basketball at any level, but somehow, SOMEHOW, Penn State did not fold, as they have in just about every other close game this season. I'll let the incomparable Steve Jones take over from here (video courtesy GoPSUSports):
Four Factors Analysis
The first thing that jumps out? Holy crap, Penn State got buckets. Whether you want to attribute their lackluster free throw rate to poor officiating or Ohio State's defensive prowess, you can't attribute this win to anything other than the Nittany Lions' ability to get good looks and convert. It's a welcome return to the form we saw early in the season, when PSU was seemingly good for 80 points a night, opponent be damned. The only reason they didn't surpass that threshold on Wednesday was due to the game's snail-ish pace.
Penn State hasn't been a very good rebounding team all season, and it's only gotten worse since conference play began. B1G opponents have been grabbing 37% of available offensive rebounds against PSU, the worst such figure in the league. They didn't shut Ohio State out on the offensive glass, but they did manage to negate that advantage with a glass cleaning of their own on the other end.
Player of the Game
- NSFW Crew - I'm talking of course about B-Titty (Brandon Taylor), G-Wood (Graham Woodward) and J-Dick (Jordan Dickerson), who were immense on Wednesday night. Taylor looked the best he has season with 19 points on 7-13 shooting (4-7 from three), Woodward didn't look anything like a freshman, hitting 3-5 from beyond the arc en route to 11 points, and Dickerson made Calvin Booth proud with five(!) blocked shots and two important buckets down the stretch in regulation. That magical seven footer we've been asking for since Booth left? Think we found him.
- No Shows, No Problems - Perhaps the most impressive thing about this upset was how Penn State won despite minuscule contributions from Donovon Jack, John Johnson and Ross Travis. To be fair to Travis, who had the best game of the group, he probably hadn't gotten over the flu-like symptoms that limited him to just a few minutes against Nebraska, but the three combined for 4-4-4 (points-rebounds-fouls) in 43 total minutes.
- #FiurChambers Watch - Nope, don't even think about it. He gave Newbill the keys to the car when Frazier was struggling with the game on the line and it made both of them more effective. His decision to play Woodward 35 minutes was a masterstroke, and his playcalls out of timeouts over the last seven minutes worked to devastating effect.
- Sweet, Sweet Buckeye Tears - Lenzelle Smith's postgame comments were amazing:
Lenzelle Smith Jr.: "Top-25 teams at home don’t lose these games, and we lost." Game story: http://t.co/aCvVgX1b60 #buckbk— Bob Baptist (@BBaptistHoops) January 30, 2014
Lenzelle Smith Jr. on the Penn State loss: "This hurts the most out of every game since I’ve been at Ohio State."— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) January 30, 2014
Tough times at OSU: "This is embarrassing. Every other team in our conference is laughing at us right now." Lenzelle Smith (@AriWasserman)— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) January 30, 2014
The Lions host Purdue on Sunday at 11:30am in the BJC. More on the Boilers later today.