I tried to start writing this recap midway through the second half of regulation, to no avail. This game looked as if it was going to be a typical, early season Penn State non-conference loss. Charlotte chose to live and die outside of the arc and inside the paint, which worked nearly all night long. Penn State's big men looked hilariously outmatched on the inside, continuously failing to contest Charlotte's high percentage looks, and the 49ers shot the three the way that we've become accustomed to seeing Penn State's opponents shoot the three.
Penn State though, to their credit, never gave up. The Nittany Lions shot the ball as if the ball had a restraining order against the net for most of the night, and still found themselves within striking distance when things started to fall. Facing a 17 point deficit, the Lions began to climb back into the game on the back of D.J. Newbill. As the clock started to dwindle, Penn State was forced to start fouling (although with this officiating crew they could have just gone about their business as usual to achieve the same result) to keep things alive. And keep things alive they did. Finally, with three seconds and change remaining in regulation, Newbill shot for three and the tie, only to see the ball get nothing but rim. So what did D.J. do? He charged into the paint, got his own rebound, and kicked out to a patiently waiting John Johnson. Flipp did what Flipp was brought to Penn State to do, and we were headed to OT.
During the ferocious Penn State comeback, three of Charlotte's best players fouled out (Willie Clayton, Terrence Williams, and Pierria Henry). This left the 49ers to run out an extremely young lineup in OT, and it showed early on. Charlotte seemed to lack any sort of flow on the offensive end, and it showed in the scoreboard as they only managed 7 points in the five minute period. Unfortunately for Penn State, they weren't able to take advantage, only scoring 7 of their own. The Nittany Lions did manage to position themselves to win the game, but Newbill's layup attempt with time winding down at the end of OT failed to reach the basket, and off to double overtime we went.
What Charlotte lost in talent with their foul outs, they seemed to gain in freshness. Braxton Ogbueze scored 6 of his 26 in double overtime to edge the 49ers in front of the Nittany Lions, and freshmen Keyshawn Woods and Torin Dorn both made big freebies down the stretch. It seemed that playing nearly the entire game finally caught up to Penn State and their superstar, as Newbill began to visibly tire. Without their leader putting shots through the netting, the rest of the Chambers Clan finally reverted back to their late first half and early second half selves, as Charlotte advanced to the second round of the Charleston Classic.
Four Factors Analysis
Hellooooo, free throws. The referees played a huge role in this one, as Charlotte attempted a whopping 46 free throws on the night. The Niners were clearly the more efficient shooting team on the night, as evidenced by their 56.2% effective field goal percentage. Penn State truly did deserve to lose this one, especially after allowing the 49ers to shoot nearly 50% from three. One bright spot today for the Nittany Lions was their work on the offensive boards, particularly from Ross Travis. His biggest value to this team is his ability to extend plays, and he did that tonight. On one play in particular, he fought for a loose rebound, saved it from going out of bounds, grabbed another offensive board a few seconds later, and kicked it back out for a three that finally hit home. Now, if only he could make his layups...
Player of the Game- D.J. Newbill
Not only did D.J. set his career high in points scored in a single game with 35, but he did so while leading Penn State in every facet of the game. He was able to get shots to fall when no one else was. He led the furious comeback of the second half in regulation. His eight rebounds and two steals were huge for Penn State, especially the hustle rebound off of his own miss that allowed him to set up John Johnson for the game tying three, and Newbill's only assist of the night.
The first game of the season gave us a glimpse of how Newbill can still impact a game, despite not having his best shot. He got to the line, and he got to the line often. Tonight, we saw the D.J. that will land on all-Big Ten lists by the time the season is over (at least he better, or Eric might burn the Big Ten to the ground). Despite the fact that he had two extra five-minute periods to add to his total, D.J. was a scoring machine tonight. He did tire as the second overtime drew to a close, but if you can find me a basketball player who can play that long without tiring, I'll be sure that the future Seattle Supersonics draft him immediately.
- The officiating. It was
questionablepoor, all night long. From missed fouls, to hilariously terrible flagrant calls, to incorrect decision on possession calls, it was all bad for this crew of referees. They seemed to get a better handle on things in OT, but by that point they had already made their mark. Penn State lost this game by their own efforts, but there is a very easy argument to be made that their opponents didn't deserve 46 chances to get free points.
- Shep Garner had an up and down night from the floor. After outpacing his high school scoring rate in his first two collegiate games, mostly thanks to superb three point shooting, he struggled with his jump shot on this night. As time went on though, he made up for it with his free throw shooting and his ability to drive to the basket. After three games, we still don't quite know what to expect from Shep on the offensive end (which, duh). While he's shown the ability to take over from behind the arc, it's much more likely that the bulk of his production will come from inside the paint and from the line. He showed us tonight that he can still produce when his shot is failing him (although one would probably like to see him take fewer threes when he's so off).
- For a team that played such sparkling defense in their first two games, Penn State looked uninspired for much of the night on that end of the floor in this one. Donovon Jack, Jordan Dickerson, Ross Travis, and Julian Moore had little to no answer for anything Charlotte did in the paint. Geno Thorpe wasn't quite his all-Big Ten defending self in the second half of regulation, and the Nittany Lions as a team didn't do a good job defending the three point line. One of Penn State's common problems under Pat Chambers has been allowing teams to have their way outside of the arc, so it's a bit concerning to see that problem resurface tonight. Obviously it's as small a sample size as they come, but Penn State's perimeter defense going forward is one of the more important storylines to watch.
Despite the loss, Penn State still gets the chance to show the good people of Charleston that they can be winners. They will take on the loser of the Cornell-South Carolina game that immediately followed the Lions' double overtime loss. That game will take place tomorrow night (11/21/14) at 9pm Eastern time, on ESPN3. Keep it tuned to BSD for all of your Charleston Classic coverage.