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Never In Doubt: Penn State Outlasts USC, 63-61 in Their Final Charleston Classic Game

Seriously, did you expect anything less dramatic?

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Well, if this wasn't a fitting ending to what's been a roller coaster ride of a Charleston Classic for this Penn State team. Given how this squad rallied from a 17-point deficit to force a pair of overtimes in the loss to Charlotte, and D.J. Newbill's miraculous buzzer-beating layup to help avoid what would've been a truly embarrassing loss to Cornell in the second game, Penn State finally exorcised the demons of preseason tournaments past by gutting out a 63-61 victory over a USC squad that hung tough to the very end, finishing the Charleston Classic with a 2-1 record and earning fifth place overall in the tourney.

Penn State's start to this one was the polar opposite of their first two games as they raced out to an early 15-2 lead thanks to some great defense, ball movement, and perimeter shooting. USC however, gradually fought its way back to take the lead before Newbill hit a buzzer-beater at the end of the half to put PSU back up by a point. The second half remained tight with a handful of lead changes, but with neither team leading by more than five points. The final five minutes or so of this game however, saw Newbill completely take over this game, whether it was nailing clutch jump shots or free throws or hunkering down defensively, USC did not appear to have an answer for him. In the end, it made all the difference and allowed Penn State to celebrate yet another tight victory.

Newbill once again, led all PSU scorers with 22 points while Shep Garner joined him with 13 of his own. Katin Reinhardt led USC in scoring with 14 points while his backcourt mate Jordan McLaughlin added 12 points and six rebounds and Strahinja Gavrilovic added 13 points off the bench.

Four Factors Analysis

Team Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 64.75 0.99 48.3% 38.9% 23.5% 16.9%
USC 62.83 0.96 32.6% 55.8% 20.4% 40.9%

So, how do two teams with an equal number of possessions and with one team holding a significant advantage in shooting (PSU shot 42% from the floor, compared to USC's 27%) play such a tight contest? Look no further than gross offensive rebounding (OReb%) and free throw shooting (FT Rate) discrepancies. PSU was severely outmatched on the glass today, allowing an astonishing 29 offensive boards from the Trojans, which was more than the number of defensive rebounds (23) that PSU managed to snag, thus giving them plenty of second and third chance opportunities to score points. Additionally, USC found itself at the free throw line 27 times, compared to PSU's 10 trips. Albeit, USC failed to take advantage of their trips, nailing merely 67% (18 of 27) while PSU nailed 6 of its 10 attempts (60%) from the line.

Player of the Game

Without question, it's D.J. Newbill. Hell, D.J. has been PSU's MVP of this tournament, and it's not even close. Coming into this game, he was averaging 30.5 points in the Charleston Classic. 16 of his 22 points came in the second half today and during the game's critical final five minutes, to boot.

Random Observations

  • Shep Garner's Hot Start is no Fluke - The true freshman combo guard has not only become a reliable scorer and perhaps the team's best perimeter shooting threat (Garner nailed four of his six three point attempts today), but is also a reliable option at point guard, allowing Newbill to play off the ball where he is at his best.
  • Too Many (Bi-Polar) Cooks - John Johnson (aka 'Flipp' aka 'Let Flipp Cook') was non-existent today from a scoring standpoint, drawing a big fat goose egg on the box score. Johnson as you may recall, ht the game-tying three against Charlotte in regulation to send that game into overtime, and scored 17 points in the win over Cornell. Starting from today, Flipp's scoring line from each of PSU's games this season reads like this: 0, 17, 3, 11, and 6. It sure would be nice to see him become a more consistent source of scoring, rather than being hot-or-cold like this.
  • This Charleston Classic Experience Can Officially be Dubbed a Success - As Bill, Chad, and I agreed upon in the last Basketbro Show podcast: A 2-1 record would be considered successful for this team. It may not have happened in the manner we predicted (I for one, thought PSU would beat Charlotte and South Carolina in its first two games before falling to Miami (FL) in the finals), but nonetheless, they leave Charleston with a 4-1 overall record and a manageable remaining slate of games before delving into Big Ten play. More importantly, this team leaves Charleston with further confidence in themselves and their ability to find a way to grit out wins in tight ballgames, no matter how stacked the odds may be against them. It is a trait that should serve them very well, once they get into the heart of their conference schedule.

Looking Ahead

The Nittany Lions return home to face Akron on Tuesday at BJC. The Zips took home third place with a win over South Carolina in Charleston on Sunday and they should give Penn State some problems as a quality mid-major opponent.