Well, it wasn't easiest of victories but then again, this is a team that is used to scrapping and fighting for everything, so I suppose it was to be expected. Penn State (6-1) started off in the best way imaginable for a road contest at Bucknell's compact Sojka Pavilion (seating: approximately 4,000), nailing their first three shots to go up 7-0 just 1:09 into the ball game before Bucknell called timeout to collect themselves.
From there on out, it was a game where PSU never trailed, but never was able to push its lead comfortably ahead. It seemed every time PSU pushed its lead into double digits (PSU led by as much as 12 in the game), Bucknell would act like the computer-controlled (CPU) team in NBA Jam when you get up on them by 8-10 points, the opposing team's player attributes suddenly skyrocket to a 10 (out of 10) in every category and all of sudden, the CPU starts nailing threes with hands in their faces, getting steals, and before you know it, you're clinging to a 2-3 point advantage. Every time Bucknell managed to get the game within one possession however, either Ross Travis (and his #RossTravisJumpShots which were in full effect today - more on that in the Random Observations section), D.J. Newbill, or Brandon Taylor would come up with a clutch shot to silence the crowd momentarily and start another run that would push PSU's lead into the upper single digits.
With six minutes to play in the game, Bucknell finally managed to tie the game at 66 and was looking to take their first lead when PSU turned up the heat defensively, garnering a few steals that led to buckets on the other end to ultimately go on a 15-4 run that would effectively end hope of another Bucknell rally. D.J. Newbill finished the game with 28 points, (which now makes him college basketball's fourth leading scorer), while Travis (14), Taylor (12), and Thorpe (12) also scored in double figures. Bucknell's scoring was led by guard John Azzinarro (18), Nana Foulland (14) and three-point shooting sensation Chris Hass, who while held in check for the game's first 30 minutes thanks to superb defense from Geno Thorpe, still ended up scoring 14 points. Azzinarro and Foulland (as well as a few other teammates) helped pick up the scoring slack while Hass was held in check, which effectively kept this game from turning lopsided in PSU's favor.
At 2-5, this isn't the best Bucknell team to ever grace the court at Sojka Pavilion, but it was nonetheless a win on the road in a tough environment against a scrappy opponent, whom the shooty hoopers were seeking revenge against for last year's upset loss at the BJC.
Four Factors Analysis
The only real notable advantages on here are PSU's Points Per Possession (PPP) and Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OReb%), and even those are kind of miniscule (PSU shot 56% to Bucknell's 49% and led Bucknell in offensive rebounding by a 9-7 margin). Even though Bucknell found itself getting to the free throw line early and often, thanks to some PSU foul trouble, the Nittany Lions eventually worked their way to the line as much as the Bison did (PSU shot 20 of 26 on FT's to Bucknell's 18 of 24). Really, it came down to PSU hitting clutch shots and clamping down defensively every time Bucknell made it a one possession game.
Player of the Game
D.J. Newbill (duh) - Per his usual M.O., Newbill took over the scoring slack in the second half, where he racked up 21 of his 28 points. More importantly, he drained several momentum-killing shots when Bucknell absolutely needed to get a stop on the defensive side of the ball. Essentially, D.J. looked like Prince going up against Charlie Murphy's entourage in that famed Chappelle's Show sketch.
- #RossTravisJumpShots - It was perhaps the most uncharacteristic performance I've seen from Ross Travis. He finished the game hitting 6 of 7 from the floor, which included him nailing his first several shots in a row, including a pair from downtown. Unfortunately, foul trouble caused Travis to not have much of a presence in the second half. While it was nice to see him step up, I wouldn't expect to see this kind of scoring from him come Big Ten play.
- FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT (sort of) - For those who weren't at the game and didn't watch the streaming broadcast, a minor scuffle broke out underneath one of the baskets (near where I was sitting) at the end of the half. Ross Travis was scrambling to pick up a loose ball and attempt to get a shot off before time expired (he didn't) but managed to get tangled up with a Bucknell player. Words were exchanged, and several players from both teams came over to start defending their respective teammates before it was broken up.
- Kudos to Dave Paulsen on his sweet-ass 1970's get-up - Because this was PSU's first trip to Bucknell since 1976, the good folks at Bucknell decided to create a retro-themed atmosphere in which popular music from 1976 was played (but sadly, no 'Afternoon Delight'), the Bucknell players rocked jerseys and warmups from 1976 and their coach, Dave Paulsen, followed suit with his own getup. BSD alumnus and StateCollege.com writer Ben Jones captured this quality close-up of Paulsen for our viewing pleasure.
With their next contest being Virginia Tech at home on Wednesday for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, Penn State gets five days to recover after playing their first seven games in a two-week span. It will be another revenge game, but more personally for D.J., who was royally screwed over by current Tech coach Buzz Williams.