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Penn State 61, Virginia Tech 58: Lions Off to Best Start Under Chambers

Penn State knocked off the Hokies in the B1G-ACC Challenge for their seventh win of the season.

Brett Carlsen-USA TODAY Sports

Allow me to use a line I found myself writing an awful lot this fall during football season: it will never be easy. Such was the case again tonight on the hardwood for Penn State. But, in the end, the Lions found enough to grind out a 61-58 win over the visiting Hokies.

Coming into the game, the story was of course the D.J. Newbill-Buzz Williams saga. Early on, Newbill was rattled by an aggressive Hokie defense, which used every opportunity to run two defenders at the senior guard. The ploy clearly took Newbill out of his game, taking just 5 shots from the field, and not converting one until the dying seconds of the half.

With Newbill struggling from the floor, freshman guard Shep Garner carried the mail to the tune of 9 first half points, including an uncontested layup after all 10 players seemed to forget it was a 1 and 1 free throw situation. Five each from Newbill, Donovon Jack, and Brandon Taylor kept PSU in the game, as did an 0 for 8 free throw performance from VT. Junior center Joey van Zegeren threw in 14 points on 7 for 11 shooting, grabbed 7 rebounds, but missed 7 of those 8 Hokie free throws. That was enough for PSU to somehow hold a 31-28 lead at the break.

The second half started off much like the first, but eight minutes in, PSU found itself down 8, and in danger of letting the game get away from them. What happened next was just a 19-2 run to put the Lions up 53-44 with just under 4 minutes left, keyed by 10 from Newbill, and perhaps the best defense PSU has played all season.The only points the Hokies scored during that run came from the free throw line (where VT did make 4 in the second half).

With just under 5 seconds left, Newbill had the chance to put the nail into the coffin, but missed two free throws, giving VT one final chance. The running three at the buzzer drew iron, and fell harmlessly to the floor.

Four Factors Analysis

Team Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 69 [ed. note - nice] 0.88 40.7% 35.0% 24.5% 55.6%
Virginia Tech - 0.84 41.5% 26.7% 11.5% 21.5%

I am not an expert in the art of advanced hoops shooting stats, but a couple things stand out to me. PSU found a way to get to the line with their shots not falling, and the offensive glass made up for a rather disturbing turnover rate.

Player of the Game

It was not his best effort of the season, but it's gotta be D.J. Newbill. With the game in the balance, the senior captain took over on both ends of the floor, leading the way during that game-deciding 19-2 run.

Random Observations

  • Ross Travis will drive you nuts, what with the somewhat senseless jump shots, and now 1 for 15 free throw shooting, but the 6 point, 10 rebound performance is exactly the kind of game Pat Chambers wants from the senior forward. He was a monster on the offensive glass all night.
  • Speaking of rebounds, Travis, Taylor, Donovon Jack, Jordan Dickerson, and Payton Banks combined for 38 rebounds. PSU won't get a ton of points from their front court, but if they can get that kind of effort on the glass, Chambers will be pleased.
  • How sweet were those Pink and Black throwbacks? Admit it, you wouldn't mind seeing those on a football uniform.

Postgame Quotes

  • Buzz Williams on D.J. Newbill: "D.J. is a great kid, and a great player. I used to tell him he was 'old school'.
  • Williams on Newbill/Marquette situation: "I could've handled it better in hindsight. I spoke to him after the game, said 'congratulations, I'm proud of you".
  • Newbill on second half changes: "Coach put more shooters out there to help spread the floor. I think I was rushing a bit in the first half."
  • Patrick Chambers on the flukey Shep Garner free throw: "We were yelling. We say something to trigger guys. He knew it was 1 and 1. It was a huge play. Shep carried us. He's a winner. He made winning plays"
  • Chambers on other guys stepping up with Newbill's 1st half struggles: "I was glad we were put in that situation. D.J. has to understand that's what coaches are going to do to him. Other guys need to be ready to step up and make plays."

Looking Ahead

Penn State heads to Huntington, West Virginia for a date with the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday evening. The Herd has lost 4 straight after starting the year 3-0. They dropped a 77-59 home contest to South Carolina on Monday.