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Penn State Basketball: Newbill And Garner Talk Game Winning Play Against Cornell

by on November 25, 2014 6:00 AM

DJ Newbill hit a game winning layup against Cornell on Friday night as Penn State beat the Big Red 72-71.

But he doesn't remember it. 

The play lasted just over four seconds -- the final four seconds of regulation.

With no timeouts, Cornell was forced to throw the ball into play, landing at half court. Penn State freshman Shep Garner picked up the loose ball, passing it back into the offensive end of the court to a wide open DJ Newbill on the left wing. A drive, a layup and a victory was all that was left.

"I didn't know what was going to happen," Newbill said on Monday. "I saw him steal the pass and I'm like 'what's going to happen next?' (Garner) looked up and we made eye contact and he threw it and I had to shoot fast. I had to look on the camera (afterwards) to see what really happened."

What is perhaps so amazing about Penn State's win was not that the Nittany Lions pulled out the victory, but that in the span of so few seconds so many good decision were made. From the defense on the inbound, Garner's pass and Newbill's decision to take the ball to the hoop, one weak link and Penn State would have been in a much different situation.

"My first thought was taking the three," Newbill said. "I don't know, I can't really tell you what happened in that moment. Everything happened so fast. One moment I'm face guarding my man, the next moment the ball is in my hands and I'm swinging baseline going in for the layup. ... I knew I had time for one, two, dribble and a shot ... they had a small lineup in, that's really why I wanted to take it to the basket. The big man jumped out on me and once I swung through I was going to go up strong and pray for the best."

But even as Newbill will be remembered for the basket, what impressed the fifth year senior wasn't his own play, but that of the freshman only four games into his college basketball career. 

"For a young guy like that to hit his captain, that shows what kind of guy he is, that he had that composure. You could tell he had been in that moment before. I mean, me as a freshman I probably would have taken the shot full court." Newbill said with a smile and a laugh.

And that kind of shot almost happened according to his counterpart.

"When I first got it I thought score," Garner said on Monday inside the Jordan Center. "And then I saw DJ almost wide open with a clear lane to the basket with two seconds left. So I thought, I'm gonna give it to him because I know he's going to score it for us. It ended up being the biggest play of the game."

That's safe to say.

Even if Penn State "shouldn't" have won that game on Friday night, it was a notable moment for a team that has seen so many potential victories evaporate in the final minute of play. There have been so many losses by 5 points or less that most of the team has lost count.

There are a lot of different reasons why those losses happened. Some were very much the doing of the Nittany Lions. But on a night when a loss was there to be had, Penn State made the winning play that had so frequently doomed them.

While living life on the edge is the recommended route to victory, learning how to steal a game is a skill worth having.

And for once it worked for the Nittany Lions, not against them.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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