Penn State Basketball: Newbill Powers Nittany Lions To Upset Victory Over No. 24 Ohio State In Overtime
For weeks now, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers has said his team is close.
His usage of the word "close" carried an implied feeling that his team truly is inches from turning a corner. Until Wednesday night, it was mostly close but no cigar.
Chambers' team lost three games in conference play this season by a single possession.
So as the Nittany Lions ran off the court with a 71-70 victory over the No. 24 ranked Buckeyes on Wednesday night, things may have finally started to turn that corner for Chambers' squad. With back-to-back wins, they may have finally figured out how to finish too.
Penn State opened up the game strong, a requirement for winning on the road. Freshman Graham Woodward made a three as the Nittany Lions started 4-of-4 from the field. Ohio State players countered with baskets of their own. Penn State took a 10-7 lead into the first TV timeout.
Both teams cooled from the field but the Buckeyes would not take the lead until an Amir Williams layup made it 17-15 in favor of Ohio State.
A driving layup by Amedeo Della Valle gave Ohio State a four point lead with 4:55 to go in the opening half. Penn State struggled with interior defense at times. Donovon Jack, a dependable source of offense and defense for the Nittany Lions, was saddled with three first half fouls.
A Brandon Taylor three with just under a minute to go in the opening half cut a 35-28 Ohio State lead to only four at the break. Despite getting only two first half points from Tim Frazier, Brandon Taylor was hitting from outside. Penn State was still in good shape.
Woodward opened the second half with a three and Penn State cut the lead to only a point right out of the break. Both teams would battle, making short runs before the other team would respond. Ohio State was able to push its lead out to 11 points with 7:45 to go in the game, putting Penn State on the ropes.
But the Nittany Lions had shot the ball well all night. They ended the game at a 48-percent clip, a full 10 percentage points better than the Buckeyes. This stat helped make up for 14 Nittany Lion turnovers. Those turnovers helped keep the Buckeyes in the game despite their shooting woes.
Ohio State's stagnant offense and Penn State's improved defense was a perfect comeback combination. The Nittany Lions were down 10 with 5:33 to go in the game. Despite the 14 total turnovers, Penn State held on to the ball in those final five minutes, cutting the Buckeyes lead to three points with 2:22 to go.
From there on out it was the DJ Newbill show.
Newbill would sink a three with 1:10 to play to tie the game. He scored again with 13 seconds to play in regulation to tie the game again at 65-65. The junior had 25 points and 8 rebounds during his monster outing.
With 13 seconds and the ball, Ohio State had three looks at the basket -- all hitting the rim. For a Penn State team that had fallen three times by a single possession in conference play, it would have been all too familiar to see one of those shots drop to end the upset bid.
But none of them went in.
And so the Nittany Lions headed into overtime looking to upset an Ohio State team the Nittany Lions hadn't beaten in 18 straight attempts. A second chance bucket by Brandon Taylor opened the scoring for the Nittany Lions in the overtime period to get things going and Ohio State answered back with five straight points to take a 70-67 lead with just over a minute to go.
Both teams would miss baskets, but Newbill would again answer the call with a layup as the shot-clock expired to cut the lead to a single point with only 45 seconds to go.
All season, Chambers has said the bounces haven't gone his team's way. But as the ball slipped out of Amir Williams' hands and out of play, Penn State finally got the bounce it needed.
Newbill would take the ball down the court, size up one of the best defenders in the nation in Aaron Craft, cross him over, and splash a jumper from the elbow of the key to give Penn State the biggest win the Chambers' era with 1.9 to go.
"I just did a right-to-left crossover and pulled up with confidence," Newbill said. "Luckily, it went down.”
“Our mindset was to keep chipping away. We just kept playing hard and believing in each other. It’s all about attitude. Coach just told us to keep digging and digging. We struck together and played for each other.”
Penn State sits at 11-10 on the year and 2-6 in conference. Neither of those records are what Penn State fans or players wanted to see this season. But in the development of a program each and every win is important. Each and every positive step forward is key. Ohio State may be a staggered team having lost five of the last six games, but a win is a win.
And Penn State will take as many as it can get.
“I’m excited for our players," Chambers said after the game "It’s so hard when you lose by one possession and the ball doesn’t bounce your way. Sometimes you make the big shots, sometimes you don’t. Tonight we did, and we learned from those other close games this season how to execute with great confidence.”