Mirroring the theme song of Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice”, the Nittany Lions were money in the first half from behind the arc, helping them to a 58-47 victory over Penn on Saturday.
The Lions (4-3) were coming off Wednesday’s 73-61 loss to Boston College in which the Eagles drained 8-of-18 from three-point range.
One game later, the Lions changed things up as the team shot 5-of-7 from three-point land in the first half.
“Eventually the ball is going to fall on our side. We struggled a couple of games in the first half, but we just kept working in practice,” guard D.J. Newbill said. “We just came from a good week in practice, seeing the ball go through the hoop. We had a great walk-through this morning and we were able to transfer it through the game.”
Coming into the season, three-point shooting was expected to be an aspect needing improvement. Last season, the Lions shot just 31 percent from downtown while opponents hit 38 percent of their looks.
Adding to the Lions’ shooting concerns, guard Tim Frazier, who coach Patrick Chambers said drastically improved his three-point shot over the summer, went down with a season-ending injury on Nov. 18.
Considering the history of poor shooting and the loss of the team’s most prolific and reliable scorer, Penn State had a lot to overcome in regards to shooting from behind the arc.
Insert freshman forward Brandon Taylor and the Lions could now have a legitimate threat from downtown. Taylor scored 11 points on 3-of-4 three-point shooting in the first half alone.
“He knows that his role is to look for the threes. He has to do a little bit better of a job of mixing things up. He needs to get threes, post ups and his mid range game,” Chambers said. “He needs to be an impact player for us. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have time to be a freshman. He needs to be a sophomore today and not a freshman.”
Despite Taylor’s first half efforts, the Lions had just four points in the first seven minutes of the second half. Both of those buckets came from steal-breakaway dunk combos from Newbill.
Newbill, along with true shooting guard Jermaine Marshall, was effective manning the point guard slot.
When Frazier went down, the responsibilities fell on those two, and after going through some growing pains the duo seem to be getting more comfortable with the position. Newbill did well to retain possession, surrendering just one turnover, and Marshall led the team in scoring with 18 points.
Marshall, who has been used to spell Newbill for a short span, said he felt “somewhat” comfortable running the point and adjusted early.
“Overall, I thought [the guards] handled [the pressure] pretty well,” Chambers said. “Eleven turnovers the whole game and we were pressed almost the whole game…That’s a step in the right direction.”
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