Still unable to control a big lead, Penn State was able to maintain its composure as it defeated Delaware State in overtime on Saturday, 80-76, at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Nittany Lions were led by redshirt wophomore D.J. Newbill with 22 points and a number of clutch plays, as well as solid offensive outputs from junior Jermaine Marshall with 15 and senior Sasa Borovnjak with 14.
“I would love to blow a team out, but this taught us a lot,” coach Pat Chambers said. “Going into overtime I think is going to help us. We played a lot of different guys and played freshman at difficult moments. That wisdom, that knowledge, that experience can only help us as we get to the Big Ten.”
As has been the trend lately, the Lions got off to a quick start, building a 21-3 lead eight minutes into the first half. The Hornets managed to respond, applying some pressure at the top of the key to slow down the Lions offense and finding some offense in junior Casey Walker.
Walker found his touch from behind the three-point line, hitting 4-6 and scoring 17 points in the half. He was able to knock down a string of contested jumpers.
“We had to make him put the ball on the floor, on a shooter you can never be close enough,” Marshall said.
A balanced offensive attack allowed the Lions to fend Delaware State off for the half, which ended 37-29.
Penn State opened the second half strong, getting the lead back up to double digits.
Freshman Donovon Jack shined for the Lions early with a six point burst to put his team up 55-39 with 13:11 left in the half. The freshman showed poise and toughness at one point escaping from a double team on the block to finish on a reverse lay in.
“I think it was huge, [Donovon] coming in and getting six points off of the bench,” Marshall said. “The thing with him is just playing with confidence. I think he thinks so much but today he played well.”
After building a comfortable lead, the Lions consistency issues began to show. An 11-2 run by Delaware State starting at the four minute mark allowed them to get it within one point with 20 seconds left in regulation.
Newbill was fouled and knocked down both free throws to put Penn State up by three, then the Hornet’s Tyshawn Bell knocked down a three at the opposite end to tie things up at 69 with 12 seconds left. Miscommunication led to a missed shot on a drive by Nick Collela and brought the game to overtime.
“We had them where we wanted them but they played hard and made their run, Newbill said. “We have to keep playing when we have teams hard we have to keep playing hard on defense and keep getting stops to not let that happen. They were hitting shots and executing and we had some mishaps on defense.”
In the extra period, the Lions were first to strike but poor free throw shooting, including two straight misses from leading free throw shooter Marshall, prevented them from building a lead.
With three minutes in the period, Delaware State’s Albert Thomas drove the lane hard to put his team up 71-70. After trading baskets, Borovnjak was fouled where he hit 1-of-2 from the line to tie the game at 73. On the next possession, Bell knocked down a three to put Delaware State up, however Marshall responded coming down to hit a three of his own off a pass by Nick Collela to tie the game back up.
The Lions got a defensive stop and as they went down the court Newbill controlled the ball. A pick-and-roll play was designed for Newbill to get to the basket where he finished on a lay up with ease to put his team up two with 30 seconds left.
“I saw an alley and I just went for it,” Newbill said. “Coach says ‘if you see it, take it, be a basketball player don’t be a robot’ and I just did it with confidence and it worked out to our advantage.”
Penn State was able to stop another Delaware State drive as freshman Brandon Taylor cleared the rebound and was fouled immediately. He went to the line and drained both his free throws to put the game away for the Lions.
“Our freshmen are starting to come of age,” Chambers said “I was proud of Brandon, he didn’t have one of his better performance but the fact that he is a confident kid to go up there and make two free throws [when we weren’t making them]. For him to go up there and make them was gutsy."
The Lions will resume action next Sunday at home against New Hampshire at 11 a.m.