Penn State finished out its non-conference slate with an impressive offensive performance as ten Nittany Lions scored in an 84-74 victory over Duquesne at the Bryce Jordan Center. D.J. Newbill was all over the court for the Lions, registering a double-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists.
The Lions shot 42.4 percent from the field for the game and were aided by the hot three-point shooting of Nick Colella (3-5) and Brandon Taylor (2-5) early in the first half. For the game, Penn State shot 40 percent (8-20) from long range and was also efficient from the free-throw line, knocking down 26 of 36 attempts.
Colella registered the best offensive performance of his career. The senior knocked down five three-pointers for a career high 15 points. The play of Colella, coupled with the inside production of Sasa Borovnjak (8 points first half, 14 total), helped propel Penn State to a double digit half-time lead. The offensive boost from Colella and Borovnjak was needed, as Jermaine Marshall (9 points on 2-10 shooting) struggled mightily, straying from his strong early season play.
Newbill, Colella, and Borovnjak continued to shoulder the scoring load in the second half and after 30 dominant minutes of play, the Penn State lead grew to 21 with 9:35 to go. But Duquesne did not go away.
As evidenced by narrow defeats of Army and Delaware State in which double digit leads were relinquished, a win never seems to come easy these days for Penn State. A familiar script played out Saturday as Duquesne chipped away at the Nittany Lion lead.
The Dukes forced nine second half turnovers, applying pressure on Newbill who didn’t have much ball handling help after both Marshall and Colella fouled out. Duquesne guards Sean Johnson and Derrick Colter sparked the comeback, combining for 29 points in the second half.
Penn State’s lead was cut to just five with 56 seconds remaining, but clutch free throws from Newbill and freshman Akosa Maduegbunam sealed the win for the Lions.
The victory is the fourth straight for Penn State and sends them into Big Ten play with an 8-4 record. Considering this team lost Tim Frazier, their best player and leader, in the fourth game of the year, there are reasons to be encouraged for Penn State fans.
The offense has really come alive, averaging 78.5 points per game during the winning streak. The scoring has spread out beyond just Newbill and Marshall, with Borovnjak, Colella, Ross Travis, and freshmen Taylor and Donovon Jack proving to be capable contributors.
On the defensive end, giving up 46 second half points to Duquesne has to be concerning for Pat Chambers. Lackluster defensive performances won’t give the Lions a chance to be very competitive against most Big Ten teams—but growth is certainly evident on this team over the past few weeks. And perhaps most importantly, Newbill has grown into a competent ball handler in Frazier’s absence.
Even without Frazier, more focus on the defensive end along with the consistent offensive performances we’ve seen the past few weeks could help Penn State surpass last year’s conference win total of 4. More importantly, these games will provide valuable experience for the returning underclassmen in the future.