Penn State Edges USC 62-59 In Charleston Classic Finale
Penn State (4-1) was able to outlast a second half push from USC (2-3) in today’s fifth-place matchup in the Charleston Classic. The Nittany Lions beat the Trojans 62-59, despite leading by as much as 13 points early on.
D.J. Newbill led all scorers, putting up 22 points, with four rebounds, a team-leading four assists, and one steal. Freshman Shep Garner finished with 13 points, and was on fire early from beyond the arc, hitting 4-6 from three-point territory. Donovan Jack led the Nittany Lions in rebounding, finishing with eight, while also chipping in eight points and two blocks.
The Nittany Lions jumped out to an early 15-2 first half lead thanks to a bevy of missed jump shots from the Trojans, coupled with a few early three pointers from Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor. After the scoring outburst, USC head coach Andy Enfield — formerly of Florida Gulf Coast — called a timeout to attempt to end Penn State’s run. Whatever Enfield drew up worked, because two costly turnovers by Taylor and Jordan Dickerson led to a big three by USC guard Katin Reinhardt, putting the Trojans right back into the mix.
Rebounding was huge for USC in the first half, and some big putbacks on the team’s 16 (!!) first-half offensive rebound, cut the deficit to two. An Elijah Stewart three pointer and two Strahinja Gavrilovic free throws tied the game at 18 apiece about midway through the first half.
For the remainder of the first half, the two teams traded layups and three pointers, while battling down low under the boards after a flurry of misses by both teams down the stretch. The highlight of the first half came right at the final buzzer. In typical Newbill fashion, he kept the ball himself and hit a jumper right as the buzzer sounded — his second buzzer beater in as many quarters — putting the Nittany Lions ahead 31-30.
The second half began in a hurry, as a Donovan Jack steal led to a Ross Travis layup on the other end. The Trojans answered with a layup, keeping it within one. For the next two minutes, the teams traded misses and rebounds, keeping the game deadlocked at 37 points apiece. A Geno Thorpe layup at around the 14 minute mark ended the scoring drought, and put the Nittany Lions ahead 39-37.
Penn State led by a single point midway through, but a three pointer by Jordan McLaughlin made the game a bit more interesting, and put the Trojans up 43-41. After a TV timeout, USC went on a six point run, giving the team a more comfortable lead.
D.J. Newbill took over the driver’s seat late, hitting a pair of clutch jumpers that narrowed the deficit to three. With just under five minutes to go, Newbill came up big again, hitting a two free throws to put the score at 52-51, and answered with a big drive to the lane that put the Nittany Lions up by one. It was two more Newbill free throws that put the icing on the cake for Penn State, putting the Lions ahead for good, 62-59.
This was the third and final game of the Charleston Classic, and while the loss to Charlotte was humbling, the tournament served as a good tuneup for a young team trying to find its groove.
The Nittany Lions next face Akron at home in the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m.