Penn State Roars Back to Down Akron, 78-72
Boy, D.J. Newbill is something, isn’t he?
In front of a home crowd that made its presence felt late in the game, the senior guard put up 29 points to lead all scorers, while posting five rebounds, five assists, and one steal in a 78-72 victory over Akron at the Bryce Jordan Center last night.
The victory did not come easily, however, as a flurry of misses dug the Nittany Lions into an early 11-3 hole. Akron’s sharpshooters couldn’t miss, as Nyles Evans and Reggie McAdams poured it on from long range to help the Zips jump out to the early lead. Shep Garner finally stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer, and a D.J. Newbill layup helped bring Penn State to within five.
Things got testy between Geno Thorpe and Akron center Isaiah Johnson, as Johnson drove to the rim and was trailed by Thorpe. Both players made contact, but Johnson’s elbow appeared to make contact with Thorpe as he walked away. In a bizarre turn of events, both players were called for technical fouls after a lengthy review of the play, sending both teams to the free throw line.
Penn State was out-rebounded and out-hustled in the opening half, as Akron was able to keep momentum thanks to second chance efforts and turnovers. A late Newbill jumper made it 43-32 with 12 seconds to go, but was answered by a N0ah Robotham layup with mere seconds left, making it seem as though the Zips would run away with this one.
Pat Chambers didn’t appear pleased with his team’s first half performance, and he had no reason to. After making some halftime adjustments, and giving what must have been one hell of a motivational speech, his team came out for the second half firing on all cylinders.
Ross Travis opened up the second half scoring with a monster jam, followed by a scoring run for the ages. Make after make, the Nittany Lions began to turn the tables on Akron, guided by the hot hand of Brandon Taylor, who hit two key corner threes. After a 16-0 run to start the half, Penn State took a 48-45 lead over the Zips.
The two teams began to duke it out as the half progressed, trading free throws as play began to get physical, especially down below the rim. After a big three by Newbill, it seemed as though the Nittany Lions were pulling away. Akron remained within sight, however, and hung around late. Big baskets, including a pretty hesitation move on a critical layup by Newbill, helped Penn State close this one out. Despite a late Akron three, Penn State was able to finish the job, and send the Zips home packing.
Blocks were a big factor in Penn State’s victory, as multiple players chipped in. Jordan Dickerson led all Nittany Lions with four rejections, while Brandon Taylor came in right behind with three. Donovan Jack and Ross Travis each had one apiece.
Akron was no easy opponent, and this game served as a great test for a team that is hard to figure out. The team showed that it could overcome adversity with its tremendous scoring run to open the second half, which bodes well for the team’s confidence going forward. If Penn State can clean up a few issues, and as long as D.J. Newbill remains in top form, this team can definitely hang with some notable opponents.
Next up for Penn State will be Bucknell, played in Sojka Pavilion in Lewisburg, on Friday, Nov. 28 at 4:00 p.m.