UNIVERSITY PARK — As its non-conference schedule comes to an end with Saturdays 4 p.m. home game against Duquesne, Penn State will look to continue the progress thats led to its current three-game winning streak.
After getting punished by La Salle 82-57 in Philadelphia, the Nittany Lions offense has exploded, averaging 76.6 points per game after just 59 points in the previous seven games before La Salle.
The seasons pace has begun to slow with the last three games separated by at least a week, allowing time for Patrick Chambers and his staff to mold their team.
We had nine games (in a short period) and we couldnt work on our foundation and couldnt work on our habits because we didnt have any time, (plus) we had to rest guys, Chambers said. So now were working on our habits and getting after it the last few weeks.
With the injury to Tim Frazier on Nov. 18 against Akron, Penn State (7-4) was forced to play a shortened bench. D.J. Newbill, Jermaine Marshall and Ross Travis each logged heavy minutes.
Newbill also had the added responsibility of replacing Frazier at the point while trying to reacquaint himself to the pace of play after sitting out last season. However, Newbill has adjusted successfully to both with time, and with the help of Marshall.
(With) sitting out a year, we tried to simulate games in practice but I think he was rusty, Chambers said of Newbill earlier this season. Because what I see right now is what I saw in practice. I think we are seeing a guy who has his legs under him and has a clear head and hes playing like it.
Newbill equaled a career high with 22 points in Penn States overtime win over Delaware State. He also hit the game-winning layup with just seconds remaining. But hes also getting help.
Over the last six games, Marshall is averaging 18.3 points per game and shooting 46% from the floor to go with 43% from the 3-point line. Marshall also leads the team in steals and had a career high five against New Hampshire.
But it hasnt just been about Newbill and Marshall. The Nittany Lions are getting contributions from several key players.
Jermaine feels pretty comfortable making plays and (he and Newbill) are both taking high percentage shots, Chambers said. And our starting five guys are capable of getting you ten (points), minimum. So thats a luxury we didnt have in the past. Right now with Sasa Borovnjak and the way hes playing and Ross Travis. And Brandon Taylor is playing pretty consistently for a freshman.
Borovnjak has given Chambers quality production since being inserted into the starting rotation in December. He scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds against Delaware State.
Travis leads the team in rebounding and has been the most consistent forward throughout the season. Though he sprained his left knee in practice last week, Chambers said he would be back in the starting lineup.
He looked great today, Chambers said of the teams Friday practice. He had 15 rebounds in practice!
Penn State will need its full allotment of personnel to deal with a dangerous Duquesne team.
The Dukes (7-6) are led in scoring by Derrick Colter, a freshman guard averaging 13.2 points per game. Sean Johnson, a senior, is second with 12.9.
They took Georgetown (10-1) to the wire early in the season before succumbing 61-55. They also beat West Virginia (6-5) 60-56.
Its scary, Chambers said of playing Duquesne. Theyre a team a lot like La Salle, which wasnt good for us.
They have small, quick guards, capable shooters and athletic wings, he continued. I think Coach Ferry has done a heck of a job with this team.
Chambers was especially complimentary of Colters poise and savvy.
Colter is a freshman but he doesnt even play close to like a freshman, he said. This kid is a big-time player.
It will be the kind of test that Chambers is looking for before the Big Ten begins Jan. 3 at Wisconsin.
Theyre going to present a difficult problem for us because of their speed and quickness and this is exactly what I wanted heading into the Big Ten, Chambers said. We have to do a really good job of keeping them out of the paint and defending the 3-point line. So we better be ready to play. This is a very good Duquesne team. We have to be ready to play; this is going to be a 40-minute battle.
But I think D.J. got the rust off and looks much better and Jermaine feels pretty comfortable making plays and theyre both taking high percentage shots. And our starting five guys are capable of getting you ten, minimum. So thats a luxury we didnt have in the past. Right now with Sasa and the way hes playing and Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor is playing pretty consistent for a freshman.
I think D.J. Newbill finally has legs, I think he was a little bit rusty. And I think weve had some good weeks of practice too. We had nine games (in a short period) and we couldnt work on our foundation and couldnt work on our habits because we didnt have any time and we had to rest guys. So now were working on our habits and getting after it the last few weeks. But I think D.J. got the rust off and looks much better and Jermaine feels pretty comfortable making plays and theyre both taking high percentage shots. And our starting five guys are capable of getting you ten, minimum. So thats a luxury we didnt have in the past. Right now with Sasa and the way hes playing and Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor is playing pretty consistent for a freshman.
Army outscored the Nittany Lions from three 10-28 to 7-19 but double Penn States attempt and only earned three more triples.
Delaware State 10-30 Penn State 7 of 18.
New Hampshire 5 of 21 Penn State 7 of 22.