UNIVERSITY PARK — D.J. Newbill helped Penn State continue its winning ways in thrilling, yet sometimes bizarre fashion, defeating Duquesne 84-74 in the final game of 2012 and the non-conference schedule.
When the Nittany Lions travel to Wisconsin on Jan. 3 to begin Big Ten play, they will do so riding a four-game winning streak.
We feel real confident, Newbill said after the game. We feel like this was a momentum game for us and we realize the Big Ten will be the toughest games well face this year.
But were just working hard, he continued. Our principles dont change: play hard, defend, tough, gritty thats our identity.
Nowhere was that identity more apparent than on the body of Newbill as he spoke at the post-game press conference. Bandage under his left eye, flesh-colored wrap on his right forearm extending from his wrist to just below his elbow where blood still stained crimson.
Newbill scored a career-high 23 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dealt out five assists. Nick Colella also tallied career-highs in points with 15 and 3-pointers with five.
Sasa Borovnjak was stellar for the fifth-straight game with 14 points and five rebounds on 7-for-9 shooting. He is also shooting 70 percent over the last five games and 58 percent for the season. It was his third straight double-figure game.
Give credit to Penn State, Dukes head coach Jim Ferry said. I think Pats doing a fantastic job. Maybe one of the best jobs in the country because I played against this team when they had Frazier and for them to be doing what theyre doing without him, thats a major credit to Pat and those kids.
Penn State's 84 points was its most under head coach Patrick Chambers. The team also hit a season-best eight 3-pointers and is averaging 78.5 points during the winning streak.
Before Ferrys group stormed back to make things interesting late, Penn State trailed 14-15 early before an 11-0 run earned them first-half control and made it difficult for the Dukes to find their footing.
It makes it really hard, Ferry said. Especially when youre playing a lot of young guys.
Freshmen Derrick Colter and Quevyn Winters scored 13 and 14 points respectively for Duquesne. Senior Sean Johnson led the team with 19.
Four players from Duquesne and Jermaine Marshall (nine points, four assists) and Colella fouled out.
The physical game, which featured 54 total fouls, began to heat up as halftime approached.
After Newbill hit the floor bloodying his knee and his shorts referees forced him out of the game with 2:27 left before the half.
In order to reenter Newbill had to change. So his teammates huddled around him near the end of the bench while the redshirt sophomore dropped his red-stained shorts to boisterous applause from Penn States portion of the estimated 5,521 in attendance.
Yeah, I had blood on my shorts, said Newbill. I scraped my knee and I (cut) my elbow too, so there was just blood everywhere.
Emotions continued to run high after the brief moment of levity as the Duquesne bench was whistled twice for technical fouls with 47 then 37 seconds left before intermission.
Borovnjak and Jeremiah Jones then got tangled up and were each assessed technicals.
Penn State went into halftime with a 39-28 lead.
Newbills wardrobe malfunctions would continue in the second half as the Dukes began to close the gap on what was once a 22-point-Penn State lead with 10:16 remaining in the game.
The Dukes went on a 14-3 run to get within 69-58 after forcing turnovers with their full-court pressure. But Jon Graham answered with a Big-Mac-procuring basket in the paint, followed by a gorgeous Newbill pirouette and floater that pushed the lead back to 73-58.
The Nittany Lions breached 70 points for the fourth-straight time, sending ticket-wielding fans to McDonalds for complimentary sandwiches.
The intense pressure would continue though and with 1:08 to play and Penn State nursing a 78-69 lead, Newbills wardrobe would betray him again.
As he advanced the ball near half court he appeared to be tripped from behind, sending him sprawling one way and the ball the other. Jerry Jones picked up the ball and shuttled it over to Johnson for a layup.
Newbill had four turnovers in the game but at least one should be credited to his sneaker.
He blew his sneaker out, said head coach Patrick Chambers. His sneaker rolled under. Thats why he fell it wasnt a foul.
I dont even know, Newbill said. I just made a cut and I just felt it rip open.
Newbill said someone ran to the locker room to grab him another shoe. The new, size-13 shoe fit just fine but was a different color.
So he walked, two-toned to the foul line with 23.7 seconds remaining after grabbing his 12th rebound and getting fouled with a 79-74 lead.
He went 1-for-2 but a slick back tap by Ross Travis fell into the hands of freshman Akosa Maduegbunam, who got fouled and drilled two to cement the victory.
Awesome, Chambers responded when asked about Newbills performance. Just awesome. Love it. Thats what its supposed to be. Thats a Philly guard. If you dont come out of a game and you dont have blood or scraped up knees or two different sneakers than you didnt play hard, he quipped. He obviously played hard.