For 39-plus minutes, Cornell outplayed the Penn State men’s basketball team.
Cornell, which went 2-26 a year ago, came out firing and built a 13-point lead in the first 15 minutes of the first half.
The Big Red led with 4.8 seconds left in regulation, but threw away the inbounds pass and D.J. Newbill finished a layup at the buzzer to lift the Nittany Lions to a 72-71 win Friday night in the Charleston Classic.
It was Penn State’s first lead since it led 4-2 less than three minutes into the game. Newbill finished with 26 points on 9 for 16 shooting. John Johnson added 17 points and hit a 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left to pull the Nittany Lions within 71-70. Shep Garner added 10 points.
Cornell finished 21 for 22 from the foul line, but the turnover by Shonn Miller on the final sequence cost the Big Red the game. Galal Cancer and Robert Hatter each scored 17 points to lead Cornell. Cancer went 12 for 12 from the line. Miller had 15 points and Devin Cherry finished with 11 points.
The Big Red (2-3) were blown away by 24 points against South Carolina the previous night in the tournament. But, Cornell burned Penn State (3-1) for five 3-pointers in 11 attempts and limited the Nittany Lions to 31 percent shooting to seize control by the break.
Cornell was selected to finish last in the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll this year, but the Big Red gave the Nittany Lions all they could handle.
With Penn State and Cornell tied 63-63, Newbill grabbed an errant pass and took off down the floor with an open lane.
Cornell’s David Onuorah chased him down and blocked him at the rim, and the Big Red pushed it up the court and Cherry finished an acrobatic layup through a foul.
After a missed free throw, Cornell led 65-63.
The Big Red then hit six straight free throws to keep the lead.
Cornell led 71-67 after two free throws by Cancer before Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds on the clock.
Garner then stole the inbounds pass thrown beyond halfcourt and it ended up in Newbill’s hands for a driving layup down the left baseline for the win.
Penn State needed Newbill to score 15 of its 28 points in the first half. Newbill went 3 for 3 from beyond the arc and 4 for 4 from the foul line to carry the Nittany Lion offense. John Johnson was Penn State’s second-leading scorer with four points at the break.
Penn State looked to go inside early, appearing to have an advantage as Brandon Taylor finished on the block twice to score the team’s first four points.
But Taylor quickly went to the bench with two fouls, and Penn State struggled to execute offensively.
Cornell went on a 14-2 run to push a one-point lead to 13 points with just more than five minutes left in the first half. Hatter made two 3-pointers during the run and hit three 3s in the first half. Cornell held the lead for the final 16 minutes of the period.
The Big Red led 37-28 at halftime.
Penn State sliced into the deficit early in the second half.
A Newbill jumper pulled the Nittany Lions within 41-40 in the first four minutes.
But Cornell reponded with another run.
Hatter hit three free throws, and the Big Red hit three straight 3-pointers to take a 53-42 lead with less than 13 minutes to play.
Cornell led by eight with less than 10 minutes to play, but Penn State cut the deficit to two points with 7:44 to play.
Ross Travis knocked down a jumper, Johnson hit a layup and Newbill finished a drive to bring Penn State within 57-55 and force a Cornell timeout.
Taylor had an open 3, a chance to give the Nittany Lions their first lead of the second half, but it rattled out.
Johnson later made a pair of free throws with 5:56 left to tie it 57-57. It was the first time Penn State was even in the game since the score was 6-6 with 16:26 left in the first half.
Travis missed two free throws with the score tied 59-59 with 4:09 left.
Penn State plays Southern California in the fifth-place game Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Cornell faces Drexel in the seventh-place game.
The Trojans beat the Dragons 72-70 on Friday.
Charlotte faces Miami in the tournament championship game Sunday. The 49ers beat South Carolina 65-63 Friday.