Penn State’s D.J. Newbill brought the ball down the floor and immediately attacked the basket.
Newbill spun away from Southern California’s Katin Reinhardt and drew a foul on his left-handed layup attempt. He sank both free throws to pull the Nittany Lions within one with just more than five minutes to play.
After receiving an outlet pass to start the next possesion, Newbill again wasted no time driving right through the USC defense. He finished an easy layup to give Penn State its first lead in more than seven minutes.
Newbill took over down the stretch — scoring 11 of Penn State’s final 14 points — to help the Nittany Lions edge the Trojans 63-61 in the fifth-place game of the Charleston Classic on Sunday. Newbill finished with 22 points on 8 for 17 shooting.
“I gave him the ball,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “I said, ‘If we’re going down, we’re going down with you.’”
Newbill set the tournament record with 83 points in three games. It was previously held by St. Joseph’s Carl Jones, who scored 78 in 2011.
Newbill scored a career-high 35 points and logged 50 minutes in a 106-97 double overtime loss to Charlotte. He then scored 26 points, including the game-winning layup at the buzzer, and played 39 minutes in a 72-71 win over Cornell.
Penn State needed another standout effort from its star to get past the Trojans.
USC stayed in the game by dominating the glass. The Trojans pulled down 29 offensive boards and outrebounded Penn State 51-37. They struggled to convert, shooting 27.3 percent from the field.
“You shoot 28 percent on lane shots, it’s not too good,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Our guards had open shots. We just missed them.”
Reinhardt paced USC with 14 points, and Strahinja Gavrilovic added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Nittany Lions (4-1) got off to a hot start and built a 15-2 lead just more than five minutes into the game.
In transition off a USC miss, Shep Garner hit Newbill in the right corner. Newbill gave it right back and Garner stepped into an open 3-pointer, giving Penn State a 10-2 lead and forcing the Trojans to burn their first timeout with 16:41 left in the half.
Three possessions later and nearly two minutes later, Penn State zipped the ball around the perimeter for a wide-open 3 by Garner from the left wing. The Nittany Lions led 15-2, and USC took its second timeout.
The Trojans (2-3) responded with a 9-0 run to get back into the game that turned into a tight contest the rest of the way.
Newbill was quiet in the first half, making all three of his shot attempts for six points as the Nittany Lions took a 31-30 lead into the break. Garner scored 12 points on 4 for 5 shooting from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
Newbill didn’t score in the second half until the 10:02 mark.
His stepback jumper with the shot clock winding down cut USC’s lead to 47-43. It was the start of a stretch in which he scored 12 of Penn State’s next 15 points.
The Trojans remained ahead in the next two minutes and pushed their lead to 52-47 after Jordan McLaughlin picked off a pass by Newbill and hit a 3-pointer on the other end with just less than seven minutes to play.
With Penn State still trailing by three with more than five minutes to go, Newbill drove to the basket against Reinhardt and drew the foul on Gavrilovic. His free throws and ensuing layup gave the Nittany Lions a 53-52 lead with 4:38 to play.
After Julian Jacobs banked in a shot for USC, Newbill drilled a 3-pointer off a handoff from Geno Thorpe.
Penn State took a 56-54 lead it would never relinquish.
When USC cut the Nittany Lions’ lead to one after a 3 by Reinhardt, Newbill got into the lane, pumped faked and hit the shot. With the lead again trimmed to one, Newbill made two free throws with 23.8 seconds left.
Brandon Taylor missed two free throws with 5.4 seconds left, giving USC a chance down 62-59.
Newbill fouled McLaughlin just past halfcourt with 2.9 seconds left to take away a 3-point shot to tie.
“I figured that was the right amount of time left to do that,” Chambers said.
McLaughlin missed both free throws, got his own rebound and went to the line again. He hit both with 1.3 seconds left.
Garner then went to the line with 0.7 seconds. He made the first and missed the second on purpose to end the game.
Penn State hosts Akron on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.