On a rare off night for D.J. Newbill, Penn State’s supporting cast took turns shouldering the scoring load.
After mentioning Newbill’s shooting effort, Penn State coach Patrick Chambers listed player after player who stepped up in the Nittany Lions’ 63-58 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
There was Payton Banks in the first half, hitting three 3-pointers to help the Nittany Lions build a 10-point lead by the break. There was Geno Thorpe’s all-around effort in the opening 20 minutes. Devin Foster, Jordan Dickerson and Julian Moore each made contributions in Penn State’s second straight win.
Newbill finished with a team-high 12 points on 4 for 15 shooting. He also pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out five assists.
“I didn’t have the best of nights,” Newbill said. “Those guys stepped up and those guys really kept us in the game and helped us take the lead up to 10 by halftime. Those guys was just effortless on offense and defense.”
Newbill was the lone Penn State player in double figures, but his teammates were efficient and balanced — combining to go 17 for 35 (48.6 percent) to boost the team’s shooting percentage to 42 percent.
Banks and Thorpe each finished with nine points, and Foster had eight on 3 for 3 shooting. Dickerson, Ross Travis and Donovon Jack each had six points. Penn State (14-7, 2-6) played without starting forward and second-leading scorer Brandon Taylor due to a right-knee injury. Chambers said he remains day-to-day.
Minnesota (13-9, 2-7) shot just 30 percent in the first half and finished with 15 turnovers. The Golden Gophers went 6 for 22 from beyond the arc. Andre Hollins paced Minnesota with 17 points.
“You’re not going to win that way,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “And again, I’m not trying to take credit away from Penn State, they were ready to go, but that’s not a game we deserve to win.”
But Minnesota remained within striking distance in the final minute.
With Penn State up by four with 46.3 seconds left, Newbill’s inbounds pass was stolen by Minnesota guard DeAndre Mathieu, who easily coasted in for a layup that pulled the Golden Gophers within 60-58.
Penn State took a timeout with 43 seconds left. The Nittany Lions got the ball to Thorpe against the Minnesota press, and he sank one free throw to push the lead to three points.
Hollins lost the ball on the perimeter on the ensuing possession, leading to a free throw by Garner that gave the Nittany Lions a 62-58 advantage with 29 seconds left.
Another Minnesota turnover sealed the win for Penn State, which finished with 16 turnovers and had trouble with the Gopher press in the second half.
“You really can’t kind of prepare for it in practice,” Newbill said. “In practice, we put six guys out there to try to just kind of mirror what they do. But still in the game, it’s kind of hard to mirror because they’re so great at it.”
Minnesota led for less than a minute in the second half after going ahead 46-45 on a Hollins 3 with 8:37 to play. Penn State answered with a layup by Foster to take the lead for good with 7:43 to go.
That’s when Newbill, who scored just two points in the first half, took over.
He finished a breakaway dunk with 7:01 to play — the start of a stretch in which he scored nine straight points to help the Nittany Lions maintain the lead. He started the game 1 for 10 from the field.
“It was just one of those nights,” Newbill said. “They played good defense, but I think I just missed some shots I usually make.”
But Penn State didn’t need Newbill to score as it built a 10-point halftime lead.
Thorpe had five points, an assist and a steal during a two-minute stretch to break an 18-18 tie. Banks knocked down consecutive 3-pointers and later hit a third in the first half to make it 33-20.
The Nittany Lions recorded 10 of their 14 assists in the opening 20 minutes.
“I think it’s starting to slowly come out,” Chambers said. “I think you saw it in the first half. I thought we did some good things. I mean again for us to have 14 assists, that puts a lot of pressure on the defense when we’re sharing the ball like that, doing different things. We can still get a heck of a lot better.”
Notes: Penn State plays at Illinois at 1 p.m. Saturday. … Penn State finished with nine blocks, with four by Jack and three by Dickerson. The Nittany Lions were whistled for just 12 fouls. … Penn State had 10 steals, while Minnesota had eight. … Hollins was the lone Minnesota player to score in double figures.