On Penn State’s first possession, Tim Frazier coasted end-to-end and scored a layup. For the Nittany Lions’ second touch, D.J. Newbill broke down the court and sunk an uncontested 10-foot jumper.
Transition is one of Penn State’s strengths, and the team used to trump Marshall, 90-77, Saturday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center to snap a two-game losing skid. Penn State led by as many as 27 in the fast-paced, yet sloppy contest, and the home squad shot 48.5 percent (33-for-68) from the field.
“Marshall is a great team, but they weren’t exactly getting back,” said forward Ross Travis, who scored a 20 points and was the beneficiary of a handful of fast breaks. “So, one of the gameplans for us was to push the ball as fast as we could up the floor. I think that’s what you saw.”
Travis was the Lions’ leading scorer in the win which pushed the team to 7-3, but the fullest stat line in the box score belonged to Donovon Jack. The 6-foot-9 sophomore netted 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting and flirted with a triple-double, as he corralled seven rebounds and as made his presence felt in the paint with seven blocks.
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Jack, who averages 7.6 points per game and had only nine rejections in Penn State’s first nine games, is not a player who typically has as well-rounded game as he did Saturday, but it did not come as a surprise to coach Patrick Chambers, who had a pregame premonition of sorts about his center.
“I thought he was due,” Chambers said. “Coaches, obviously we’re crazy, but we have gut feelings and I thought he was going to have a good game today. He had good preparation, good practice, good walkthrough, shooting the ball very well, had a clear head, knows I had great confidence in him. We just need more consistency now.”
With his defensive performance, Jack became the only player in program history other than Calvin Booth (who did it 10 times) to record at least seven blocks in a game — even if he was not aware of the total after the game.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know I had seven blocks,” the Reading native said. “I was just out there playing hard, doing what coach asked me to do, help defensively. I knew I could work off my guy.”
All five of Penn State starters finished in double-figures in scoring as the team got back in the win column after losses against Mississippi and Pittsburgh in the last eight days. And the final score was not an accurate representation for how lopsided the contest was.
The Lions got out and ran, especially early, and by the under-four media timeout in the first half, they had a 19-point advantage. Frazier, a point guard, played his normal facilitator role and ended up with only 11 points, but nine assists and Chambers lauded the way he either pushed or slowed the game’s pace. Meanwhile, Newbill added 17 points and seven rebounds.
Freshman Kareem Canty scored a game-high 28 points for the Thundering Herd (4-5), but Penn State was able to keep its opponent below its season average of 85.8 points per game.
“It just scared me because they can get it going at any minute and score in bunches, and then next thing you know, it’s a nail-biter,” Chambers said. “I was really proud of our leadership from Tim and D.J., they were dialed in at practice, they were dialed in at film and they were dialed in today at walkthrough.”
Chambers — who told reporters he felt his team doesn’t get the respect it deserves after falling to Pittsbrugh by nine points on Tuesday night — said he stressed to his team to put Marshall away at halftime, even with a 15-point lead.
“Who do you want to be?” Chambers said he asked his team at the break. “Do you want to be who they’re saying we are, or do you want to go out here for the next 20 minutes and prove what Penn State basketball is about?”