STATE COLLEGE – Twenty-three points and 12 rebounds didn’t come without a price for Penn State point guard D.J. Newbill Saturday.
Newbill, the sophomore who has replaced injured star Tim Frazier in Penn State’s lineup, sported a cut below his eye, a gash on his elbow and also literally blew out one of his size 13 shoes as the Nittany Lions were able to hang on throughout a foul-plagued, physical second half to defeat Duquesne 84-74.
“It was a tough, physical game and that’s what is going to happen in the Big Ten,” said Newbill, whose 23 points were a career high. “I appreciate those guys getting me ready for the Big Ten.”
Newbill, who gave Penn State an 80-74 lead with 39 seconds remaining by sinking a foul shot, closed things out with two rebounds and two more free throws with 6 seconds left. He finished 12 of 16 from the line.
“D.J. was awesome. I love it,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “He’s a (Philadelphia) guard. If you don’t come out with blood on you and scraped-up knees, you haven’t played hard. I’m glad we were put in that position because we’re going to be in it again.”
The Nittany Lions (8-4) won their fourth straight game by opening a 22-point second-half lead that was enough to offset a Duquesne comeback. The Dukes pulled to within five with 56 seconds remaining as Penn State’s Nick Colella and Jermaine Marshall fouled out and Duquesne was consistently successful from the foul line.
A total of 54 fouls were called in the game and six players – four from Duquesne – fouled out.
“I demand them to play very hard, but you have to play smart,” Chambers said about late foul issues.
Newbill was forced to change his uniform shorts because of blood stains. Shortly after that, one of his sneakers rolled under and broke, and he quickly emerged from the bench wearing two shoes of different colors.
“I’m getting more confident each day,” said Newbill, who was thrust into Penn State’s lead role when Frazier ruptured an Achilles tendon in November. “It’s a day-by-day process and I’m getting better at it.”
Newbill didn’t have to convince Duquesne coach Jim Ferry of that. Ferry, in his first year at Duquesne, was impressed with the Penn State sophomore.
“Newbill didn’t have any expectations about taking over at point guard,” said Ferry, who is 0-5 against Penn State and 0-9 against Big Ten teams in his career. “Frazier is one of the best point guards in the country. We tried to get after Newbill and tried to wear him down, and I don’t think we did a very good job of it.”
The Nittany Lions had pulled away from the Dukes about halfway through the second half with an 11-0 scoring stretch. Colella topped off the run with his fifth 3-pointer to extend the lead to 21.
Colella scored a career-high 15 points for Penn State and Sasa Borovnjak added 14. Sean Johnson led Duquesne with 19 points, while Quevyn Winters had 14 and Derrick Colter 13.
Penn State has scored 70 points or more throughout its four-game winning streak.
Duquesne (7-7), which hasn’t won at Penn State since 1986, has lost five of its six road games this season.
“It was a real physical game,” Ferry said. “We played hard but we kept having empty possessions. We got them into foul trouble and we got some rebounds, but we got no production from our interior players.”
Penn State built a 39-28 halftime lead on the strength of runs of 11-0 and 8-0. The first, which began with the Nittany Lions trailing 15-14, included two 3-pointers by Colella.
The second was enabled by two technical fouls called on the Duquesne bench late in the half. Penn State’s Marshall converted 3 of 4 free throws between a Colella 3-pointer and a Borovnjak basket.
What prompted the technical fouls was a mystery to Ferry. “You’ll have to ask the guys in the stripes. I was in my box and I didn’t curse, but I will stand up for my kids every single night,” he said.
Penn State’s lead stood with the help of Colella’s 3-point shooting; he sank three in the first half and two in the second out of a total of seven attempts.
“It was one of those days and I was feeling it,” Colella said. “Coach said to keep shooting so I kept letting them fly.”