By Tony Mancuso and Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Members of the Penn State men's basketball team won't be wearing their usual, white home-game jerseys in the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday afternoon when No. 14 Ohio State comes to town.
Instead, the Lions will trade them in for ones painted in a shade of gray as a sign of their support for Penn State Coaches vs. Cancer. In its third year as an event, the team hopes to portray the same message as it has before and calls it 'Band Together Day'.
The Lions and Penn State Athletics will donate three dollars to the Coaches vs. Cancer effort for every gameday ticket that is sold.
But for this year's men's basketball squad, supporting a foundation that is dedicated to helping those directly involved with cancer patients means more than just different jerseys and raising money.
Head coach Patrick Chambers, who also serves as a chairman for CVC-Penn State, said that he is continually impressed with the impact that one team and one community can make in the world of cancer research and treatment.
"I want to be a big part of it and I want to help raise awareness locally and for this community and it's a special day for us," said Chambers. "Whatever we can do to raise awareness and try to fight this thing, that's what we've got to do."
Last year, Chambers helped Penn State raise more than $2 million for the CVC program. And Chambers said that the idea of banding together and fighting for the same cause is something that he talks to his basketball team about all of the time.
"It's definitely a life lesson that you can teach regarding the day and regarding what people go through," said Chambers. "We want those survivors that are going to be here to know that we've got their back and that we believe in them and we're going to help them along their journey and their path to make sure that they get the best care that they can get."
The Lions have had even more reason to stick together as a support system for their own D.J. Newbill, whose mother died from cancer less than two months before the start of this season. Newbill said that his entire team travelled to Philadelphia last September on the day of his mother's funeral, and has been helping him stay strong ever since.
"Cancer is affecting a lot of lives," said Newbill. "A lot of my teammates, they see how it affected my life and then it also affected their lives because they're my brothers so they felt my pain in that situation."
But the sophomore point guard said that his team's support and help through it all has opened up their eyes to the issue at large - the one that's off the court.
"I think a lot of guys understand that it's more than basketball," said Newbill. "As a team during the game we just want to stick together through the tough times and we understand that we go through tough times on the court but there are far more tough times for all of those people fighting cancer."
The men's basketball team and Coach Chambers support Coaches vs. Cancer efforts all year long and, at the end of it, a portion of the proceeds that are raised through CVC-Penn State are given to the Bob Perks Fund. The fund is a local charity that assists those directly affected by cancer in the Centre Region.
Chambers said that being an ambassador for change and making an impact within the immediate surroundings of State College is more and more important every day.
"That's why I am a big part of it," said Chambers. "It's touched us all and it touches this community every day."
Scouting the Buckeyes
The 14th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes travel to the Bryce Jordan Center with a 14-4 overall mark and a 4-2 record in Big Ten play. Led by the Big Ten's leading scorer, Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State has conference wins over Nebraska (70-44), Purdue (74-64), No. 2 Michigan (56-53) and Iowa (72-63). The Buckeyes suffered a 74-55 setback at Illinois and a 59-56 loss at Michigan State. Thomas is the catalyst of the Ohio State offense. Averaging 20.5 points per game and 6.7 rebounds, the long, athletic forward is a pure scorer from anywhere on the floor. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. is the only other Buckeye averaging in double figures (10.2 ppg). Point guard Aaron Craft enters the game averaging 8.9 tallies per contest. Simply put, Craft is one of the best on-ball defenders in the nation. The stingy junior is a terrific defensive player with quick feet and a high basketball IQ. Ohio State ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing just 58.2 tallies per game. Additionally, the Buckeyes are allowing their opponents to shoot at a 38 percent clip this season.
Keys for the Lions
Containing Thomas is easier said than done, but the Lions will be looking to force someone other than the Big Ten's top scorer to put points on the board. Thomas is good shooter from just about everywhere, but Penn State will try limit dribble penetration from the cast athletic ballhandlers, including Thomas, from Ohio State. On the offensive side of the ball, Penn State must take care of the basketball. D.J. Newbill has done a terrific job learning the point guard position, but Saturday will be his biggest test when he faces off against Craft's relentless ball pressure. Getting Newbill some help bringing the ball up the floor will be crucial. Newbill grew into a leader at Assembly Hall on Wednesday night. He was knocked around for 40 minutes, but he got back up to fight every time. The Lions need that type of mentality from their leader again on Saturday.
"I think you saw a leader emerge (at IU)," Chambers said. "He just kept coming an competing. He has a boxer's mentality. He's going to keep throwing punches. He's like Rocky Balboa. He took 1,000 punches from (Victor) Oladipo, (Jordan) Hulls and (Will) Sheehey...and he kept coming."
This is the lone meeting between Penn State and Ohio State this season. The game tips at noon on ESPN2.
VIDEO: Lions Host Buckeyes on Coaches vs. Cancer Band Together Day
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