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By Dynasty McGee, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This past weekend, I witnessed one of the most competitive NCAA Championships that I've been a part of. We arrived in Arkansas on Wednesday to give us ample time to get a feel for the track. The first couple of workouts at the Randal Tyson Track Center went great, and everyone seemed ready for the competition.

After Thursday's workout, everyone put on their best for the NCAA Banquet where Coach John Gondak and Darrell Hill were recognized amongst other coaches and student-athletes.

We were more than happy to cheer on Rachel Fatherly who kicked off the competition for us on Friday. Next, Kiah Seymour competed, running an amazing race. Brandon Kidder had a tough race in the prelims of the mile but managed to advance to the finals.

Last to compete on Friday was the men's distance medley relay and it was an exciting race to watch. Brannon Kidder put Alex Shisler in a great position and Za'Von Watkins held that position. Watching Robby Creese slowly but surely close the gap between him and three other athletes was amazing to watch, but if anyone could do it, we knew it would be him.

Saturday night was showtime for the women's 4x4. We were a little nervous but excited at the same time. The goal was to win our heat and make it on to the podium. Megan Osborne was the pop off and competed well with the other first legs. She handed the baton to me and I took off. My goal was to either put us in first or get us close to it. Tichina Rhodes ran her own race, which was extremely smart. Kiah received the baton in third place and the runner in first place had to be 50 meters ahead. Kiah passed the second place runner and coming around the last curve she made her move and blew past the runner in first place! We ran fast enough to earn eighth place, making us All-Americans.

This felt like the hardest national meet for a couple of us. Some of us were coming off of injuries and even qualifying for the meet seemed almost impossible. I will never forget this meet or the women that were by my side every step of the way. I'm excited for the transition into outdoor season and to get more training under my belt. Our first meet is in two weeks and I'm expecting great things.

  


Lions Work Hard, Create Memories on Spring Break Trip

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team returns home to Happy Valley after its spring break campaign in Massachusetts with one win and a pair of losses.

The first leg of the trip was spent in Boston taking on the Harvard Crimson. Penn State would fall to Harvard 12-9. Despite this loss, the Nittany Lions bounced back and picked up a win against Marist on neutral ground three days later. The 9-8 win was the Nittany Lions' building block during the week.

"We had some strong playing from start to finish [against Marist]," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "The guys really put in the effort to get the win. I thought we shot the ball well, I thought we took advantage of the opportunities the offense created."

Working off of momentum provided by Penn State's starting faceoff man, junior Drake Kreinz, the Nittany Lions were able to create opportunities in front of the net and capitalize on them. Several Nittany Lions propelled Penn State to the win, notably Dan Craig, Mike Sutton and Drake Kreinz, each scoring two goals. The strong scoring energy would be just enough to keep the Nittany Lions ahead and come out with a much-needed win following a tough loss.

With only a few days between the Marist and UMass games, the Nittany Lions used this quick turnaround as an opportunity to work on communication in front of the net in the offensive zone, as well as creating better scoring opportunities. The Nittany Lions' efforts would be noticed in the first minutes of their matchup against UMass.

In its final matchup of the week against UMass in Amherst, Penn State got off to a fast start, thanks to Kreinz scoring three seconds after the opening faceoff, only to be followed by three more goals from fellow Nittany Lions. Despite this quick start, the power shifted in the second half in favor of the Minutemen.

"We got off to a great start," said Tambroni. "Drake [Kreinz] and Billy [Lombardi] winning faceoffs, getting the team quick opportunities. But our downfall was possession time and us not being able to take advantage of some of the possession time we did have."

Despite their late efforts, and two first career goals for Billy Lombardi and Tanner Peck, the Nittany Lions were unable to come back from a four-goal deficit.

Although the primary purpose of this spring break trip was to play several Massachusetts teams, a side benefit of the trip was that the Nittany Lions were able to further bond with one another, having spent the whole week in hotel rooms and on long bus rides. The team enjoyed their visit to Fenway Park and many memories were made off the field when the team took in a Boston Celtics game.

"I thought this was a productive spring break," said Tambroni. "We learned a lot. The team worked extremely hard at our practices during the week and had some fun during their downtime. The guys got to learn a lot about each other."

Spending a whole week on the road is tough, both mentally and physically, and the Nittany Lions battled these challenges head-on. Despite not coming home with more wins, the Nittany Lions learned a lot during this trip, both about their playing strengths and weaknesses, as well as about fellow teammates.

Penn State returns home to work out minor kinks and get back into their on-field prowess that dominated early in the season and prepare for Denver this coming weekend.


Smith, McCormick Lead the Way in Lions' Victory Over Vanderbilt

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A little cold and wind could not keep the Penn State women's lacrosse team down Sunday afternoon. As the time inched closer to noon, the No. 9 Nittany Lions jumped around, keeping their muscles and their minds loose.

After falling to James Madison a few days prior, the Blue and White (5-2) refused to be defeated again. They were ready to give Vanderbilt (3-4) everything they had, and following 60 minutes of play, the team showed its dominance. Penn State downed Vanderbilt, 17-10.

"We're still working out our defense a lot," said head coach Missy Doherty. "We made a couple changes. We wanted to come out tougher and at least contest their shooting a little bit more, and I think we did that. I think because they were a little bit tougher on the shooters, Emi [Smith] was able to come up with some really big saves."

Emi Smith was a standout in the match, accumulating 15 saves throughout its entirety. The chilly temperature did not bother her one bit. In fact, the junior believes she plays her best in that weather, and she certainly showed her evidence behind that theory.

The performance was one stop shy of her career best. When the Lions needed her most, Smith stood tall.

In the first half, Penn State was tight on defense, allowing the goalie to see the ball. She stopped six of the Commodores' shots. Nevertheless, the junior would face a bigger test in the second, as Vanderbilt was able to dramatically increase its shots from just nine in the first to 21 in the second.

Smith stayed focused and calm. With her positive mentality, she nabbed another 9 saves in the final 30 minutes of play.

"In the second half, I just told myself after they scored the first couple that it was like the start of the game," Smith said. "In my head, it was 0-0. I just needed to play instead of get down on myself. I just told myself it was the start of a new half; let's act like it. I look at the scoreboard and see 0-0, just like Missy Doherty always tells me. Just look at the time. Time to work."

While the goalkeeper was able to help the Nittany Lions dramatically on the defensive side, the team's offense also came ready to attack.

The Blue and White saw scoring from Haley Ford, Madison Cyr, Tatum Coffey, Kelly Lechner, Jess Loizeaux, Maggie McCormick, Jenna Mosketti, Katie O'Donnell and Kristin Brent. McCormick also had a game-high four assists, bringing her total to 18 on the season.

"She's our leader," Doherty said of McCormick. "She's our quarterback. She just does such a good job of keeping tempo and making good decisions. It really paid off for her and for us today."

McCormick was proud of the team's effort and fight. Having worked on a number of fixes from the previous game, she saw noticeable improvement.

In her eyes, and in the eyes of the team, the Nittany Lions are only getting stronger.

"Today we were pushing our fast break, which is something we've gotten away from," McCormick said. "We have a team with a lot of really, really great athletes. We're really fast on offense, especially in the midfield. So, when we're able to push the fast break and get the defense off their heels, we're really able to create chances."

Despite the victory, Doherty knows her team needs to remain focused. The win was exactly what the Nittany Lions needed to get back on track, but they will be tested throughout the remainder of the month and the season.

"It was important, but we still have some really tough games in the next two weeks, like Princeton, Drexel and Stanford," said Doherty. "They're going to be really good games, so we want to finish out March as strong as we can."

Nittany Lions' Run at B1G Tourney Comes Up Just Short in Quarterfinals

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10888130.jpegVIDEO: Postgame Interviews with D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis

CHICAGO - Penn State's strong showing at the Big Ten Tournament came up just shy of a trip to the semifinals following a 64-59 setback to fourth-seeded Purdue on Friday afternoon at United Center.

The Nittany Lions (18-16, 4-14 Big Ten) had the Boilermakers (21-11, 12-6 Big Ten) on their heels for more than 30 minutes in the quarterfinal matchup, but a late 13-0 surge fueled Purdue to a five-point victory.

Penn State stormed to an 11-point lead in the first half (28-17) thanks to a 16-5 scoring run. Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis and Jordan Dickerson fueled the balanced attack, which gave the Lions a double-digit edge at 4:40 in the first half. The Lions led by nine with 1:50 to play in the half, but a quick 6-0 run from the Boilers sent the teams into the locker room with the score at 37-32.

Purdue's 7-0 run in the opening minutes of the second half handed the Boilers their first lead (42-40) since it was 8-6, but the Lions were not done. Geno Thorpe and D.J. Newbill triggered a 9-2 counter attack during the next 4:33 of game time to set the score at 50-44, Nittany Lions, with 9:11 to play.

From there, though, Penn State went cold on the offensive end, weathering more than 8:30 without a point. Purdue mounted its 13-0 run, took a 57-50 lead and never looked back. The Lions got as close as three late, but Purdue finished the game off at the foul line.

Regardless of the outcome, Penn State has nothing to hang its head about. The Nittany Lions battled from the opening whistle of Wednesday's win over Nebraska to the final horn of the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon. Winning its first two conference tournament games since 2011, Penn State took an important step forward for the future of the program this week in Chicago.

"(I'm) proud of my team. Really competed to the end," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "Three days, three games in the Big Ten is very difficult, and the way these guys competed today in the second half, they gave it everything they had, and I think this is a stepping-stone for our program, and I think they have everything to do with it, the legacy that this group has left for Penn State and Penn State basketball. I think you're going to see it for a long time because this was a critical step in the process of becoming an elite basketball team, and it's because of them."

The Nittany Lions certainly left a lasting image on those from around the conference at the Big Ten Tournament. The buzz around United Center for the past three days was Penn State's gritty, never say die approach to every second the team is on the floor.

"I learned that our program has got a lot of heart," said Chambers. "It's got a lot of grit and work ethic. We have a terrific attitude, because you don't come into the Big Ten Tournament, win two games and give yourself a chance in the third game three days in a row in the Big Ten without all those characteristics, and we can build off that. It's an incredible foundation."

No player on the roster deserves more credit for his efforts in laying the foundation for what is come for the Nittany Lion basketball program than Newbill. He finished an incredible string of games at the Big Ten Tournament with 19 points, and the senior guard went down swinging, as he has done every time he has stepped on the floor wearing the Blue and White.

"I competed every game, every practice, every workout, from the summers to the fall to the winter, and that's why I look at my career and just know that I gave it my all," Newbill said. "I think everyone around me knows that, too."

The All-Big Ten guard did not win as many games as he deserved to, but it wasn't for a lack of commitment, effort and dedication to a program and coaching staff he loved dearly. It's rare to come across a student-athlete with the drive of Newbill. A tremendously talented player on the floor, Newbill is a better man off the floor. The Philly product embodies the type of passion in a player every coach dreams of mentoring.

"This has meant everything to me," Newbill said. "From the moment I stepped on campus to the moment I put the jersey on, I gave every fiber of my body to go out there and compete at the highest level possible. It means everything to me."


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions' Run at B1G Tourney Comes Up Just Short in Quarterfinals

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10888130.jpegVIDEO: Postgame Interviews with D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis

CHICAGO - Penn State's strong showing at the Big Ten Tournament came up just shy of a trip to the semifinals following a 64-59 setback to fourth-seeded Purdue on Friday afternoon at United Center.

The Nittany Lions (18-16, 4-14 Big Ten) had the Boilermakers (21-11, 12-6 Big Ten) on their heels for more than 30 minutes in the quarterfinal matchup, but a late 13-0 surge fueled Purdue to a five-point victory.

Penn State stormed to an 11-point lead in the first half (28-17) thanks to a 16-5 scoring run. Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis and Jordan Dickerson fueled the balanced attack, which gave the Lions a double-digit edge at 4:40 in the first half. The Lions led by nine with 1:50 to play in the half, but a quick 6-0 run from the Boilers sent the teams into the locker room with the score at 37-32.

Purdue's 7-0 run in the opening minutes of the second half handed the Boilers their first lead (42-40) since it was 8-6, but the Lions were not done. Geno Thorpe and D.J. Newbill triggered a 9-2 counter attack during the next 4:33 of game time to set the score at 50-44, Nittany Lions, with 9:11 to play.

From there, though, Penn State went cold on the offensive end, weathering more than 8:30 without a point. Purdue mounted its 13-0 run, took a 57-50 lead and never looked back. The Lions got as close as three late, but Purdue finished the game off at the foul line.

Regardless of the outcome, Penn State has nothing to hang its head about. The Nittany Lions battled from the opening whistle of Wednesday's win over Nebraska to the final horn of the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon. Winning its first two conference tournament games since 2011, Penn State took an important step forward for the future of the program this week in Chicago.

"(I'm) proud of my team. Really competed to the end," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "Three days, three games in the Big Ten is very difficult, and the way these guys competed today in the second half, they gave it everything they had, and I think this is a stepping-stone for our program, and I think they have everything to do with it, the legacy that this group has left for Penn State and Penn State basketball. I think you're going to see it for a long time because this was a critical step in the process of becoming an elite basketball team, and it's because of them."

The Nittany Lions certainly left a lasting image on those from around the conference at the Big Ten Tournament. The buzz around United Center for the past three days was Penn State's gritty, never say die approach to every second the team is on the floor.

"I learned that our program has got a lot of heart," said Chambers. "It's got a lot of grit and work ethic. We have a terrific attitude, because you don't come into the Big Ten Tournament, win two games and give yourself a chance in the third game three days in a row in the Big Ten without all those characteristics, and we can build off that. It's an incredible foundation."

No player on the roster deserves more credit for his efforts in laying the foundation for what is come for the Nittany Lion basketball program than Newbill. He finished an incredible string of games at the Big Ten Tournament with 19 points, and the senior guard went down swinging, as he has done every time he has stepped on the floor wearing the Blue and White.

"I competed every game, every practice, every workout, from the summers to the fall to the winter, and that's why I look at my career and just know that I gave it my all," Newbill said. "I think everyone around me knows that, too."

The All-Big Ten guard did not win as many games as he deserved to, but it wasn't for a lack of commitment, effort and dedication to a program and coaching staff he loved dearly. It's rare to come across a student-athlete with the drive of Newbill. A tremendously talented player on the floor, Newbill is a better man off the floor. The Philly product embodies the type of passion in a player every coach dreams of mentoring.

"This has meant everything to me," Newbill said. "From the moment I stepped on campus to the moment I put the jersey on, I gave every fiber of my body to go out there and compete at the highest level possible. It means everything to me."


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Big Ten Tournament Postgame Interviews vs. Purdue

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CHICAGO - Penn State's run at the Big Ten Tournament drew to a close on Friday afternoon with a tight 64-59 setback against Purdue. The Nittany Lions represented themselves very well in the United Center all week, playing three good games in three days. GoPSUsports.com caught up with seniors D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis in the locker room following the game.




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2015 Big Ten Tournament Blog - Penn State vs. Purdue

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CHICAGO - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. On Friday, the Nittany Lions will meet fourth-seeded Purdue in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament inside United Center.

Live Blog 2015 Big Ten Tournament Blog - Penn State vs. Purdue
 

The Sisters of Penn State Lacrosse - Dani and Steph Lazo

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most of the student-athletes on the Penn State women's lacrosse team consider their teammates family. However, for Dani Lazo and Steph Lazo, that family bond is real. They are teammates, roommates, friends and sisters taking on college and Division I lacrosse together, one step at a time.

Originally playing for Louisville, Dani, the older of the two sisters, decided to transfer following her sophomore season. It just so happened that Steph was getting ready to begin her collegiate experience at the same time. Knowing her sister would for Penn State made it that much easier for Dani to determine which school would be the best fit for her.

"It's not like I had it planned in my mind when she was coming to college I was going to transfer, but when I decided to transfer, it just made it that much easier to figure out where I wanted to go," Dani said. "It was just a coincidence that it was when she was coming here."

Prior to Penn State, the two Lazo sisters played on the same team in high school. With that previous playing knowledge and having a sisterly bond, they knew reuniting in Happy Valley would only be a positive experience.

So far, they've loved every minute spent together on the field in Blue and White.

"We were high school teammates, which was awesome," said Steph. "We loved it. At the time, she was playing defense, which was cool because she would get the ball on defense and pass it up to me on offense. Then she obviously went to a different university before, and my freshman year she came in with me. Penn State already has a good sense of family, and having my sister here kind of gives it that extra edge. I love that feeling."

Having the Lazo sisters on the team has been a very positive experience for the Nittany Lions as well. Head coach Missy Doherty recognizes Dani's leadership skills. The older of the sisters is not afraid to speak up when something needs to be said, and when she does talk, the team listens.

Doherty believes Steph, on the other hand, is one of the fastest attackers on the team. She has a powerful shot and has really come into her own this season, stepping up into a starting role for the Nittany Lions.

Both Lazo sisters have quickly become assets to the team.

"They're just great," Doherty said. "They're really supportive teammates. Dani transferred in from Louisville, which was great for us. She's been a great leader, a great teammate. Steph is our spark on offense, but it's great to see the close relationship they have. I think Penn State in general is a place where it's a tightknit, close community with a family-like atmosphere. So, it's not a surprise to me that we have sisters on the team that are there for one another and supportive of each other. It's great having them together."

Another benefit to these sisters playing on the same team is they always have a sense of what the other is thinking, what the other will do in practice and in games.

"People think we're twins," said Steph. "I feel like we think like twins. It's weird. So, I know what she's going to do already, and she knows what I'm going to do. We work off of that."

"Offensively, if I feed or if she feeds, we know where the other is going to cut or if she's going to cut," Dani added. "We know where the other is going to come from. If we make eye contact with each other, without even saying a word, I know where she's going to go, and I'll just feed it to her."

Neither Lazo would do these two years differently if given the chance. They've loved every minute of taking on college together. They are always with each other, whether it be in their shared apartment or on the field.

The only downside to this experience is that eventually it will have to end, which is something neither Dani nor Steph are looking forward to.

"My least favorite part about playing with her this year is knowing she's not going to be here next year," Steph said. "It's sad. We've been talking about that lately. As cliché as it sound, I just hate knowing that she's leaving. We came in together, and I still have two more year."

With this being their last full year together, the Lazo sisters are ready to finish strong. This season is something they want to hang onto for as long as possible.

The Lazos and the Nittany Lions are only just getting started.

Looking Ahead - Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals vs. Purdue

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10870222.jpegGame Blog - Penn State vs. Purdue

CHICAGO - Behind a 48-point second half, the Nittany Lion basketball (18-15, 4-14 Big Ten) topped fifth-seeded Iowa on Thursday, 67-58, for a spot in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, where the Lions will meet fourth-seeded Purdue (20-11, 12-6 Big Ten) on Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) inside United Center.

Thursday's victory marked Penn State's third-straight, all of which coming in a five-day span. Friday will be Penn State's first trip to the Big Ten quarterfinals since the Lions advanced to the championship game in 2011. The Lions and Boilermakers have met just once in the Big Ten Tournament. That matchup came in the quarterfinals of the 2009 tournament (Purdue, 79-65). The winner of Friday's matchup will move on to face the winner of the Wisconsin-Michigan game in the tournament semifinals on Saturday.

It has been nearly two months since Penn State and Purdue collided inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Jan. 17. The Boilermakers used a last-second offensive rebound and 3-pointer from Kendall Stephens to send the game into overtime. The Nittany Lions led by nine at halftime and controlled most of the second half before the Boilers rallied late.

Nonetheless, Purdue got off to a hot start in overtime and never looked back in an 84-77 victory for the Boilers. D.J. Newbill had 37 tallies in the game. Stephens led Purdue with 22 points and six 3-pointers. Big man A.J. Hammons had 21 points and 12 rebounds, as well.

Purdue enters the Big Ten Tournament having won five of its last seven games, including a 63-58 win over Illinois in the regular season finale. Guard Rapheal Davis was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year on Monday, and he will likely spend Friday afternoon tracking Newbill's every move.

Take an inside look at the matchup.


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Second Half Surge Powers Nittany Lions to Big Ten Quarterfinals

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10884247.jpegVIDEO: Postgame Interviews with Coach Chambers, Players

CHICAGO - Nittany Lion seniors D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis were not going to be denied another chance to put on the Penn State uniform at the Big Ten Tournament.

The tandem combined for 20 tallies during Penn State's 48-point second-half onslaught in a 67-58 victory over fifth-seeded Iowa (21-11, 12-6 Big Ten) on Thursday afternoon in the second round of the tournament. Winners of three-straight, the Nittany Lions (18-15, 4-14 Big Ten) move into the Big Ten quarterfinals for a showdown with fourth-seeded Purdue (20-11, 12-6) on Friday at 2:30 p.m. (ESPN).

"Wow, what a rock fight out there, just two teams playing incredibly hard, intense, giving it up for their teammates and coaches," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "We're fortunate to come out as winners. I'm really proud of my team...The team really contributed in every way. I'm really proud of them, and we're happy to stay in Chicago another day."

It was a tale of two halves on Thursday, with the Nittany Lions scoring 19 points on just 25 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes. Iowa led by eight (27-19) at the break, but the Blue and White stormed out of the locker room, using a 15-2 run mid-way through the second half that altered the complexion of the game.

Penn State took a 36-34 lead (11:01 to play) at the culmination of the rally. Iowa tied the game on the next two possessions, but the Hawkeyes did not lead in the final 11 minutes of play. Newbill, who finished with 18 points, scored seven-straight during one span to give the Lions a 49-42 lead with 7:02 to play.

The Philly native and Travis, who scored 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, made play after play when the Lions needed it on both ends of the floor.

"They really stepped up at a critical point in the game to give us a little cushion, D.J.'s little run, and Ross did it throughout the entire game," Chambers said. "He played really hard, battling those guys inside. They're huge, and he was fearless in there."

Fearless doesn't begin to describe Travis on the play of the game. Holding a 58-56 lead with the shot clock winding down, Travis caught the ball in the corner and drove along the baseline to his right before fending off contact for a reverse lay-in and an old-fashioned three-point play with 30.4 seconds to go.

"You know, I just saw the shot clock winding down and the ball was in my hands, so I just had to baseline it to make the play," Travis said. "It went in, I made the free throw, and it was a big moment in the game."

Newbill raced home for a slam on the next Penn State possession to put icing on the victory and a date with Purdue on Friday afternoon.

"Being in those late game situations, four‑minute games, two‑minute games, coming down to one possession, one stop, one rebound, I think we learn from that because we've lost so many," Newbill said. "But yeah, I think we're a different team then than we are now. We're looking forward to a dogfight. Purdue plays hard and we play hard, so it's going to be a great one."

No one is more deserving of the opportunity to keep playing than Newbill. A guy who has poured his heart and soul into the Penn State program since the day he arrived, Newbill is cherishing every last second.

"I'm a senior at the end of my college career, so putting the jersey on (again) means everything to me," Newbill said.

Riding the wave of momentum, the Nittany Lions are a dangerous team no one wants to see on the Big Ten Tournament bracket.

"Nothing is going to change, same approach, great confidence, why not us?" Chambers said.



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