By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After going toe to toe with Purdue for nearly 40 minutes, the Penn State men's basketball team was one stop away from securing its first Big Ten win of the season on Saturday.
But the Lions fell just short. Despite D.J. Newbill hitting two clutch free throws to give the Lions a 67-64 lead with 12 seconds to play, Purdue's Kendall Stephens grabbed an offensive rebound and drained a backbreaking 3-pointer to send the game to overtime where the Boilermakers prevailed 84-77.
"We're in a one-possession game and this time we have the lead," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "We're close we just gotta get that rebound. You get the rebound it's over, but give them credit. Give [Kendall] Stephens credit, he got hot."
In overtime, the Lions took good shots but simply didn't get the bounces they needed as the Boilermakers scored on their first four possessions. Regardless, Newbill continued to battle, scoring all 10 of the Nittany Lions' points in the extra period.
While it wasn't the outcome the team wanted, it was still a banner day for Penn State's senior guard. The conference's leading scorer (21.7 PPG) went 13-23 from the field and hit 10-11 free throws on his way to a career high 37 points.
It was the second 30-point performance of Newbill's season and career, but more importantly, it proved how reliable the team's captain is. After hitting four of six shots in the first half for eight points, the shooting guard was unstoppable the rest of the way, scoring 29 after intermission and making numerous big plays.
"We took what they gave us and D.J. had the hot hand, he was playing really good basketball," Chambers said. "He did some great things today but he needs help."
With Penn State holding a 50-49 lead with 10:29 remaining, Newbill scored Penn State's next 11 points as the game went down to the wire. Then, with the Lions leading 65-64 with just under two minutes remaining, he ripped down a key rebound to end a Purdue possession before later draining the aforementioned free throws.
All in all, it was an afternoon to remember for the Philadelphia native, even if it didn't end the way he would've liked. Not only did the fans leave the Bryce Jordan center impressed with Newbill, his opponents walked away shaking their heads too.
Although they came away with the victory, the Boilermakers have to be glad they don't have to see Newbill again in the regular season. Head coach Matt Painter kept the guard double-teamed for most of the second half and still couldn't find a way to completely stop him.
"Well we were trying our best," Painter said. "I thought when he started driving and making layups and getting fouled it really affected us. He hit a lot of shots that were contested pull-up jump shots. Just tough shots and those are shots that he makes. You have to give him credit, he was great."
"He was just ultra-aggressive," Purdue guard Jon Octeus added. "He was doing a really good job off of ball-screens, just a good player. He's an NBA guard and he played well [today]."
Newbill may have been the only Nittany Lion to score double-digit points, but plenty of players made plays in what was a hard-fought, back-and-forth Big Ten contest.
Junior forward Brandon Taylor hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half that highlighted a 16-4 run to end the period and 6-foot-7 senior forward Ross Travis spent the afternoon banging down low with a pair of 7-footers (A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas) and still came away with 12 rebounds.
All stats aside, Penn State faced a Purdue squad that hit 10 3-pointers and as Octeus put it, "had the basketball gods on [their] side." Still, the Lions answered the Boilermakers shot for shot for the first two periods.
For Chambers, that is not enough. The fourth-year coach came into the season believing his team could reach new heights and he still believes that now. The effort is there, now the only thing the Blue and White need to do differently is make one or two more plays at the end of games.
"We can't let that bother us, we can't get down," Chambers said. "We talk about being men and acting like men and that's what we've got to do. It's unfortunate but we can't live in the past."
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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coaches Jeff and Rachelle Thompson have always employed creative team building strategies into their coaching routine. From "words of the week" to "captains of the week," changing it up week and week out has proved to be a useful tactic for the Nittany Lions.
While it is understood that winning each meet is always the goal, this season the team has taken on a new approach to "sticking" the win week in and week out.
"I asked one of our freshman last week, 'Who are you competing against this weekend,'" coach Jeff Thompson said. "I was waiting for her to say Nebraska, but she surprised me; she said herself. Gymnastics is very much a team sport, but if our girls continue to get better, individually, each week, the sky is the limit."
Heading into Sunday's matchup against No. 8 Nebraska, Penn State women's gymnastics fans will see some changes in the line up. With several previously injured gymnasts making their way back into the rotation, the team is staring to come full circle.
"Each week is a learning experience for us as coaches," Thompson said. "If you think about it, last meet was our first chance to see how the girls handle pressure in a collegiate meet."
As Coach Thompson said, while gymnastics is a "team sport," individual performances can make or break a meet. The biggest obstacle gymnasts have to overcome is channeling their adrenaline in the right places.
"The girls learn how to use their adrenaline or nerves to their advantage as they become more comfortable," Jeff Thompson said. "Coming from a local gym or their home gym into the collegiate competition is a transition that doesn't just happen over night. Gymnastics is very much a competition against the opposing team as it is against yourself."
Strong Freshman Class
Despite anticipated first meet jitters, the Nittany Lions' freshman class is already proving to be an asset to this "Big Ten Championship" hungry team. In the first week out, Briannah Tsang, not only clinched the all-around title with a pair of event titles but was named Big Ten Rookie of the Week.
"We knew she was going to be one of our strongest gymnasts when she came to us," Jeff Thompson said. "She was an incredibly successful gymnast in Canada, having won nationals on vault. We expect to see her become one of the top ten best in the country. What you see is what you get with her; her performance in the gym at practice is the same as her performance in the meet."
Seniors Krystal Welsh and Sidney Sanabria-Robles will be taking on a leadership role in the all-around competition. The two seasoned competitors will be paving the way for the young Nittany Lions, especially freshman all-arounders Tsang and Lauren Li.
"We made a couple changes in the lineup this week," Thompson said. "As we start out early in the season, we are still getting to know this team; what they are capable of competitively."
No. 15 Penn State takes on No. 8 Nebraska Sunday at 4 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
"This season is going to be a great one to watch," Thompson said. "We are excited to see what this team can do."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - After three periods of wrestling, Penn State senior heavyweight Jon Gingrich had no intention of having the outcome of his match delayed any longer.
Taking on Billy Smith of Rutgers, the No. 13 ranked heavyweight in the country, Gingrich briefly led 3-1 in the third before a Smith escape and a penalty for locked hands tied the match and sent it to overtime. Although frustrated, the fifth-year wrestler stayed focused.
"I was kind of surprised by that...you just can't let that mess with your mind," Gingrich said. "If I hadn't gotten that called against me, either way, I couldn't give up another takedown so it just happened that he got it and I had to get the takedown in overtime."
In overtime, it would take just eight seconds for Gingrich to polish off the win, as he quickly grabbed the Scarlet Knight's ankles and yanked him to the mat for a 5-3 win that capped off the Nittany Lions' 28-6 road victory.
After wrestling defensively for most of the first two periods before starting to unleash his offense in the third, Gingrich said he saw no reason to act cautiously in the sudden victory period. By that point, he could tell his opponent was starting to wear down.
"Well, towards the end of the second, as I was tying up with him, I had the tie-ups that I like," Gingrich said. "In the first and halfway through the second he was really fighting hard. In the third I knew he was getting tired and I knew my shots were going to be there, so slowly feeling him break and wanting to give me a takedown.
"[In overtime], I didn't feel like going down to ride out or letting him get close so I really wanted to make sure I got [the takedown]."
The win was in some ways redemption for Gingrich, who lost to Smith 2-1 last season in a tournament on Nov. 10. More importantly though, it improved the Penn State heavyweight to 5-0 on the season in dual meets and gave him a victory over a ranked opponent.
At this point in the season, the Wingate, Pennsylvania, native is well aware of the situation he is in. While he has performed strongly every time he has been called on, he is still in the thick of a competition for the starting spot with fellow redshirt senior Jimmy Lawson.
The battle between Gingrich and Lawson is common knowledge to Nittany Lions fans by now. Both have wrestled at the NCAA Tournament, and both have the confidence of head coach Cael Sanderson.
"That's a tough opponent, he lost to that kid last year," Sanderson said. "Jon did some nice things, and you saw that he can go score some points. In overtime, he timed it and got a nice shot, a quick finish. A shot like that is really tough to stop, so he has that in him."
With Lawson having a pair of impressive wins over ranked opponents this year under his belt, the competition isn't over. For Gingrich though, it's a situation that he has become accustomed to.
"It's definitely a struggle," Gingrich said. "It's always looking over the back of your shoulder, sometimes...you see each other in practice and you want to go harder. Just trying to gain those little bits you know. It's definitely not easy but it definitely can motivate you."
Conaway Gets Back on Track With Major Decision
When Jordan Conaway opened up the match at the 125-pound weight, he was looking to do more than get Penn State off to a good start.
After falling to Ohio State's Nathan Tomasello 11-2 last Sunday, the junior was in need of a bounce back performance.
Despite giving up an early takedown to Rutgers' Sean McCabe, Conaway responded with two takedowns and three back points that led to a 10-2 major decision victory and a 4-0 lead for the Nittany Lions.
"I thought he hit a nice shot there, and sometimes that happens, a guy came up on top, did a nice job but he kept plugging away," Sanderson said. "He gave up the first takedown and came back to get a major, I'm happy with that kid's performance."
With 30 seconds remaining in the first, the 125-pounder took McCabe down in the center of the mat before turning him to his back for the three addition points. After a scoreless second period, he added two escapes and a takedown in the third for the major.
Now 14-3 on the season and 6-1 in duals, Conaway looks strong as he continues to work towards his first All-American title. According to Sanderson, the wrestler's loss the previous week never shook the coaching staff's confidence in him.
"You've got to let stuff go quickly and you've got to move on," Sanderson said. "Conaway is very consistent. He obviously didn't have his best performance last week, but you've got to give credit to his competition too. But we're moving forward."
Jordan Conaway and Jimmy Gulibon kick-started the match with major decision victories before Jon Gingrich capped off the evening with a win in sudden victory in the final match of the night. Penn State returns home on Sunday to face Purdue at 1 p.m.
Check out some post-match reaction from head coach Cael Sanderson and Gingrich, along with some highlights from the RAC.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With 14 goals and eight assists in 19 games this season, Casey Bailey has emerged as one of Penn State hockey's offensive leaders; however his value as a member of the Nittany Lions goes far beyond his ability to score.
Bailey puts his heart and soul into every second he is on the ice, every shift he gets to play. His game has never looked stronger or more consistent, a result of his commitment to the program.
"The better hockey he plays, especially away from the puck, it seems the more goals he scores, and his conditioning right now is at the highest level it's been," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "And that's by far. That's easy. I think that helps. The better condition he's in, it allows him to play better hockey away from the puck. Anytime you're playing good hockey, it seems you get more chances. That's what's happening to him."
With his increased success, Bailey is quick to acknowledge his linemates, Taylor Holstrom and David Goodwin. The three have played together all season, and they are by far Penn State's most productive line, accounting for 60 of the Lions' points.
"I think a lot of credit goes to my linemates Holstrom and Goodwin there," Bailey said. "I think, you know, unless they're not passing to me, they're opening up space for me. So a lot of credit goes to them and the rest of the team. I think when we're playing our best hockey and I'm kind of doing the small things to help us play our team game, that's when I'm doing my best and scoring the goals."
Bailey's goal scoring is what he is most recognized for, but the junior is not only successful when the puck is on his stick. He constantly battles in the defensive zone. He forechecks at every opportunity and drives the net.
The forward truly has a hockey sense and knows exactly what he need to do in order to be a smart player.
"I'm constantly trying to read where the puck is about to be," said Bailey. "I'm trying to get lost, especially in the offensive zone, obviously. I have confidence in my linemates to find me. They're constantly looking for me in the zone, and I'm trying to do the same when I have the puck. I think they're distracting the other guys with their speed and skill, and it's leaving space for me."
At the conclusion of last season, Bailey started to show glimpses of his abilities. It has been no surprise to Gadowsky and the rest of the coaching staff that he has dominated this year.
This weekend, Bailey and the Lions will welcome Michigan State to Happy Valley. The Blue and White were winless against the Spartans last season, with four hard-fought games, but the team is expecting better results now. Penn State is an improved team.
"I think that we've showed at times that we are very much improved, and it's a matter of playing our game," said Gadowsky. "We know the preparation that we need and the mindset that we need to play our game, to have our best performance, our best chance at a positive result. It's a matter of doing it.
"I know their scores. I know their record, things like that, but I don't know how much maybe they're improved as well. I think it just comes down to I know what happened here last year. I know the games that we played in. They were all very, very close. The coaching staff, we're sort of hungry on this one to see where we're at and see if we did improve."
Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In their season opener last weekend, the Nittany Lions sent a huge message to fans and rivals; this season they're coming, they're looking, and they're conquering.
Penn State spent the week fine-tuning and dusting off in preparation for the Nittany Lion Challenge, which will look to bring six schools to Happy Valley including powerhouses Georgetown and the University of Miami on Saturday.
"We have another group of six teams coming in this weekend that are excited to be here and we're excited to have," said head coach John Gondak. "Last weekend showed a lot of our student-athletes are ready to accomplish some big things so we're going be to be going after some good marks this weekend."
"It's Our House"
Home facility advantage will be one of the best parts of this weekend's challenge (and of the indoor season).
There's something about being in a routine and a familiar environment that brings out the best in an athlete and the Nittany Lions aren't taking that for granted as their feeding off of the energy one event and one fan at a time.
"It's a cliche that 'it's our house' but that's how they look at this and they don't want people to come in here and beat them. They feed off of it a lot," said assistant coach Randy Bungard. "The stands are packed so there's a lot of energy and the video board going. Plus, when you travel you might take 30 guys and 30 girls but when you're here, even people that aren't traveling are here to cheer. So when you're here you have a huge fan [advantage]."
The sprints group is especially excited to see some tough sprints competition as some of their core runners are healthy and ready to race.
"The sprint group is excited about [it]. Miami always brings good sprinters - they're chomping at the bit especially Kiah [Seymour], Quenee [Dale] because they were held out. They're ready to get racing," said Bungard. "The sprints group was a very big part of our Big Ten and National Championship success last year and they just need to keep it going."
Consistency is Key
Several Nittany Lions had huge showings at the Penn State Relays and consistency will be key as they look into Saturday's challenge.
The throws group has hungry competitors including Darrell Hill and Rachel Fatherly who will be key leaders as they move forward.
"We have some good energy in the throws group right now. We had some ups and downs but Rachel [Fatherly] who sits eighth in the country and Darrell [Hill] who's first in the nation will definitely propel [the team's] confidence levels. As a group hopefully everyone can feed off of that," said assistant coach Patrick Ebel.
The team's pole-vaulters and jumpers are doing big things as well and will look to close some gaps within their group in order to be one of the most prominent powerhouse teams.
"What we got out of [last] meet is that we can be better. We have some nagging little injuries. We're looking to do something big this weekend and show what we have here. I think we have a lot of talent," said assistant coach Kevin Kelly. "We're fine tuning stuff this week. We're trying to have high quality practices."
The second competition will, hopefully, be an even better one for the Nittany Lions as the team gets electrified to win.
There's no doubt that the universities coming in this weekend will experience a huge competitive atmosphere paired with healthy and determined athletes.
Of their eventful week of preparations, however, Penn State wants the competition to know only one thing.
"Whoever comes in here, we're going to go after them," said Bungard. "We are pitbulls. We're going to go after you and if we're not wining, we're going to push you to a PR (personal record) and we're going to make you run hard."
The Nittany Lion Challenge kicks off Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at the Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
The upcoming schedule is a welcome sight for the Nittany Lion basketball team
(12-5, 0-4 Big Ten).
After playing three of their first four conference games on the road, the Lions will host three of their next four games inside the Bryce Jordan Center, beginning on Saturday when Purdue (10-7, 2-2 Big Ten) comes to town for a 1 p.m. tip on ESPNU.
"It's good to be home," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "It's good to be in our own beds. It's good to be in our own gym. We know the baskets. We know the nets. We know the court. It's good to be home and hopefully we get a great home court advantage tomorrow."
On the heels of a narrow 76-73 setback at Indiana, the Nittany Lions are expecting another tight ballgame against the Boilers. While the Lions came up short on the scoreboard, the Indiana game was a big confidence boost for the Penn State big men. After a slow outing against Michigan last week, Donovon Jack, Brandon Taylor and Ross Travis combined for 35 points on 58 percent shooting at IU. As a team, the Lions tallied 46 points in the paint.
Chambers remarked after the game on Tuesday that it was a big point of emphasis to get the ball inside. Penn State's front line has the tools to create mismatches and give the Lions an added dimension on both ends of the floor when they are active. Now, Chambers wants to see the backcourt and frontcourt complement one another in the same game.
"We haven't hit on all cylinders all year long," said Chambers. "Our guards were just OK against Indiana and our bigs were great. And then Michigan our guards were great and our bigs weren't so great. So we have to keep mixing it up. Guys got to continue to take open shots and play with great confidence."
Inside the arc, the Nittany Lions have played well in Big Ten play. As a team, Penn State is shooting 43 percent from the field in the four Big Ten games. The Lions have shot 25 percent from three and 54 percent from inside the arc. At Indiana, the Lions shot 64 percent (27-42) from two-point range.
Coach Chambers has talked about it at length in recent days, but the Lions need to remain aggressive in getting the ball into the paint.
"Nothing changes. Put the ball inside like we've been doing," Chambers said. "Take open, uncontested threes when they're there. I felt we took too many early ones against Indiana. But overall, I think we have to get to the free throw line as well, a little bit more than we have the last few games."
The Boilers opened conference play with back-to-back wins over Minnesota (72-68) and Michigan (64-51) at home. Purdue dropped back-to-back road games at Wisconsin (62-55) and Maryland (69-60). The Boilers have a balanced offensive attack with six players averaging 8.5 points per game or more.
Purdue's rotation features two seven-footers, including junior A.J. Hammons (7-0) and freshman Isaac Haas (7-2). Both players are combing for 20.2 points and 11 rebounds per contest. Purdue ranks second in the Big Ten with 12.5 offensive rebounds per game.
"Tomorrow if Purdue wants to grind it out, we need to do a really good job of playing five guys against the ball, whether it's inside or out," said Chambers. "And then on the offensive end, our defense needs to dictate our offense."
The Nittany Lions will be hosting Purdue for the 22nd time. Penn State is 10-11 all-time in games played in Happy Valley. The two teams split last year, with Penn State scoring a 79-68 win in the BJC.
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