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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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VIDEO: Big Ten Tournament Postgame Interviews vs. Iowa

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CHICAGO - Penn State moved into the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament with a 67-58 victory over Iowa inside United Center on Thursday afternoon. Head into the winning locker room to hear from head coach Patrick Chambers and several players following the victory.


Coach Chambers Interview




Player Interviews





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Nittany Lions Head to Minnesota with Much on the Line

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four teams. Three points. One Big Ten Regular Season Champion.

With one final weekend series separating the Penn State men's hockey team and the Big Ten Tournament, it's safe to say the Nittany Lions have yet to play two games this season as important as those upcoming against Minnesota.

Currently, the team sits in fourth place among the conference standings; however, it is only three points behind Michigan State, the first place team. Sandwiched between Penn State and the Spartans are Minnesota and Michigan. Both second-place teams currently have 33 points.

To make matters even more interesting, these top four programs will all face each other this weekend as the Lions take on the Gophers and Michigan State goes head to head with Michigan.

Anything is possible this weekend. Big Ten hockey is unpredictable.

"We have an opportunity to for sure put ourselves in a bye situation, but we could also even win the league this year," said forward Casey Bailey. "To be able to accomplish that in our second year in the league would be something we'd love to do. We're just going to take it one game at a time."

In order to attain either of those feats, this series with Minnesota is crucial for the Blue and White. With two wins, the Lions have a chance to either steal the No. 1 seed in the tournament or claim the No. 2 spot. The top two teams in the conference secure a bye on the opening day of the tournament.

The Nittany Lions are playing for a top spot and that bye.

"It kind of has a playoff mentality toward the games," Bailey said. "You're not necessarily playing for your life, but you're playing for where you're going to sit in the tournament. You could either be getting some rest that first night or you could be playing. A lot is on the line, and I think we're looking forward to the opportunity. It's pretty exciting that two wins this weekend could possibly give us the win and for sure give us the bye."

For Penn State (18-12-4, 10-7-1 B1G) to grab that top spot, it needs to sweep No. 15 Minnesota (19-12-3, 10-5-3 B1G). Two victories would give the Lions 37 points, but they would still need luck on their side. Even if the Blue and White earn six additional points, winning the league and earning the No. 1 seed would come down to the series between the Spartans and Wolverines.

Michigan State must lose and win a shootout against Michigan for the Lions to have any chance at grabbing the top seed. If that scenario occurred, the Spartans would finish with 35 points, and Michigan would finish with 37. Penn State would win the tiebreaker with the Wolverines, thanks to a winning record over its biggest conference rival.

"We're just trying to approach this like any other weekend," said captain Patrick Koudys. "We've had a good week of practice, and we just need to mentally stay focused. It was kind of nice this week we had spring break so we could focus a little more on hockey. It's a big weekend for us, and we're ready to go."

No matter what the results are in East Lansing and Ann Arbor, if the Nittany Lions come away with two wins or a win and shootout victory, the No. 2 spot will be theirs for the taking.

It will all come down to the team's performance in Minneapolis.

"We know we're going into a big ice surface in Minnesota," Bailey said. "It's tough to win in anybody else's arena, but I think after how we played this past weekend again Michigan, we're going in with a lot of confidence. Everything is on the table, so we're really looking forward to seeing what we can do."

In the last meeting between Penn State and Minnesota, the two teams split. The Blue and White fell, 2-1, on Friday night but rebounded and downed the Gophers, 4-3, in overtime the following evening.

The victory marked the first time in program history that the Nittany Lions defeated Minnesota. They know they can compete with the Gophers, and they're ready to play their best version of Penn State hockey at Mariucci Arena come Friday night.

"I feel like they're not too difficult to play against, but it's hard to beat them," Koudys said of Minnesota. "That kind of contradicts itself a little bit, but they're definitely a good team. They have been for years, and they're known for being a great team. I think when we did beat them, we were doing what makes us great. When we did those things the right way, we were able to beat them."

Knowing what's at stake, Penn State is prepared to battle for sixty minutes.

These games have a bigger, more significant meaning. No one on the team is taking that lightly.

"It's not just another two games," Koudys said. "This is it. If we win these two games, we get something more than just two wins. We're excited about that. I know I'm really excited, and we just want to get down there and do well."
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2015 Big Ten Tournament Blog - Penn State vs. Iowa

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CHICAGO - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. On Thursday, the Nittany Lions will meet fifth-seeded Iowa in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament inside United Center.

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

Looking Ahead - Big Ten Tournament Second Round vs. Iowa

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Game Blog - Penn State vs. Iowa

CHICAGO - Following a 68-65 win over Nebraska, the Nittany Lion basketball team (17-15, 4-14 Big Ten) moved into the second round of the Big Ten Tournament and will meet fifth-seeded Iowa (21-10, 12-6 Big Ten) on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET (BTN) inside United Center.

Wednesday's win marked Penn State's second-straight victory and first at the Big Ten Tournament since the Nittany Lions marched to the championship game in 2011. The Lions and Hawkeyes have met just once in the Big Ten Tournament. That matchup came in the semifinals of the 2001 tournament (Iowa, 94-74). The winner of Thursday's game will meet fourth-seeded Purdue on Friday in the quarterfinals.

Having met just 12 days ago in the Bryce Jordan Center, the two teams are quite familiar with one another. Penn State led by as much as 12 in the first half of the game on Feb. 28, but 15 turnovers plagued the Nittany Lions in an 81-77 Iowa victory in overtime. Four Penn State players scored in double figures, led by 19 from D.J. Newbill.

Thursday's game will be played on a much different stage, and the Nittany Lions have a great deal of momentum following two strong outings. Take an inside look at the matchup.

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By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This weekend the Nittany Lions will be on the road once again. However, this time, they will be made up of fourteen student-athletes that will look to dominate the national stage in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The group of student-athletes, compared to the dozens that regularly travel on the weekends, have proved to be the cream of crop this year and have earned their positions at the 2015 Indoor NCAA Championships representing the Blue and White.

"Having a close group like that will help with cheering each other on and for having a Penn State presence down there," said Brian Leap

And while for most, the thought of competing on the national level could be nerve-wrecking or intimidating, this group is headed into 'just another meet' that provides another chance to showcase the diligence they've devoted all season long.  

"The hay is in the barn now and we're just going to tune up and get ready...take a few days to recover. No need to do anything special this week," said junior Brannon Kidder, who is slated to compete in the one-mile run and the distance medley relay.

Also representing the Nittany Lions on the track will be junior Kiah Seymour who is set to compete in the 400-meter dash. Seymour, who placed sixth in the event at the NCAA meet in 2014, represents the team's focused mindset headed into the meet. This year is a clean slate and it brings opportunity for improvement.

"I think I train the same for every meet. This isn't any different. I'm going to go out there and try my best," said Seymour. "Good competition brings out good performances."

On the field, Penn State is confident.

Leap had a powerful performance at the Big Ten Championships where he posted a personal record triple jump of 52-6.75.

 "[I'm just going to] build off of [Big Tens]. I know there are more things out there and hopefully I can look toward that school record mark," said Leap. "[I'll just] continue to do the same things I've been doing and use the atmosphere to give me the extra push."

Another consistent stand out is junior Rachel Fatherly who earned her Big Ten Championship silver medal with a toss of 66-6.50. Fatherly's growth this season has been entertaining, to say the least, and represents the determination and concentration practiced daily by the Nittany Lions.

"I think that ending the weight throw [at the Big Ten Championships] with my last throw being my best throw builds confidence and it shows that I can come through. I can be focused," said Fatherly. "My better throws come when I'm more relaxed and calm. Coach Ebel told me to think about everything that got me to NCAAs and just try and reiterate that."

Aside from focused, confident, and determined, the team is grateful for this opportunity.

"I'm really excited and [I feel] blessed to...be able to go compete and to compete for a national championship," said senior Darrell Hill, who is closing off his senior season with a first-time trip to an indoor championship.

The most important note of all, though, is that the team is really, really excited.

"I'm actually just really excited more than I am nervous," said Seymour.

"Absolutely. I'm definitely excited and not having school will be nice. We can fully focus on track," said Kidder. "I'm really excited for the relay. It's always really exciting running with those guys."

"I'm excited. I was just there a few weeks ago with all the SEC schools and it was similar. I got all the nerves out of the way and now I can just use the excitement and build off of Big Tens," said Leap.

"Definitely excited," said Fatherly.

 

 

Garner, Newbill Lead Lions Past Nebraska for B1G Tourney Win

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10879843.jpeg VIDEO: Postgame Interviews with Coach Chambers, Players

CHICAGO - Behind 45 combined points from the guard tandem of D.J. Newbill and Shep Garner and a tournament-record 16 blocked shots, the Nittany Lion basketball team (17-15, 4-14 Big Ten) marched past Nebraska (13-18, 5-13) in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament inside United Center on Wednesday.

The backcourt duo was spectacular in the second half, nailing five 3-pointers to lead the Nittany Lions to their first win in the postseason tournament since a run to the championship game in 2011. Now, Penn State is set for a date with No. 5-seeded Iowa in the second round on Friday at 2:30 p.m. (BTN).

"We are a great basketball team, not just an average basketball team, we are a great basketball team when they (make shots like that)," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "I think we are peaking at a really good point here. We have a tough team tomorrow, but to be able to see us move on and take the next step on the bracket is great for these seniors."

Wednesday's game appeared to be on track for a comfortable win when the Nittany Lions went on a tear in the early stages of the second half. Garner and Newbill accounted for 13 points during a 14-1 scoring run, which put Penn State up, 51-35, with 15:52 to play. But by no means was the stretch run an easy one.

Nebraska answered the Nittany Lion run with a 14-0 surge to pull within two before Garner nailed his third triple of the second half to put the Lions up 54-49 with 9:28 to play. Penn State led by eight (59-51) with 7:54 to go, but the Huskers weren't done. The score got as close as one on two occasions in the final 3:30, including once with 42.7 seconds to play.

"The mindset was, we just needed to do whatever was necessary to get the win," Garner said. "We needed to be tough, whatever we had to do to win. We made plays."

Geno Thorpe sank two free throws with 4.2 seconds to play, icing the 68-65 victory. And it was Penn State's defense down the stretch that handed the Nittany Lions a victory. Nebraska went 2-for-13 to finish the game, and the Lions will fight to see another day.

"We have been in so many close games this year, and these guys earned the right to come out on top," Chambers said.

"It feels good, you know, my last year, I'm not ready to be done," Newbill said. "Everybody in this locker room is not ready to go home either. From our coaches to our players, we want more basketball."

Newbill's wish will come true on Friday, as the Nittany Lions shift focus towards Iowa. The Nittany Lions dropped a narrow 81-77 game to the Hawkeyes in the Bryce Jordan Center on Feb. 28, a game the All-Big Ten guard still has on his mind.

"They executed down the stretch," Newbill said. "I had a key turnover late in the game to get them free throws to put them up by a larger margin...They play hard. Iowa is a great team. And we have to play harder than them (tomorrow)."

"
Iowa is big. They've got really good shooters, really good scorers," Chambers said. "Aaron White, first team, All‑Big Ten, what an incredible accomplishment for him and what he's done there. He's all over the record books. But we've got to go out and play Penn State basketball for 40 minutes, give ourselves a chance.

The Nittany Lions will have a quick turnaround before Thursday's afternoon tip, but Chambers and the Lions have no doubt they will be ready to go.

"We're going to rest up," Chambers said. "We're going to do some cold tubs. We're going to get some treatment. But if you're an 18- to 23-year-old kid, come on, they don't want to practice, they want to play games. I feel confident that they'll be ready to play and they'll play with great energy tomorrow."


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