By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After knocking on the Big Ten door the past six games, the Penn State men's basketball team emphatically kicked it down Saturday afternoon against Rutgers.
Looking for their first conference victory, the Nittany Lions were sharp in every aspect, beating the Scarlet Knights 79-51 for their largest margin of victory in a home Big Ten game since 1998 to get in the win column in the Big Ten.
From shooting percentage to rebounding to turnover margin, Penn State outclassed Rutgers in nearly every statistical category. More importantly though, the Lions kept their energy up for the entire 40 minutes in a contest in which they led for the final 29:41.
"I think that we played together, we played smart, we played physical, we played Penn State basketball for 40 minutes which we hadn't done all year until today," senior guard D.J. Newbill said. "It's growth, a lot of times we get leads and we let teams come back. Now we have to learn how to finish them, keep the pedal to the metal and keep playing hard."
After falling behind 6-0 three minutes in, Penn State started to heat up, scoring 12 points in a span of 2:47 off of four 3-pointers. It was a sign of things to come for the Nittany Lions.
For the rest of the game, the Lions' shooting stroke simply never wore off, as they hit 51 percent of shots from the field and a remarkable 50 percent from behind the arc. Overall, it was the team's third highest shooting performance of the year from the field and second highest from three.
Making it more impressive was the fact that nine players tallied points with six of them (Newbill, Payton Banks, Shep Garner, Donovon Jack, Brandon Taylor and Geno Thorpe) hitting at least one 3-pointer. The Lions finished the afternoon with three players, Newbill (23), Taylor (16) and Garner (13), scoring in double figures.
"A lot of guys have been putting in extra work, working on their shot, getting extra reps individually and as a team," Newbill, said. "I think today we came out really confident, we were getting some good looks and we were taking them with confidence, just sticking it."
The Lions attempted 20 3-pointers (10-20) on the afternoon, their ninth game of the season taking at least 20 triples. Although they entered the game shooting 31 percent from that distance, head coach Patrick Chambers encouraged his players to keep shooting.
Having watched his team shoot 54 percent from the field on the road against the Big Ten's top team in Wisconsin, Chambers knew his players had it in them. All that they needed was to remain confident.
"Look, your offense always looks good when the ball is going in the basket," Chambers said. "It just went in a little more often today then the past few games. I hear the criticism, 'you can't take those deep threes, why you shooting so many threes.' It's the only way we're going to be successful. If I'm going to pull these kids back, I don't think it's fair to them and they're not going to play with the upmost confidence."
At the same time, the way the Lions shot the ball wasn't the only notable thing about their performance. Defensively, they were on point all afternoon, holding Rutgers to 51 points and just 23 after halftime, while forcing 16 turnovers that led to 21 of their points.
After coming up just short the previous five games (losing each of them by fewer than 10 points), Penn State made it clear it wasn't going to let this one slip away. Going into the break up 41-28, the Lions started the second half on fire, going on an 11-2 run in just 1:52 that seemed to take the life out of the Scarlet Knights.
"I wanted to win the second half," Chambers said. "I didn't tell them it like that, it was more, 'win the next possession,' and we put enough possessions together to win."
It's been a tough first month of conference play for Penn State, with a lot of close loses and near misses. Though Chambers and his squad are certainly going to enjoy this victory, they know there is still plenty of work to be done.
With 11 conference games remaining, including a matchup against Minnesota this Wednesday at home, the Lions will look to continue to establish momentum as each game becomes more critical.
"For us mentally, it just shows us, we can do this, we can be successful," Chambers said. "And we've got to continue to work on the little things, we're starting to shoot the ball a lot better. It was about stops and rebounding, and I think we got back to our foundation."
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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
After going toe-to-toe on the road at Michigan State, the Nittany Lion
basketball team (12-7, 0-6 Big Ten) team will kickoff a two-game homestand
against Rutgers (10-10, 2-5) on Saturday at noon (ESPNU) inside the Bryce
Following an agonizing overtime setback to Purdue last Saturday, it would have been easy for the Nittany Lions to feel the lingering effects of a tough outcome on the road at Michigan State. But Penn State competed for 40 minutes and again put itself in a position win.
"I thought the last couple games, we have really competed hard and done some really good things," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "The ball hasn't really bounced our way, but I really like our level of competition and I really like our approach. We've got to take another step. For us to play that well at Michigan State after such a difficult loss shows something about our character and about our resolve and our perseverance."
The Nittany Lions have been in five-straight games that were one possession in the final four minutes. As Chambers has said, the ball hasn't bounced Penn State's way, but the Lions continue to be on the cusp of getting over the hump. And when they do, Chambers thinks the Lions will be a tough team to defend.
"We haven't played a 40-minute game yet, but we are getting close," Chambers said.
Offensively, senior guard D.J. Newbill has been tremendous in Big Ten play. In conference games alone, Newbill is averaging a Big Ten-leading 23.2 points per game. Newbill's ability to seemingly score, seemingly at will on dribble-drives and pull-up jumpers, has been fun to watch in conference play. What makes Newbilll's scoring so impressive is that he is shooting 47 percent from the field in Big Ten play and averaging 3.0 assists per game, all while the opponents are gameplanning to limit Newbill's output.
"With everybody, their gameplan is to stop D.J. Newbill," Chambers said. "It really hasn't worked all year. He's so efficient in his approach, his shot-making ability and his comfort zone. We need other guys to step up, no question about it. We need to continue to share the ball. We need to continue to put pressure on in the paint and get to the free throw line. I felt like we shot the ball well at Michigan State."
On the defensive end of the floor, the Nittany Lions have played well of late. Penn State held Michigan State to 66 points, 43 percent from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc. The next step for Penn State is to become more consistent on the defensive glass. Purdue and Michigan State combined for 30 offensive rebounds during the last two games. Penn State has gotten the stops it needs, but needs to find a way to keep opponents off of the offensive glass.
"I like where our defense is going," said Chambers. "We've got to be able to rebound the ball much better on the defensive glass. I think that is hurting us a little bit right now. Again, we've got to get ourselves out of rotations and defending the ball so there are no blow-bys."
Penn State and Rutgers will be seeing one another for the second time in three weeks on Saturday. An ice-cold shooting night hindered the Nittany Lions in a 50-46 setback in Piscataway on Jan. 3. Rutgers made just four field goals in the second half, but the Lions were unable to overcome an 11-point halftime deficit.
Since the Nittany Lions played the Scarlet Knights, Rutgers has gone 1-4 in Big Ten play, which includes a 67-62 victory over No. 4 Wisconsin in the RAC. The Knights are on a three-game skid, but all three losses were decided by nine points or fewer.
Guard Myles Mack continues to lead Rutgers in scoring at 14.7 points per game. Forward Kadeem Jack, who scored 12 points against the Nittany Lions in the first meeting, is averaging 12.8 tallies on the season. Junior Etou is the team's top rebounder at 6.8 per game. As a team, Rutgers is ranked 14th in scoring offense at 59.7 points per game. The Knights are ranked sixth in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 62.3 points per game.
Rutgers last played in the Bryce Jordan Center on March 14, 2006 in a first round game of the NIT. This will be only the third meeting between the two border rivals since the BJC opened in 1996.
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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Everyone has days that don't go according to plan. For Penn State men's basketball player Kevin Montminy, August 6, 2014 was one of those days.
The senior walk-on went to practice that afternoon expecting a normal workout session, yet ended up on the floor instead, his nose bleeding profusely after he broke it as he dove for a loose ball.
But that was just the beginning.
Before Montminy could be taken to the hospital, head coach Patrick Chambers gathered the team at midcourt to make an announcement. For his final season at Penn State, Montminy would receive a full scholarship.
"I was just going into it like any other practice or game with the same approach and ended up having to go to the hospital which is never fun, with blood coming out of my nose, and I was like 'oh jeez, this is not going to be a good day,'" Montminy said. "But then coach pulled everyone aside. It sort of blew me away, I wasn't expecting it at all."
Now in his fourth season, Montminy has played a combined 96 minutes and scored just 24 points during his career. So what about him made Chambers believe he deserved a scholarship?
While there are plenty of hardworking players on the Nittany Lions, Montminy is usually the first guy mentioned by coaches and teammates when attributes like effort and attitude are being discussed. He was an Academic All-Big Ten selection last year and was named a team captain prior to this season.
When asked about the Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, native, Chambers wasn't shy about his feelings.
"I'd let my daughter marry that kid," Chambers said. "He's a beast. Leadership, academically, just does the right things, community service, locker room, his effort in practice, he's vocal, our guys respect him. When he talks they listen. I mean, what a great human being to have a part of your program."
Now in the last season of his career, Montminy is starting to reflect on what the past four years have meant to him.
For a kid who grew up 20 minutes away from the Bryce Jordan Center however, Montminy's Penn State journey began long before he first suited up for the Nittany Lions.
Born to Bleed Blue and White
Long before he was a member of Penn State's basketball team, Montminy was already a member of Nittany Nation.
Living close to State College has its benefits, and being able to attend as many Penn State sporting events as possible was the biggest one for him.
"Ever since I was younger, I was coming into the BJC or Beaver stadium seeing games," Montminy said. "My parents had season tickets to football games, my dad would also get a ticket voucher pack for Penn State basketball. So yeah, I would go to multiple games, whether it was with my family or with my friends in high school. That really made it that much more special that now I'm on the court instead of watching."
Still, when it came time to pick a college, the choice wasn't easy for the promising student athlete. As someone who was the valedictorian of his class and a star wide receiver and shooting guard at Penns Valley High School, Montminy's options of schools certainly weren't limited.
At first, it seemed like football might win out. While the 6-foot-3 guard was originally recruited by mostly Division III schools for basketball, he received serious interest from a number of Ivy League football programs, including Pennsylvania and Princeton.
What seemed like a tough call became easier when then-Penn State head basketball coach Ed DeChellis reached out to him with an offer to walk-on. Right away, Montminy knew he wanted to be a Nittany Lion.
"I had a different options and I wasn't even sure what sport I wanted," Montminy said. "Whenever [Penn State] offered that chance, it was sort of, I can't really pass that up, because it was the academics, it was the ability to play in the Big Ten, have that opportunity that I just couldn't pass up."
The decision was met enthusiastically by Montminy's parents and three sisters, not to mention his friends, coaches and teachers at Penns Valley. Although he may not play every game for the Nittany Lions, he always has a cheering section.
"I'm not playing in every game or getting significant minutes but my family comes to every single game," Montminy said. "They're the best and I wouldn't trade them for anything."
Montminy has shown his alma mater plenty of appreciation as well. Even though he graduated from Penns Valley four years ago, makes sure to attend at least one Rams game a year.
"I was able to make it to the [Penns Valley] holiday tournament this year. Just going up and talking to people and hearing, 'hey we've been watching you and following your career,' means a lot to me."
The Penns Valley faithful will have a chance to reciprocate on Saturday, which is "Penns Valley Community Day" inside the Bryce Jordan Center (12 p.m. vs. Rutgers).
Putting the 'Student' in 'Student Athlete'
When you ask Montminy how much time he spends on schoolwork compared to basketball, you can already start to tell how diligent a student he is.
In about 10 seconds, the double business major has already calculated it in his head. Most weeks he spends about 28 hours (four a day) on basketball and an additional 14 (two a day) studying after practice. Not to mention that he is generally occupied with class and schoolwork from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm everyday (he usually gets to the BJC for practice at 2:30).
It may seem stressful, but it has certainly paid off for him. A member of both the Smeal College of Business and Schreyer's Honors College, Montminy has had six consecutive semesters with a 4.0 GPA.
"If I have a test [the hours studying] will definitely be more, I'll just go to the library straight after practice and go, not all night, but pretty late. And then wake up and do it again," Montminy said. "It's something I wouldn't pass up for anything. You can sleep when you're dead."
Although this is his last season with the basketball program, the guard will stay in school for a fifth year to earn his master's degree in accounting to go with two bachelor's degrees in accounting and finance.
Until then, Montminy is going to continue to enjoy what is left of his last season in blue and white. Over the past four years, he has learned to love his role as something of a player-coach for the Nittany Lions.
"Coach, at the very beginning said, 'I'm not going to promise you anything, so keep working and good things will come out of that,'" Montminy said. "He relies on me for things that aren't necessarily on the court during games. I know that I can bring someone aside and tell them, 'this is what you're doing.' I think understanding my role and understanding what's best for the team allows me to not worry about the selfish things like wanting to play more."
Having already secured an accounting internship with KPMG in Philadelphia this summer, Montminy is well on his way to starting his post-basketball career.
Both his teammates and coaches have no doubt that the former walk-on will be a success in life, just like they have no doubt that they will miss him.
"He's great in every aspect," junior forward Donovon Jack said. "He's a guy that's all in on Penn State basketball, whether he's cheering us on or pushing us. Just a great, overall leader."
"That kid is going to be a stud, whatever he chooses he's going to be a superstar," Chambers added. "I couldn't be more thankful about having him a part of my program in the beginning of my tenure here at Penn State."
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. Tonight, the Nittany Lions travel to the Breslin Center to take on Michigan State.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having been on the brink of its first Big Ten win for the past two weeks, the Nittany Lion basketball team (12-6, 0-5 Big Ten) team heads on the road for a Wednesday night (7 p.m. on BTN) tilt against Michigan State (12-6, 3-2 Big Ten).
After a heartbreaking loss to Purdue on Sunday in overtime, the Nittany Lions can't help but think about how close they are to getting over the hump in Big Ten play. The Lions have played in four-straight games that were one-possession contests in the final three minutes of play. Despite coming up short in all four, the mindset and confidence level for head coach Patrick Chambers does not change because he knows how competitive the team has been.
"I believe in what we are doing," Chambers said. "I have great faith in what we are doing. Our record, it doesn't indicate how good we are playing. We are playing well in the Big Ten. We are still 12-6, but in the Big Ten it doesn't indicate some of the good things we are doing. I believe in this process, and I know it's a process. It's going to take time to get it where I want it to be."
Penn State's record isn't indicative of how close the team is to a much different start to conference play. However, the Lions know that it's time to pick themselves up off the mat and find a way to win. Chambers often talks about earning the right to make the winning plays. Simply put the Lions just need a ball or two to bounce their way to get the results they have been so close to achieving.
"The other teams in the league are going to go through these rough patches (like us)," Chambers said. "The Big Ten is a gauntlet. It challenges you mentally and physically on a nightly basis. And we know, right now that we are going to be in one-possession games every night. The strong mentally survive, and they get through the rough patches."
The key to Penn State's success from here hinges on the defensive end of the floor. Chambers wants to see more consistent high-level effort on the defensive end of the floor for 40 minutes. It's imperative to compete on defense and on the glass possession by possession in conference play, and the players know what type of effort it takes to win.
"We shouldn't have to turn on and turn off our effort," Taylor said. "It's just something that we should be used to doing. We need to (play with that effort and attitude) no matter if it's the first half, second half or overtime...We are not changing anything. We are going to continue to do the things that we have been doing, but focus on defense a little more and our rotations. We are focused on Michigan State and getting ready for a battle against a great Big Ten team."
The Spartans enter the game with a 3-2 record in Big Ten play and a 12-6 mark overall. Michigan State suffered a 75-59 setback at Maryland over the weekend. The Maryland loss snapped a three-game winning streak for MSU, which included triumphs over Northwestern (84-77), Iowa (75-61) and Indiana (70-50). The Spartans lead the Big Ten in 3-point percentage at 40.1. Additionally, MSU enters the game as the conference's top rebounding team (+7.3 per game) and assists leader (18.0 per game).
Junior guard Denzel Valentine leads three Michigan State players in double-figures. Valentine, who is averaging 13.9 ppg while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 44 percent from the foul line, has led Michigan State in scoring on seven different occasions this season. Senior guard Travis Trice is averaging 13.8 tallies per game. Trice also leads the team in assists with 6.1 per game. Senior forward Branden Dawson is averaging 11.5 points and a Big Ten-leading 9.5 rebounds per game.
The Nittany Lions will only play Michigan State once this year. Wednesday's game marks Penn State's 18th game in East Lansing. The Lions are 4-13 all-time at MSU.
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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."