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2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Iowa

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions host Iowa in a 6 p.m. tip inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

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Lions Kick Off Final Homestand vs. Iowa; Ross Travis Feature

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a bye week, the Nittany Lion basketball team (15-13, 3-12 Big Ten) returns to the Jordan Center on Saturday to kick off its final two-game homestand against Iowa (18-10, 9-6 Big Ten) at 6 p.m. (ESPNU).

With three regular season games to play before the Big Ten Tournament, the Lions have their eye set on finishing the season on a high. The second bye week during conference play came at a great time for Penn State to regroup, recharge and focus on playing its best basketball during the final nine days of the regular season.

"After the (Northwestern) game, we looked like a beaten team, mentally, physically, we looked drained," Chambers said. "This week off came at a great time...We had two days off to reboot, reset and get refreshed. Everybody needs it. We've had some really healthy practices these last couple days. James Franklin came in and spoke to the team. Now, I want to see us run through the finish line."

Saturday will be a special evening for the program, as the game against Iowa will be Coaches vs. Cancer themed. For each ticket sold, $4 will benefit Coaches vs. Cancer. Penn State men's basketball pledges a yearlong fight against those impacted by cancer. Saturday's game is just another opportunity for the program to do its part in helping those impacted. And it's a cause that hits close to home for the Nittany Lions.

"Look, we are going through it right now," Chambers said. "We have Mitch Stover, our equipment manager, and he's battling and he's fighting right now. Kathy Drysdale is battling, and she's fighting right now. I lost my brother last year to cancer. So, it means a lot to us. Obviously, D.J. (Newbill) lost his mom, and a lot of our staff members have lost family members. So this is not just a surface thing. This is deep. This has roots. It's inside of us to want to be a part and make a difference.

Iowa Peaking Down the Stretch
The Hawkeyes come in to Saturday's game as one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten. Riding a three-game winning streak, Iowa is firmly entrenched in the fight for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes topped Illinois, 68-60, on Wednesday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Forward Aaron White has been superb of late. On the heels of a career-high 29 points, the versatile big man is averaging 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Junior forward Jarrod Uthoff is averaging 12 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest. Defensively, Iowa has been stout in conference play. The Hawks are second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (39.3 percent) and third in scoring defense (61.5 ppg).

Saturday's game marks the lone regular season meeting between the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions. Penn State is 10-8 all-time against Iowa in games played in Happy Valley.

10827487.jpegAs Career Winds Down, Travis Remains Epitome of Effort, Hustle
Feature by Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Ross Travis, the art of rebounding has never been all that complicated.

Sure, the Penn State basketball senior knows there's a bit of strategy involved. Positioning yourself is certainly important, as is tracking the trajectory of the ball.

At the end of the day, however, Travis believes that the man who finishes the game with the most rebounds isn't always the tallest, but the one who exerts the most effort.

"It's definitely all effort, it's me wanting the ball more than the other guy," Travis said. "Every ball that goes up and goes off the rim is a 50/50 chance to all 10 guys on the floor. Percentages say if it's shot from the right side it'll go to the left. Just being able to read the trajectory of the ball, wanting the ball more and my athletic ability to go up there and get it."

For the past four years, Travis has used that mindset to cement himself as one of the greatest rebounders in Penn State history. Now in his final season, the forward is third on the Nittany Lions' all-time list with 774 boards (6.2 career average) and is leading the team in that category for the third straight year.  

It's quite an accomplishment, yet one that is initially hard to believe if you've never seen him play. At 6-foot-7, 235 pounds, Travis doesn't have the height that is typically associated with top glass-protectors.

What he lacks in size however, the senior captain makes up for in grit and determination. Quiet off the court, Travis turns into a bull in a china shop the minute he steps on it, diving for loose balls, boxing out bigger players and generally playing with reckless abandon.

Last season, Travis finished fourth in the Big Ten in rebounding with 7.0 average, and was the only player in the top four shorter than 6-foot-10. While he didn't initially envision this role for himself when he came to Penn State, he's learned to embrace doing whatever it takes to get on the court.

"No, not at all, but coming in as a freshman you have to find your niche with the team and that's how I got playing time right away," Travis said. "I played hard, I defended and I got rebounds for the team. Rebounds are huge, especially offensive rebounds. You get a couple a game you can get your team a couple extra shots."

Currently, Travis is averaging 6.1 rebounds in just over 24 minutes of playing time. His intensity, long his biggest trademark, has been as high as ever in recent games.

While the power forward certainly isn't the first player to mark a name for himself based off of toughness, his ability to handle adversity is certainly worth noting. Take a look at his early injury history, and you can't help but wonder how he plays basketball at all, let alone in such a physical manner.

When Travis was in the fifth grade, he lost all the sight in his left eye after being shot accidentally with a BB gun. After improbably regaining his vision, the Chaska, Minnesota, native went through more turmoil in high school, missing most of his first three seasons with a broken hand, a torn hip muscle and a fractured vertebrae in his back that required him to wear a brace for seven months.

"The doctor said I had a one in 10,000 chance of getting my vision back in my left eye," Travis said. "I carry that with me each and every day. It could have gone a whole different way so I'm fortunate for that.

"I missed most of my freshman, sophomore and junior years. I was fortunate to not get injured senior year. Just overworked some areas in my body and paid the price but I recovered well."

You would think after going through all that, maybe Travis would alter his game a bit, spend a little less time diving over the court and try to avoid as much physical contact as possible.

But that's just not in his DNA. Even after seeing his career nearly end multiple times, Travis only knows one way to play basketball, and that's full throttle.

"You've got your scorers, and I'm kind of behind the scenes and I'm cool with that," Travis said. "I like to get down and dirty on the ground, I like to push guys around and I like to outwork people, it's just who I am."

That mindset helped Travis become one of the best players in Minnesota during his lone full season of high school ball in 2011. Although he initially was interested in attending a Pac-10 school, a visit to Penn State and the idea of competing against the Big Ten schools he grew up watching changed his mind.

He's been a lineup mainstay ever since, playing more than 17 minutes a game as a freshman before developing into a starter the next two years. Though his playing time has gone up and down this season as the Lions have played more small ball, Travis' leadership and effort are still as valuable as ever.

"I thought Ross the last few games has played as hard as he's ever played in a uniform," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "That's saying a lot because he usually plays hard. He understands the end is near and he's going to give everything he has."

The end may be near for Travis, but his legacy as one of the Nittany Lions' greatest rebounders will remain. A telecommunications major, Travis hopes to pursue a career in the music industry as a producer after he graduates.

Until then, the forward is going to continue playing the way he always has, like there is no tomorrow.

"If I get a limited amount of minutes, I have to go out there and do what I do, to the best of my abilities in the time frame given," Travis said. "I've got to go out there and get my eight, nine, 10 and even more some nights, boards."



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Newbill's Heroics Lead Lions in Battle Against No. 5 Wisconsin

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10797556.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Shouldering the scoring load isn't anything new for D.J. Newbill.


After all, it's the role that the 6-foot-4 guard has filled for the Penn State men's basketball team the past three years. On Wednesday night against Wisconsin however, the captain of the Nittany Lions took it to another level.

In a matchup with the fifth-ranked team in the nation, Newbill gave a Herculean effort, scoring 62 percent of the Lions points with 29 hard-fought tallies on 13-21 shooting in a contest that Penn State came up short in, 55-47.

"I felt like we were in the game because of D.J. Newbill and our defense," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "He was terrific. As a coach, he needed help but when he's got it going I've got to go to him. But we need a complete effort from every guy that steps on the floor."

Newbill's 29 points tied for his third highest scoring effort of the season and was his 15th 20-point performance of 2014-'15, yet it was arguably his most impressive game all year. With his teammates struggling to get shots to drop early, the senior completely put the team on his back, hitting a mixture of layups and jumpers to score the Lions' first 12 points in the opening 14:56.

By the time the Lions reached halftime trailing just 31-24, Newbill had helped account for every Penn State point, scoring 16 of them on 7-of-9 shooting and assisting on the other eight tallies. Overall, he finished the night having contributed to all but 10 of the Lions' points, an incredible 79 percent.

It was an effort to be proud of, but the Big Ten's leading scorer spent no time accepting praise afterwards. Having playing all but one minute of the game, Newbill couldn't focus on anything other than how close his team has been against the conference's best competition.

"I was trying to do whatever I can to keep my team in the game," Newbill said. "Those guys rely on me to do a lot, and I rely on them a lot, but I just had it rolling so I just kept shooting. Points mean nothing to me if we lose the game."

It wasn't until the game's 22nd minute, when Brandon Taylor nailed a jumper that Penn State registered a point that Newbill didn't score or assist on. Soon after, the Badgers got rolling, going on an 11-4 run that gave them a 46-30 lead with 8:51 remaining.

For the second-straight game, the Lions were down double-digits in the second half to one of the Big Ten's top two teams. But like on Saturday against Maryland, they turned the momentum, going on a 13-2 run of their own that made the score 48-43 and had the BJC rocking with 4:08 to play.

While Newbill stayed hot during that stretch, scoring seven of the 13 points, he received plenty of help from sophomore guard Geno Thorpe and senior forward Ross Travis. Thorpe hit three shots to tally all six of his points in that frame, while the 6-foot-7 Ross was relentless on the glass, grabbing five of his eight rebounds in the second half.

"That's a huge accomplishment for this group," Chambers said. "They had a huge lead, and we didn't give up, we kept competing, we kept fighting. And they battled all the way back. Again, I'd like to think that we gave ourselves a chance.

"Man did [Travis] play hard, did he bring energy. As a senior you know it's coming down to the end and he just left it all out there."

At that point, the Badgers managed to pull away, getting four consecutive points from star forward and All-American candidate Frank Kaminsky that proved to be too much to overcome. Despite the outcome, it was easily one of Penn State's best defensive games all year.

The Lions limited the Badgers to 39 percent shooting and held them under 60 points for just the second time all season. They also used a joint effort to hold the 7-foot Kaminsky to a 4-12 shooting performance.

As hard as his team played and as close as they continue to come, Chambers remains adamant that the goal is to get over the hump against the best teams in the country. When the fourth year coach thinks about Wednesday though, the first thing that will come to mind is the effort of Newbill.

"D.J. is an amazing kid and I hurt for him. I want to win so badly, not just for our program but for him especially," Chambers said. "He's done so much for this program. He's just been an incredible ambassador.

"Tonight we had to ride [D.J.] and he was incredible. But other guys have got to make plays and have got to make shots. We're playing some really good teams right now, and we're battling. I like this group a lot and they deserve a bounce or something. Because these kids are fighting for everything." 

2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Wisconsin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. Tonight, the Nittany Lions welcome No. 5 Wisconsin to the Bryce Jordan Center for an 7 p.m. tip.

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Newbill Leaving No Doubt He is Among Nation's Best

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10791881.jpegFeature by Matt Allibone, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK. Pa. - Take a look at both last season's first-team All-Big Ten selections and this year's preseason team, and it's hard not to feel puzzled.

Not because any of the choices aren't excellent players deserving of recognition, but because there seems to be one player near the top of the conference's stat sheet missing-- D.J. Newbill.

Newbill has played for the Penn State men's basketball team for three years and has led the Nittany Lions in scoring each season. If that doesn't impress you, consider that he is leading the conference in points-per-game this year (20.8), finished second last season (17.8) and fifth the year before that (16.3).


Despite the accomplishments, you rarely hear the Philadelphia native named when the best players in the nation are being discussed. At the same time, his importance has never been doubted inside his own program.

"D.J. Newbill should be in every conversation," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "It's nice that he's a [Senior CLASS Award] finalist, which is great and he deserves that but he's not in many conversations and he needs to be and he should be. He's carrying a team and he's scoring in a variety of ways."

Newbill's scoring isn't just the result of piling up points against non-conference competition either. He's averaged 18.6 points against Big Ten opponents the past two seasons with a terrific 20.3 mark this season. In 32 conference games dating back to last season, the guard has reached double-digits 29 times.

Still, scoring stats only tell part of the story when it comes to Newbill. His play last year helped the team's win total improve by six games and the Lions are already 15-11 this season with five regular season games to go, one win away from matching their 2013-'14 total.

The 6-foot-4 guard's role has also expanded over his career to the point that it's hard to refer to him as any one position. While he began as a point guard and still regularly handles the ball, he spent most of last season playing shooting guard and now spends plenty of time at small forward.

Regardless of what position number is attached to him, Newbill is clearly the motor that makes the Lions go. Apart from scoring, he leads the team in assists (3.1), steals (1.3), 3-point shooting (37 percent) and is third in rebounds (4.8). As Chambers puts it, he does everything but "fly the plane and drive the bus."


"He's a tremendous leader and he's been playing multiple positions," Chambers said. "And he's defending now the best player on the other team and he's rebounding the basketball. He's done everything for us. Without D.J. Newbill, wow, it'd be scary."

Although his senior season is nearing its end, Newbill has kept his foot on the accelerator. Already the seventh leading scorer in the nation, the team captain doesn't let a practice go by without badgering Chambers about what he still needs to work on.

Along with asking questions and meeting with the coaches during his free time, the team's leading scorer has also become a film room junky, often studying tape to break down his own game.

"His leadership is incredible because he knows he doesn't know everything and he's still developing into a leader," Chambers said. "He's willing to pull up tape.  Normally a best player is not doing that. He spends a lot of time with me in my office, which is probably smart but a lot of times guys think they know it all already and he's very open, very honest, very coachable. He wants to get better, studying film more. Little things like that."


Those little things include spending as much time as possible with his younger teammates, who all praise him for his leadership abilities.

This year alone, he has helped true freshman point guard Shep Garner grow into an everyday starter, sophomore Geno Thorpe become a more complete player and one of the conference's best defenders, and junior transfer Devin Foster turn into a contributor off the bench.

"I learned so much from [D.J] and it's been quick, like five months, six months," Garner said. "I ask him any type of question under the sun, call him any time of night and he's there for me."

"I've learned a lot from him, just the way he approaches everyday, practice or the game," Foster added. "He brings it all. He's the best player. Some best players don't give it their all but he does. He's someone to look up to. This is his last go-around so I try to do everything he tells me so I can help him be better in his career."

As happy as Chambers is to see his best player mentor his younger ones, what impresses him the most is the way the three-year starter acts around everyone else in his life. A respectful and soft-spoken guy off the court, Newbill treats all people the same, a quality that his coach believes is more important than how well he can shoot a basketball.

"He's the most humble guy I ever coached," Chambers said. "He treats the managers better than anybody. Again that might sound silly, but to me running a program, we want to treat everybody the same. From President [Eric] Barron all the way down to the last manager and he does it better than anybody. I think those are great qualities to have in life."


Nittany Lions Welcome No. 5 Wisconsin on Wednesday
Continuing a string of four home games in a span of five contests, the Nittany Lions (15-11, 3-10 Big Ten) welcome No. 5 Wisconsin (22-2, 11-1 Big Ten) to the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday night (7 p.m. on BTN).

Following a heartbreaking 76-73 loss to No. 19 Maryland on Saturday, the Lions have plenty of motivation leading up to the showdown with the Badgers. Chambers noted during his weekly press conference on Monday that the team is as close as it has ever been to a 40-minute game. For the vast majority of the past three weeks, Penn State has played consistent on both ends.

It's been said throughout the Big Ten season, but all the Lions need is the ball to bounce their way in the clutch moments of a game.

"I think we are playing hard and I think we are competing at a high level, other than Ohio State, so I think we are getting closer and closer to that 40-minute game," Chambers said. "We have five games left, (we need to take it) one game at a time, one practice at a time. We've got to be the best team that we can be."

The Lions arguably played their best offensive half of the 2014-'15 season at Wisconsin during the first game of the conference slate on Dec. 31. Penn State shot 64 percent inside the Kohl Center during the first half of an 89-72 victory for the Badgers.

The Badgers have clearly established themselves as one of the top teams in the nation during an impressive conference run. Wisconsin's lone Big Ten loss came on the road at Rutgers without All-America candidate Frank Kaminsky. The Badgers have won eight-straight games, with seven of those wins coming by 10 or more points.

"They are a really good team," Chambers said. "Offensively, we played really well for 20 to 25 minutes (at Wisconsin)...We have to play defense like a team against Frank (Kaminsky), against Sam (Dekker), against Nigel Hayes and against Josh Gasser. They are all capable of getting 20, so we have to do our job."

Kaminsky enters the game averaging 17.6 points per game, while Dekker (13.0) and Hayes (12.4) also come in averaging double-digits. As a team, the Badgers are shooting 48.4 percent from the field for the season and averaging 73.4 points per game.

Defensively, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in scoring. The Badgers have allowed just 55.9 points per contest. Additionally, the Badgers lead the conference in assist/turnover ratio at 1.7.

Each of the last five games between Penn State and Wisconsin inside the BJC have been decided by 10 points or fewer. The last four have been decided by six tallies or less. The Lions are 7-13 all-time against Wisconsin at home.

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Nittany Lion Rally Comes Up Just Short Against Maryland

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10786044.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a situation that would test the character of any team.

There was just under 11 minutes remaining in the Penn State men's basketball team's contest against No. 19 Maryland, and the Lions found themselves down 60-49. At that point, it would have been easy for them to accept that it just wasn't their day.

But the Lions wouldn't relent, trading blows with the Big Ten's second-best team and outscoring them 24-16 the rest of the way. In the end, D.J. Newbill's final 3-point attempt came up short as Penn State dropped a back-and-forth game 76-73.

"These kids are playing their butts off, they're doing some really good things," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "We played really good basketball, we really did. 11 assists, [only] seven turnovers is terrific. Guys stepped up, guys made big shots, and we didn't sulk or complain. We didn't really put our heads down when they went up. We battled right back and took the lead."

In a game that featured six double-digit scorers, Penn State's guard duo of D.J. Newbill and Geno Thorpe went toe-to-toe with Maryland's talented tandem of Dez Wells and Melo Trimble, with both pairs finishing with 42 points combined.

Thorpe carried the Lions throughout the first half, going 5-for-8 from the field and hitting a pair of 3-pointers to score 12 points as Penn State led 34-33 at the break. With the Lions down by 11 at the 10:51 mark in the second, the 6-foot-3 guard started a 13-0 run with a three-point play and ended it with a slick assist to Ross Travis that gave the Blue and White a 62-60 lead.

Overall, the sophomore finished with 17 points and five rebounds, but more importantly, his shooting prevented Maryland from focusing all their attention on Newbill, who scored 16 after the break to finish with 25.

"[Geno] needs to play real consistent basketball and when he plays consistent he's really good and he makes us that much better," Chambers said. "Teams are going to have to start worrying about him. And that just gives you more, gives D.J. more space. When Shep [Garner] and BT (Brandon Taylor) and Geno [are playing well], when we're hitting on all cylinders we're a really good basketball team."

Right from the opening tip, it was clear that the Nittany Lions were not intimidated by Maryland. While the Terpins shot a more than respectable 48 percent from the field in the first half, the Lions answered every shot and never trailed during the game's first 20 minutes.

When it looked as though the Terpins were going to pull away by outscoring Penn State 27-15 in first nine minutes of the second half, the Lions regrouped and went on the aforementioned 13-0 run, which included a pair of free throws from Newbill and huge 3-pointers from Garner and Taylor to knot the score at 60-60.

After Travis slammed the ball through the basket to give Penn State a two-point lead, the Nittany Lions faithful were as loud as they were all night.

"I thought tonight was just a high-level game and I thought Penn State was terrific," Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. "From beginning to end, they came right back at us.

"Penn State's a really good defensive team, especially in this building. Our offense had to be good because they were making a lot of shots tonight."

Even after the Terpins answered Penn State's run with four consecutive points of their own, the Lions came crawling right back. The determination of the squad was exemplified by Newbill, who scored his team's final nine points to keep them alive down the stretch.

With just 20 seconds remaining and Penn State trailing 74-70, the Big Ten's leading scorer once again ignited the home crowd with his final three that gave the Lions a chance at the end. Despite the eventual outcome, it was another performance that proved the resolve of the Nittany Lions and their senior captain.

"Really proud of them. Really gutty, gritty effort," Chambers said. "Made some adjustments to get back to that point [at the end] which was great."

2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Maryland

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions welcome No. 19 Maryland to the Bryce Jordan Center for an 8 p.m. tip.

Live Blog 2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Maryland
 

Garner Displays Excellent Maturity and Poise in First Year

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10775502.jpegFeature by Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - D.J. Newbill thinks back to his first few practices with Shep Garner and can't help but laugh.

The senior captain and reigning All-Big Ten selection met the incoming freshman at the beginning of the year and expected him to be initially nervous like most first year players. Instead, he encountered a completely different type of personality and player.

"He was always confident, it was kind of annoying at first," Newbill said with a chuckle. "Sometimes you think as a freshman it's just an act, coming in and trying to prove himself. Then you realize that's really him, he's that confident."

Garner has displayed plenty of talent during his first year in the Nittany Lions lineup, yet his demeanor and attitude may be what stands out the most. Despite being a year out of high school, the 6-foot-1 point guard never looks out of place next to his veteran teammates.

With the Nittany Lions point guard position up for grabs at the beginning of the season and many thinking that Newbill might have to shift there from his natural shooting guard spot, Garner stepped up and quickly ended the debate. Now in February, the freshman joins Newbill as the only two Lions to have started every game.

Some were surprised to see him penciled into the starting lineup on opening night against Morgan State, but Garner sure wasn't. Even without any Division I experience, the freshman came into the year with the mindset that the job was his to take.

"I did expect to start," Garner said. "I put in the work, I talked a lot with coach [Patrick Chambers], I felt I earned the right to start."

Not wanting the opportunity to go to waste, Garner came out of the gates looking like anything but a freshman, scoring in double digits his first five games and averaging just under 13 points in those contests.

Since then, Garner has remained a steady presence and high-energy player for Penn State. Although he has gone through some typical first year shooting ups and downs, the guard has always bounced back and is currently third on the team in scoring (9.3 points) and double-digit scoring efforts (12).

Garner has also proven himself to be clutch in big moments. This past Saturday against Nebraska, the point guard bounced back from a scoreless first half to nail three 3-pointers in the second, including one that broke a 14-0 Cornhuskers run and gave Penn State a nine-point lead in its 56-43 win.


"If my coaches put the ball in my hands in a big-time situations and I feel like they have that much confidence in me, then I feel I have no choice but to come through for us," Garner said. "And I just put that pressure on myself and just try to make big shots like that."

Although he's young, being the go-to-guy is nothing new for the Chester, Pennsylvania, native. At Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, Garner ran the point but was also generally the team's first scoring option, finishing his high school career with over 1,000 points and an all-state selection.

When it became time to start thinking about colleges, Garner immediately had a keen interest in playing for Chambers, who he had met in 2008 when the then-Villanova assistant was recruiting his family friend, fellow Chester native and current New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans.

Chambers wasn't able to get Evans to come to Villanova (he chose Memphis), but he did convince Garner to sign with the Nittany Lions. It didn't take long for the fourth-year coach to realize he had a player that wasn't afraid to battle with the best of the Big Ten.

"I knew he was fearless and I knew he was a winner but I didn't expect him to start right away," Chambers said. "He went out and earned it and he hasn't relinquished it. I know he's been a little up and down, but I feel really good with him out there. He makes winning plays."

As confident as Garner is, he admits that college has forced him to make his share of adjustments. Apart from learning the intricacies of running a Division I offense, the guard has put a much larger emphasis on weight lifting, increasing his weight from 180 to 192 pounds in the process.  

"In high school I knew [training was important] but you could get by on your talent and in college you've got to really take advantage of your coaches, trainers because everybody is just as good as you," Garner said. "It's a big difference from high school where you can do whatever you want, you can get away with a lot lazy things then college it's no joke. Every play is important."

Now hitting the homestretch of his first season, Garner is confortable with his role of being a supporting player that is called upon to step up and score when needed. He credits his older teammates for helping his adjust, especially the Philadelphia native Newbill, who he refers to as being "like a godfather" to him.

After this year, Newbill will graduate and Penn State will be in need of another first scoring option. Though he's not thinking that far ahead, Garner knows the day may soon come when he is looked at as that guy.

"I learned so much from [D.J] and it's been quick, like five months, six months," Garner said. "I ask him any type of question under the sun, call him any time of night and he's there for me.

"It's fine with me [to be compared to previous Penn State stars], a good little comparison I guess. But I just want to win basketball games."


Nittany Lions Host Maryland on Saturday
For the second time in 10 days, Penn State (15-10, 3-9 Big Ten) will face off with Maryland (20-5, 8-4 Big Ten). The teams will square off inside the Bryce Jordan Center for the first time as members of the Big Ten at 8:30 p.m. (BTN).

Kicking off a string of four out of the next five at home, the Nittany Lions will be looking to avenge Wednesday's 73-53 setback at Ohio State. Chambers and the team have their eye on what is ahead.

"I felt like we didn't compete like a Penn State Basketball team does, and we have competed all year against some of the best teams," Chambers said. "Now, you've got to stick together, and keep rowing forward. We want to try to be the best team that we can be by the end of the year."

The Lions went toe-to-toe with the 19th-ranked Terps in College Park on Feb. 4. The first meeting was a one-point ballgame with 65 seconds to play, but Maryland scored the final five tallies of the night to win 64-58.

"For scouting purposes, it makes it a lot easier (to see a team that you played recently)," Chambers said. "I think it's going to be a battle again. It's going to come down to who wants it more and who is going to make the plays at the end of the game."

Since the first meeting, the Nittany Lions have gone 1-1 with a win over Nebraska last weekend before Wednesday's road setback at Ohio State. Maryland has also gone 1-1 since the first meeting, with a 71-55 loss at Iowa and a 68-66 home victory over Indiana on Wednesday.

Freshman Melo Trimble and senior Dez Wells continue to lead the Terps offensively. Trimble is averaging 15.5 points per game. Wells is coring at a 14.2 points per game clip. As a team, Maryland is averaging 70.6 points per game and shooting 44 percent from the field.

Saturday's game marks Penn State's first matchup against Maryland in the BJC since 2010. The Nittany Lions are 6-1 all-time against the Terps in Happy Valley.

2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State at Ohio State

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VIDEO: Shootaround Preview with Coach Urgo

COLUMBUS, Ohio. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. On Wednesday, the Nittany Lions travel to Ohio State for a matchup against the No. 23 Buckeyes in Value City Arena.

Live Blog 2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State at Ohio State
 

VIDEO: Shootaround Preview at Ohio State

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COLUMBUS, Ohio. - GoPSUsports.com previews Wednesday's 7 p.m. tip at Ohio State with associate head coach Keith urgo. Break down the game here.