BLOG: Jack's Career Night Helps Spark Nittany Lions

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Nov. 20, 2013

By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ask most players on the Penn State basketball team what comes to mind when they think of sophomore forward Donovon Jack, and you'll most likely hear them talk about the effort that he brings on a regular basis.

While the Nittany Lions rarely look to him as one of their first scoring options, the 6-foot-9 forward changed that on Tuesday against La Salle, scoring a career high 18 points to help lead Penn State to a 79-72 victory over the Explorers.

"Donovon is a very good shooter and a passer," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "Now other teams have to deal with him on offense stretching the floor and pulling guys out of the paint."

Jack wasted little time finding his stroke, drilling a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the game and adding another less than two minutes later to help the Nittany Lions set the tempo in a game that saw them shoot 41 percent from behind the arc.

It took Jack just one half to top his previous career high of eight points, as the Reading, Pa., native went into halftime having already put 10 points up on the board.

"I was just trying to feed off the energy of the game and play with my instincts," said Jack. "Coach always says play with confidence and I got a lot of open looks."

With the Nittany Lions trailing 42-40 going into the second half, Jack once again came up big, scoring two huge baskets during a 17-4 run that lasted over seven minutes and turned a 56-52 deficit into a 69-60 Penn State lead.

First, the sophomore came up with a hard-fought offensive rebound and layup to break a 56-56 tie before nailing his fourth three-pointer of the evening less than a minute later to give the Lions a 61-56 lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.



Despite shooting 4-of-6 from three and 6-for-9 from the field overall, Jack was quick to give all the credit for his performance to his teammates.

"I give a lot of credit to my teammates because they're the ones that got me open looks," Jack. "I owe it all to them."

Not only did Jack end the game as Penn State's leading scorer, his deep shooting made the Nittany Lions extremely difficult to defend, as the big men on La Salle had to be cautious of leaving the paint to defend him and risk leaving the lane wide open for the Lions guards to exploit.

Afterwards, La Salle head coach John Giannini admitted that his team struggled to adjust to having to deal with Jack on the offensive end.

"Any time you add another 3-point shooter it dramatically changes the game, especially when it's a big guy," said Giannini. "He's clearly a good shooter and the fact that they had big guys who could shoot made them a hard team to match up against."

Jack's scoring also helped open up the floor for his teammates, as every member of the Nittany Lion starting lineup finished the evening in double figures, with point guard Tim Frazier, shooting guard D.J. Newbill, and power forward Brandon Taylor all scoring 15, while small forward Ross Travis chipped in with 13.

With the Blue and White having relied mainly on Frazier and Newbill for the bulk of their scoring so far this season, having a big man who can produce the way Jack did against La Salle gives the team more flexibility moving forward.

"(Jack) shot lights out today and that gives us a lot of options because there aren't a lot of guys playing the five that can step out and make three-pointers," said Frazier. "He's another option we have and when he's knocking down three's I feel we're a hard team to beat.

For Chambers, the best part of Jack's performance was seeing all of the hard work that the second year player has put into improving his game pay off.

As one of the more undersized players at his position in college basketball, Jack spent the summer dedicated to bolstering not just his strength, but also every facet of his skill set.

"Nobody's happier for Donovon than his teammates and our coaching staff," said Chambers. "He was here over the summer working on his body and his skill set and now for us offensively you have to deal with him."

Overall, Chambers was pleased with the performance of his team, especially the resolve they showed early in the second half when they were behind.

Now that they have consecutive victories under their belt, the key for the Nittany Lions is to stay focused and to keep improving as they move forward.

"We played hard every possession and we really shared the basketball," said Chambers. "We're a good team and our mindset is to get better every single day and that's what we're going to focus on."

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