Penn State coach Pat Chambers downplayed his team's impressive defensive effort in a 73-54 blowout of Fordham Sunday, saying it would not be nearly enough once the Nittany Lions began Big Ten play in late December.
As it turns out, it was not nearly enough when PSU took on Conference USA member Charlotte in the opening round of the Charleston (S.C.) Classic Thursday afternoon.
Despite getting a career-high 35 points from senior guard D.J. Newbill, the Nittany Lions (2-1) dropped a 106-97 double-overtime decision to the 49ers (2-0). Charlotte shot a sizzling 49.2 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from the arc.
It marked the most points allowed by the Lions in four years under Chambers and the most against PSU since it beat VMI 129-111 in 2006.
The double-OT loss not only overshadowed Newbill's big day (he was 13 of 33 from the field and 4 of 11 from the 3-point line), it also negated a furious rally that saw State come from 63-46 down with 11:44 left in regulation to tie it 83-83 on John Johnson's triple with three seconds left to force the first extra session.
Penn State had a chance to win at the end of the first OT, but Newbill's driving shot in the lane was swatted by 49er Cameron Blakley and the session ended with the game still tied, 90-90.
Despite losing three starters to foul disqualifications, Charlotte dominated the second OT, and won going away. But it could be argued that this game was decided much earlier.
The 49ers shredded the Lions from the arc in the first half (making 6 of 8 attempts) then took them behind the woodshed in the paint early in the second half in building the 17-point lead. With the Penn State big men all playing poorly, Chambers went with a small lineup down the stretch. It worked.
As impressive as some of those numbers looked, Taylor was the only frontcourt player to score more than six points. Travis (six), starting post Donovon Jack (four), and reserves center Jordan Dickerson (two), Julian Moore (zero) and Alan Wisniewski (zero) combined for a dozen points.
The weak paint play allowed Charlotte big Mike Thorne to muscle his way to 23 points despite going 5 of 12 from the stripe. He also had 16 rebounds. The 49ers got 26 from Florida transfer guard Braxton Ogbueze, who was especially clutch from the line (going 11 for 11).
Newbill's effort marked the first time a Lion scored at least 35 points in a game since Joe Crispin had 36 vs. Pitt in 2001.
Penn State will take on the loser of Thursday night's South Carolina-Cornell game Friday at 9 p.m. The game can be seen online on ESPN3.
Charlotte improved to 2-0 and faces the winner of the Thursday night game at 7 p.m. Friday.