Penn State leading-scorer D.J. Newbill felt Virginia Tech's tough defense led to his slow start in an ACC-Big Ten Challenge contest at the Jordan Center Wednesday night. Averaging 25 points per game going in, Newbill had one point through the game's first 16 minutes.
Those guys did a great job of jumping all our plays, Newbill said. They obviously watched a lot of film, the knew every cut we were about to run, and they were blitzing every ball screen I got in.
Which was true. The Hokies were extremely aggressive in cutting off Newbill at every turn.
But Lion coach Pat Chambers admitted after the game that there may have been something else involved with Newbill's poor early play, too.
First-year Tech coach Buzz Williams was the head man at Marquette who basically pulled Newbill's scholarship before he ever arrived on campus back in 2010, sending the Philadelphia native on a difficult journey that eventually had a happy ending in Happy Valley.
I tried for 48 hours, Chambers said when asked if Newbill might have been too amped for the game. I'm sure there was something there. You can't be a human being, and what went on He needed to slow down and let the game come to him a little bit instead of dribbling around so much.
And there was more to it than that.
I do think the guys wanted to pay well for D.J., Chambers explained. That's what it looked like to me. At timeouts, I'm telling them play Penn State basketball, let's get back to doing what we do, forget about all that stuff outside that doesn't mean anything.
Ultimately they did, overcoming slow starts to both halves and ragged shooting throughout (16.7 percent on 3-pointers and 56.7 percent on free throws) to pull out a 61-58 victory. And Newbill, who finished with a team-high 18, was in the middle of the key second-half run.
Penn State missed 11 of its first 12 shots to open the second half, but because Virginia Tech was also struggling from the floor and the line, the Lions never trailed by more than eight.
Tech missed its first nine free throws in the game and was 4 of 14 from the stripe overall. The Hokies made only 4 of 14 3-pointers and 25 of 65 field goals.
So they were in trouble when Newbill found his groove and the Lions continued to play strong defense.
Trailing 42-34 at the 11:39 mark, Penn State unleashed a 14-0 run. At one point in the span, Newbill scored 10 of the Lions' 11 points.
We couldn't guard him down the stretch, Williams said.
PSU led by as many as nine (53-44), but even at 7-1, few wins have come easy for the Lions. And in a game where both teams were so bad offensively, this one would not, either.
They want to make me keel over, Chambers said about his team, which bricked seven free throws in the final 1:35 to allow Virginia Tech (4-3) to stick around. The final two misses -- with four seconds left -- were by the usually sharp-shooting Newbill.
The lead at 61-58, Hokie Ahmed Hill missed a tough 3-point try at the buzzer.
We didn't shoot the ball well all night, said Newbill. That's why we play defense and rebound. You're gonna have days like this where the ball just doesn't go down.
Williams, who was widely criticized for the way he dealt with the Newbill situation while at Marquette, told reporters after the game, I could have handled it better, in hindsight and I think he's been great here.
Though it was a difficult loss for his new team, Williams tried to smooth things over with Newbill right after the buzzer sounded.
I spoke to him after the game, said congratulations, good luck, I'm proud of you, Williams said.
Newbill remembered it slightly differently.
He just said good luck the rest of the season, he said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Rookie guard Shep Garner was the only other Lion in doubles with 13, and helped compensate for Newbill's early struggles with nine in the first half. Forward Ross Travis had 10 rebounds for State, including six on the offensive end. Center Joey van Zergeren led Tech with 18 points but was limited to 22 minutes before fouling out.
MEN IN THE MIDDLE
Jordan Dickerson made his first start of the season at center for the Lions and had eight rebounds, two points and a block. He and previous starter Donovon Jack (four points, seven rebounds) both logged 16 minutes, though.
A LITTLE HELP
Penn State had a season low four count 'em, four assists on 20 field goals. This against 17 turnovers. Those numbers, coupled with the bad shooting, led Chambers to say, Statistically, you look at it and don't look at the score, you think, 'How many did Virginia Tech win by?'
for Penn State is a trip to Marshal for a 6 p.m. tip Saturday. The game can been seen on CBS Sports Network.