Throughout what has been a frustrating Big Ten season, Penn State coach Pat Chambers has often said that things were bound to bounce the Nittany Lions' way at some point.
It finally happened against Minnesota at Williams Arena in Minneapolis Sunday.
With the score tied 76-76 and Penn State holding for a final shot, senior D.J. Newbill launched a deep 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key. It easily cleared the outstretched arms of Gopher guard Nate Mason.
It floated through the air and dropped through the net as time expired. Penn State, which had lost 10 conference games by single digits and was riding a six-game losing streak, celebrated the 79-76 victory.
Newbill finished with 31 points as the Lions (16-15, 4-14) won on the road for the first time in conference play this year.
I'm fired up for D.J. Newbill, Chambers told BTN after the game. He made the final shot in the final regular season game. That's big for him.
Though the victory did not impact State's Big Ten Tournament seed (it was locked in at No. 13), it was big for the team. PSU now has a chance to finish the season with at least a .500 record for the first time in Chambers' four years at the helm, something that would have been virtually impossible with a loss to Minnesota (17-14, 6-12).
Huge. Enormous. Confidence, Chambers told BTN after the game. I love these kids. Man, they battled. They could have quit on us. They didn't. They competed every game, regardless of the outcome.
I'm just so proud of my group, he added.
Penn State led by as many as 13 (47-34) early in the second half. But the Gophers fought back behind a career day by center Maurice Walker (26 points, 11 rebounds).
Walker's dunk with 6:19 showing put Minnesota in front, 66-65, and it was tight the rest of the way.
From there, Chambers put the game in Newbill's hands, and he delivered. He scored 14 of the Lions' final 16 points. A dozen of those -- including the game-winner -- came after the Gophers took their first lead of the second half.
Geno Thorpe added 14 for the Lions and Brandon Taylor pitched in with 12. PSU had only nine turnovers against Minnesota's pressing defense. Gopher guard Andre Hollins had 13 points in the first half but did not score in the second. Penn State made 10 3-pointers, including a career-high five by Newbill. Newbill had never made more than three triples in a Big Ten game.
As noted, Penn State was locked in to the 13 seed for Big Tens even before Sunday's game started. The Lions' opponent in Wednesday's opening-round game in Chicago will be determined Sunday night.
If Maryland beats Nebraska in Lincoln, PSU will face the Cornhuskers Wednesday. If Nebraska wins, the Lions will have a rematch with Minnesota.
Penn State won its only regular-season game with the Cornhuskers and swept the two-game series vs. the Gophers.