UNIVERSITY PARK - Ever hear the saying about "the other shoe dropping?" Well, it happened to Duquesne at the Jordan Center Saturday - quite literally - courtesy of Penn State's D.J. Newbill.
The sophomore guard tallied game highs in points (23), rebounds (12) and assists (five) as the Nittany Lions held off a second-half rally for an 84-74 victory over the Dukes. PSU (8-4) is riding a four-game winning streak heading into Big Ten play, its longest since the start of the 2010-11 season.
"We really tried to get after him and wear him down," Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said of Newbill. "I don't think we did a good job of it. He was fantastic today."
Newbill was nearly done in by his own defective footwear, though. PSU saw a 22-point second-half lead shrink to 78-69 with just over a minute remaining. Newbill, who did a masterful job of handling the point against the Dukes' pressure defense all game, broke past midcourt this time and then went tumbling to the floor.
Fans moaned because no foul was called and Duquesne (7-7) scored off the steal. But in truth, Newbill was not hit. Rather, his right sneaker blew out - the leather upper separated from the sole.
"My shoe busted open," he recalled following the game.
The game was still live after the Dukes' basket, though, and somehow - with Newbill hobbling around on a blown tire - 6-foot-6 forward Ross Travis single-handedly broke the press and was fouled.
As all this was going on, PSU coach Pat Chambers was begging for someone to get a new shoe in Newbill's size.
"I was screaming for like a minute: 'Who's got a [size] 13?'" Chambers said.
A manager was dispatched to the locker room and returned with a new shoe for Newbill, who was able to put it on during the dead ball when Travis was fouled. Travis made one of two free throws for a 79-71 lead and Newbill returned to the floor - now wearing a white sneaker on his left foot and a blue one on his right.
Query Winters hit a 3-pointer for Duquesne to cut the lead to 79-74 with 56 seconds left. But with Newbill back in good (albeit mismatching) sneakers, Penn State pulled away again. Newbill had three points and a rebound as the Lions did not allow a point the rest of the way.
The other shoe had been dropped.
With All-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier lost for the season due to a torn Achilles' tendon, Newbill - a natural two guard - has been forced to man the point. No one else on the roster is equipped to handle the ball so often.
As Newbill has slowly but surely improved in his new role, the Lions have gotten better and better. They are now 6-2 without Frazier.
Saturday marked Newbill's best game yet at the point. The Dukes did what every Big Ten opponent is likely to do - they pressured Newbill all over. Super quick rookie guard Derrick Colter and/or physical senior Sean Johnson were in his grill all day.
Afterward, Newbill had the scars to prove it. In the postgame press conference, there was still blood leaking from his right elbow and left knee. In fact, in the first half, the Philadelphia native had so much blood on the front of his shorts that he had to change them. Players on the bench quickly created a huddle - as if they did that sort of thing every day - around him and he slid out of the old shorts and into the new ones.
Newbill also had a butterfly bandage under his left eye. And even when addressing the media shortly after the game, he was still wearing mismatched sneakers.
"Awesome, just awesome," Chambers said when asked to assess Newbill's postgame look. "I love it. That's the way it's supposed to be. That's a Philly guard. If you don't come out of a game ... with blood or scraped-up knees and two different sneakers, then you didn't play hard. He obviously played extremely hard."
And he did so for 39-plus minutes.
After surviving a basket-brawl in which the teams combined for 54 fouls, 65 free-throw attempts and four technicals, Newbill actually thanked the Dukes.
"It was a tough, physical game," he said. "That's what happens in the Big Ten. I appreciate those guys getting me ready."
Game notes: Forward Sasa Borovnjak had another strong game for PSU, with 14 points and five rebounds. ... Johnson led Duquesne with 19 points. ... Penn State played 10 men and all of them scored. ... Four Dukes and two Lions fouled out of the game. ... PSU senior guard Nick Colella had a career-high 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting. All of this buckets were 3-pointers. ... Penn State opens Big Ten play at Wisconsin (9-4) Thursday. The game tips at 8:30 p.m. and can be seen on the BTN.
DUQUESNE (7-7): Marhold 2-8 0-5 4, Pantophlet 2-4 3-4 9, Colter 3-9 4-4 13, Jere. Jones 1-3 0-0 2, Johnson 5-10 8-10 19, Binney 0-5 2-2 2, Jerr. Jones 3-8 2-2 9, Winters 5-10 2-2 14, Abele 1-2 0-0 2, Bott 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-59 21-29 74.
PENN ST. (8-4): Taylor 2-7 2-2 8, Borovnjak 7-9 0-1 14, Travis 2-5 1-2 5, Newbill 5-14 12-16 23, Marshall 2-10 5-6 9, Maduegbunam 0-0 2-2 2, Jack 1-2 1-2 3, Montminy 0-1 1-3 1, Colella 5-7 0-0 15, Graham 1-4 2-2 4. Totals 25-59 26-36 84.
Halftime-Penn St. 39-28. 3-Point Goals-Duquesne 9-31 (Colter 3-7, Pantophlet 2-4, Winters 2-7, Jerr. Jones 1-4, Johnson 1-4, Jere. Jones 0-2, Binney 0-3), Penn St. 8-20 (Colella 5-7, Taylor 2-6, Newbill 1-2, Montminy 0-1, Marshall 0-4). Fouled Out-Colella, Colter, Johnson, Jere. Jones, Jerr. Jones, Marshall. Rebounds-Duquesne 28 (Marhold 7), Penn St. 50 (Newbill 12). Assists-Duquesne 12 (Colter 5), Penn St. 12 (Newbill 5). Total Fouls-Duquesne 26, Penn St. 26. Technicals-Jere. Jones, Duquesne Coach, Duquesne Bench, Borovnjak. A-5,521.