PSU men pick up win No. 12

UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State gave itself an early holiday gift at the Jordan Center Monday afternoon, blasting Dartmouth, 69-49, to close the non-conference schedule at 12-1.

Despite having the hottest start to a season since the 1995-96 team opened at 13-0, blowouts have been few for this group of Nittany Lions. They have generally played down to lesser opponents, often having to grit out victories in the final minute.

But that was hardly the case Monday. Looking at a nine-day layoff before tipping off Big Ten play at No. 6 Wisconsin Jan. 31, Penn State dropped the hammer on the Big Green (5-6) and never looked back in winning its 10th straight.

“A lot goes into it,” senior guard D.J. Newbill said of where the team stands heading into conference play. “We’re having fun, we like each other, we’re being selfless. … We really don’t care who plays. We’re out there for each other. That’s the good thing about this group.

“To be 12-1 right now, I don’t know how to explain the feeling, just to see the hard work paying off,” he added.

This game, which tipped at 4 p.m., was over before many folks got off work.

The Lions were up 11-9 at the second media timeout of the first half before unleashing a 16-0 run. It was the product of the sort of unselfish offense Newbill noted (five different Lions scored, including an impressive dunk by forward Donovan Jack off a pass from rookie Payton Banks) and an aggressive defense that forced Dartmouth into six consecutive missed shots and three turnovers.

Lacking in size, speed and talent, the Big Green was doomed. They made only 7 of 24 shots from the field and missed all nine of their 3-point attempts in the first 20 minutes. Penn State, meanwhile, hit on 15 of 26 shots from the field and 4 of 10 triples.

With time running out before the half, Newbill snaked his way through the Dartmouth defense and threw down a tomahawk dunk over guard Cameron Smith to make it 41-16 at the break.

For a team whose average margin of victory had been less than six points (72.2-66.7), it was a welcome change. Coach Pat Chambers’ biggest concern at the half was keeping his squad focused with the big lead.

“I just wanted to see us play hard as long as we could,” he said. “I thought everybody who got some minutes competed and tried. That’s all I was looking for.”

PSU led by as many as 26 (46-20), on a Newbill 3-pointer with 17:05 left in the game. He finished with a game-high 17 but logged only 30 minutes (eight below his season average) as Chambers substituted liberally and eventually was even able to play his deepest reserves.

“We were fired up to see some of the guys who don’t usually get in, because we know how much they mean to the program,” Newbill said.

Even with PSU going 13 men deep, Dartmouth never got closer than 18 in the second half. The only drama in the final minute was whether the Lion shock troops could push the team past the 70-point mark, which would have meant free hamburgers for everyone with a ticket.

But State simply dribbled out the last 29 seconds, as Chambers explained, “We’re not going to show up any coach, any program.”

Now it’s time to see if Penn State, following what is by far its best non-conference performance in Chambers’ tenure, shows up in the Big Ten.

“At 12-1, we’re in a great place,” Chambers said. “But we can still get a lot better, which is really scary to me.”

Game notes: The Altoona Area High School Marching Band filled in for the Blue Band and did its usual bang-up job during one of Penn State’s holiday breaks. … Geno Thorpe (12), Brandon Taylor (10) and John Johnson (10) were also in doubles for the Lions. … The Big Ten opener at Wisconsin is slated for 1 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and will be carried by BTN.

DARTMOUTH (5-6)

Boehm 4-6 0-0 8, Golden 1-3 1-2 3, Maldunas 2-7 5-6 9, Mitola 5-11 2-2 13, Wright 2-8 1-4 5, Carpenter 1-5 0-2 2, Smith 1-1 0-0 2, Ngwudo 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 2-5 0-0 5, Gill 0-2 0-0 0, Crescenzi 0-3 0-0 0, Dickinson 1-1 0-0 2, Wolf 0-0 0-0 0, C. Harrison 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-54 9-16 49.

PENN STATE (12-1)

Taylor 3-11 3-4 10, Travis 3-4 0-2 6, Dickerson 1-1 0-0 2, Newbill 7-12 1-2 17, Garner 1-3 0-0 3, Banks 0-1 1-2 1, Johnson 2-5 4-5 10, Foster 0-0 2-2 2, Jack 3-6 0-0 6, Thorpe 3-5 5-7 12, Montminy 0-1 0-0 0, Wisniewski 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 16-24 69.

Halftime-Penn St. 41-16. 3-Point Goals-Dartmouth 2-20 (Johnson 1-3, Mitola 1-7, Carpenter 0-1, Crescenzi 0-2, Golden 0-2, Gill 0-2, Wright 0-3), Penn St. 7-19 (Johnson 2-3, Newbill 2-5, Thorpe 1-1, Garner 1-3, Taylor 1-5, Travis 0-1, Banks 0-1). Fouled Out-Wright. Rebounds-Dartmouth 30 (Maldunas 4), Penn St. 38 (Taylor 8). Assists-Dartmouth 8 (Carpenter, Gill 3), Penn St. 15 (Newbill 4). Total Fouls-Dartmouth 21, Penn St. 15. A-6,127.