Penn State’s second-half surge sinks Akron 78-72
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Patrick Chambers made it clear to his Penn State players that their first 20 minutes of play against Akron Tuesday night were not acceptable.
His players made it clear in the second half that they heard him.
D.J. Newbill scored 29 points, Penn State outscored Akron by 19 points in the second half and the Nittany Lions defeated the Zips 78-72.
Brandon Taylor was 4 of 11 from 3-point range and added 14 for the Lions, who trailed 45-32 at the half. Geno Thorpe scored 10 points.
Penn State (5-1) opened the second half by holding Akron (3-2) scoreless for 6:19 and built a 47-45 lead off a 15-0 run.
”We were throwing the ball over the place and there was no energy, no juice,” Chambers said. ”Sometimes it comes down to taking pride in wearing the jersey. There has to be a fire in their bellies in that locker room that’s just tired of it.”
Deji Ibitayo scored 17 points and Noah Robotham 16 for the Zips, but Akron’s second-half shooting woes opened the door for the Nittany Lions.
The Zips, who shot 58.6 percent from the field in the first half, went 6 of 29 in the second (21.2 percent). Penn State was 14 of 22 and shot 45.6 percent overall.
The Lions also got four blocked shots from Jordan Dickerson and three more from Taylor as Penn State increased its pressure on Akron around the rim.
”He (Chambers) wanted us to play with pride,” Newbill said. ”They jumped us, they were getting any shot they wanted to.
”Coach was like, `Play with some pride. If a guy comes at you one-on-one, it’s your job to stop him.”’
Akron is one of just eight teams with 21 or more wins in the last eight seasons. The Zips defeated Penn State 85-60 in Puerto Rico in 2012. Chambers smiled during the postgame and said that the loss ”might have been mentioned” during his halftime rant.
The Zips trailed 72-65 before Robotham and Ibitayo closed the gap to 73-70.
Penn State inbounded the ball with 16 seconds remaining leading 74-72 when Newbill went to the line and extended the lead to four.
Taylor blocked a shot and John Johnson picked up the ball and raced the length of the court to set the final six-point margin.
The game was the fourth in six days for each team. The Zips placed third in the Charleston Classic while Penn State placed fifth. They did not face each other there.
”I think we just ran out of gas, simple as that,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. ”They just had a little more juice than we did.
”It might have been the charter vs. the non-charter, who knows? That’s the advantage of that high major. They got here (from Charleston) Sunday night. We left at 6 in the morning and didn’t get here till 3 in the afternoon.
”I’m not saying that was the reason. They played hard and made more plays than we did when it mattered.”
The Zips, who had forced 60 turnovers and scored 72 points off them in four games, upped those totals to 67 and 83 in the first half alone while building their 13-point advantage.
But Penn State took advantage of the Zips’ 0-for-9 cold spell. Thorpe scored three layups after a Ross Travis dunk and Taylor sank back-to-back 3-pointers to give Penn State its first lead.
”You can’t give up four layups to start the half; that will destroy you psychologically,” Dambrot said.
Akron led 52-48 but the Zips committed eight fouls in the opening 9 minutes, and Newbill and Donovon Jack each made to foul shots to tie it at 52.
Both teams went cold for about 90 seconds but a Newbill bucket, a fast break by Johnson off a Jack steal, and Jack’s slam off an assist from Newbill put the Lions back up by four at the 8:26 mark, 58-54.
”We didn’t handle prosperity very well and then we didn’t handle adversity very well,” Dambrot said. ”They did a good job at halftime rallying their troops.”
Akron: Deji Ibitayo’s 17 points are a career high. He previous high was 16, scored against John Carroll in November 2012.
Penn State: The Lions are outscoring opponents 236-191 in the second half through six games this season, opposed to being outscored 198-194 in the first half.
GOOD AT THE LINE
Akron’s free-throw percentage in the game, 94.1 on 16-of-17 shooting, marked the first time the Zips went over 90 percent since posting a 92.9 percent performance on 13-of-14 shooting against Ball State on January 29, 2014.
PUTTING UP THE NUMBERS
With his 29 points, D.J. Newbill moved into 17th place on Penn State’s career scoring list with 1,255 points. He posted his fourth-consecutive 20-plus scoring outing and 24th of his career.
Akron is host to Bryant on Sunday.
Penn State is at Bucknell on Friday.