GAME NOTES: Since opening Big Ten play with six straight defeats, the Penn State Nittany Lions have shown signs of life as they host the Purdue Boilermakers at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday.
Currently an encouraging 7-5 at home, the Nittany Lions have played a couple of close games in the last 10 days or so. Still last in the conference standings with a record of just 2-6, PSU defeated Nebraska at home on Jan. 23 by a score of 58-54 and then captured a huge upset win on the road at Ohio State in overtime, 71-70, on Wednesday. The victory snapped what had been an 18-game losing streak versus OSU and was the first win over a Top 25 foe on the road since 2009.
Meanwhile, Purdue is heading in the opposite direction after winning three in a row in the middle of last month. The program has fallen in three straight outings, the latest being a 75-66 setback versus Michigan in Ann Arbor on Thursday night.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, Purdue leads by a margin of 30-11 and has won four in a row versus the Nittany Lions. The Boilermakers slipped by in a 65-64 decision in the first meeting of the season two weeks ago in Indiana.
After trailing by eight points at the half against Michigan, the top team in the Big Ten with a perfect 8-0 mark heading into the weekend, the Boilermakers beefed up their efforts on offense, but at the same time allowed the Wolverines to knock down 68.2 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, en route to the win in Ann Arbor. A.J. Hammons scored 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the visitors, followed by Bryson Scott and Ronnie Johnson with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Although he did not score in double figures in the meeting with Michigan, Terone Johnson remains the top overall scorer for the Boilermakers with his 12.9 ppg. Ronnie Johnson checks in with 10.6 ppg and is first on the unit with 76 assists, while Hammons accounts for 10.1 ppg and is both the top rebounder (6.9 rpg) and shot-blocker (63) for the squad at this point in the campaign.
D.J. Newbill played the hero for the Nittany Lions on Wednesday night as he knocked down a jumper with two seconds remaining in overtime to give PSU a huge upset win over Ohio State at Value City Arena. Newbill, who shot 9-of-20 for the game, led all scorers with 25 points and also pulled down eight rebounds, followed by Brandon Taylor and Graham Woodward with 19 and 11 points, respectively. Tim Frazier was limited to only eight points, but made his presence known with a game-high 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Frazier may not be the leading scorer on the season for the Nittany Lions, that honor goes to Newbill with his 17.6 ppg, but the star guard is still one of the most exciting players in the conference as he not only delivers 16.1 ppg, but also accounts for 4.8 rpg and paces PSU with 135 assists and 35 steals. Newbill, who is a distant second in the passing department with a mere 40 assists, also checks in with 5.4 rpg in order to keep the Lions in contention in that area.
The Nittany Lions are trying to win three straight Big Ten games for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign, but after coming off that emotional victory just a few days ago it might be difficult for the hosts to keep their heads in the game this morning.
Game Date and Time