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December 29, 2012

Lions outlast Duquesne, 84-74

Without the help of senior point guard Tim Frazier, nothing has come easy for the Penn State men's basketball this season.

All but written off, head coach Patrick Chambers and his Nittany Lions listened to the white noise surrounding the program, proclaiming they should start looking forward to next year.

Saturday afternoon in front of 5,521 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center, they won their fourth consecutive game and sixth out of eight since Frazier's injury, knocking off Duquesne, 84-74.

"They know what people say about them, and they hear it, they read it, they see it on Twitter and Facebook," Chambers said. "They're a resilient bunch and they're just going to keep pressing on and keep competing and keep getting better."

Led by 23 points and 12 rebounds from redshirt sophomore point guard D.J. Newbill, including 11 and 7 in the first half, the Nittany Lions built a 39-28 lead going into the locker room. Spurred on by an 11-0 run midway through, guard Nick Colella - who shot just 25 percent from beyond the arc coming into the game - nailed a couple of 3-balls to start off his career-high 15 point afternoon.

"He's from Pittsburgh. That was his Super Bowl right there, are you kidding me?" Chambers said. "He knows everybody back in Pittsburgh is watching.

"I was happy for him, and I think he was due. He made three. He's made one here and there. But, he works so hard, he gets shots up and he's earned the right to make those shots. I'm really proud of him and happy for him, but it's gotta continue. You just showed you can do it, now I want it done in the Big Ten."

Newbill, meanwhile, put together one of his most gritty performances of the season, bloodying himself, and literally tearing through a sneaker during the course of the game. By the post-game press session, his arm was wrapped, a cut over his eye was bandaged, and his knee was wrapped up, sending the always-talkative Chambers into near speechlessness after the game.

"Awesome. Just awesome. I love it," he said. "That's what it's supposed to be. That's a Philly guard. If you don't come out of a game after playing and you don't have blood or scraped up knees and two different sneakers, then you didn't play hard.

"He obviously played extremely hard. He played thirty-nine minutes. Coach Ferry did a great job. As soon as he saw Marshall go out, he threw four guys I felt like on D.J. It was a great challenge for us, but I'm glad we were put in that position because it's going to happen again, and now we've been through it once and we'll work on it in practice."

The 11-point halftime lead grew to 22 midway through the second half after true freshman forward Donovan Jack sent home the second of two free throws, but it wouldn't last.

According to Newbill, who remembered the NIttany Lions' 66-59 loss to the Dukes a season ago in Pittsburgh, he and his teammates were prepared for as much.

"You know the other team is going to make a run and they're going to come out hard," he said. "Last year, we were in the same predicament where we were up 10 in the half and they made a huge run in the second half and they were able to take the win over us last year. We knew that coming into this game and we just didn't want it to happen again."

By the 6 minute, 21 second mark, the Dukes had cut the lead back to 69-58 off the strong play of guards Sean Johnson Derrick Colter, who finished with a team-high 19 and 13 points, respectively. Clinging to a 78-66 lead at the 2:14 mark, the Lions' lead was still in danger as the Dukes cut it again, this time down to 79-74 with just 56 seconds left to play.

"We haven't done a very good job playing from ahead other than (New Hampshire)," Chambers said, noting foul trouble that forced Colella and Marshall out of the game and freshman forward Brandon Taylor and senior Sasa Borovnjak into an offense/defense game. "We get in foul trouble and I think that's the problem. We're getting in foul trouble, and I demand them to play extremely hard, but you gotta play smart. You gotta play a little bit smarter, and those guys need to stay on the floor."

Borovnjak, who finished third in scoring to Newbill's 23 and Colella's 15 with 14 of his own and 5 boards, was also a key contributor to the Lions' success Saturday afternoon.

"He's playing with confidence and knows me better," Chambers said. "I think last year he still wasn't 100 percent sure about that knee and this year you're seeing a kid who's running the floor great, he's taking high quality, high percentage shots and our guys look for him every possession.

"As a matter of fact, we run a ton of plays now to get the ball in the post. A ton. He's playing terrific. Shooting a great percentage. This is really going to take him up a notch."

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