STATE COLLEGE, Pa.— Patrick Chambers credits his Penn State basketball team with staying the course — getting three straight Big Ten wins after a six-game losing streak.
A combined 52 points and 20 rebounds from D.J. Newbill, Tim Frazier and Brandon Taylor enabled the Nittany Lions to defeat Purdue 79-68 on Sunday. It marked the first time since the 2008-09 season Penn State has reeled off three in a row in Big Ten play.
The Nittany Lions (12-10, 3-6 Big Ten) got 19 points from Newbill, 18 from Frazier and 15 from Taylor.
Taylor scored nine points down the stretch, enough to keep Purdue at arm’s length.
The Boilermakers (13-9, 3-6) defeated Penn State 65-64 on Jan. 18 but have lost four straight since then.
“That Purdue loss was devastating,” Chambers said. “I give these kids a lot of credit for staying the course. It could have been ugly; it could have been perfect storm.”
Despite committing some late turnovers that allowed the Boilermakers to remain in the hunt, Penn State went 11 for 12 from the free-throw line in the final 1:07. The Boilermakers missed shots underneath the basket and were forced to foul.
Purdue was paced by 18 points from A.J. Hammons and 12 from Ronnie Johnson.
“It’s frustrating,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We’re in a good league and it’s hard to get wins no matter what your record is. We just have to do a better job.
“We need better leadership and more experience. You can be young but you can’t be immature. You have to grow up quick or you’re going to get steamrolled.”
Penn State scored more than 70 points for just the second time in nine conference games.
Taylor also pulled down eight rebounds for the Lions and Newbill had seven as Penn State controlled the boards by a 40-36 count.
“We’re definitely on a high right now,” Newbill said. “We’re playing some great basketball.”
Frazier, who needs two assists to become Penn State’s career leader in that category, was 8 for 8 from the foul line and 5 for 10 from the field.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Frazier said. A lot of losses. But we continue to get better and learn how to finish games.
“It’s about getting it done. Today we shot it pretty well.”
Purdue went cold late and had solid runs interrupted by momentum-changing turnovers.
“We had good shots for the most part,” said Painter, whose squad shot 42.4 percent but committed 14 turnovers.
“We had way too many turnovers in first half (9) and not one offensive rebound, yet we were in the game.”
Penn State used a 21-4 first half run to build a 10-point lead but the Boilermakers closed it to five and missed a buzzer-beating chance at a layup.
“We get close to a one-possession game and blow it at the end of the first half,” Painter said. “Penn State gave us the opportunity to score and we don’t capitalize on it. That was a pretty big play.”
Penn State opened a 51-41 lead only to see Purdue close it to 51-49 as the Boilermakers’ Errick Peck nailed back-to-back 3-pointers.
Again, Penn State recovered when Frazier sank two foul shots, Newbill drove the lane uncontested and Johnson made a nifty reverse layup to build back to an eight-point lead.
“We stayed together, continued to fight and got the lead back up,” Frazier said.
From there, despite handing the ball back to Purdue on two inbounds plays, the Boilermakers were unable to score from under the basket.
“We struggled, especially at end, to finish around the rim,” Painter said. “We just couldn’t put back-to-back plays together, and that inconsistency has plagued us throughout the year.”
Consistency at the free-throw line late completed Penn State’s game plan.
“We’re getting confidence to go to the line and we want to be there,” Chambers said. “We need to feel that. We needed to do that.
“We were up seven and we needed to make it a free-throw shooting contest and we needed to get it done. We’re in uncharted waters right now. We haven’t won three games in a long time.”