STATE COLLEGE (AP) — Opponents know that beating Penn State means containing its talented guard tandem of Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill. But when two of the Nittany Lions’ bigs combine to hit 6 of 10 3-pointers, that’s a combination that can’t be stopped.
Forward Donovan Jack scored a career-high 18 points to lead all scorers and pace Penn State to a 79-72 win over LaSalle Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“Nobody’s happier for Donovan than his teammates and our staff,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “He sacrificed in the summer. He worked on developing his body and his skill set. He’s a very good shooter and a very good passer, as you saw. For us offensively, now you have to deal with him. Donovan Jack really stepped up tonight.”
Penn State (3-1) got double-digit scoring from five players as it pulled away in the second half. Brandon Taylor, Newbill and Frazier scored 15 each. Ross Travis added 13 and Frazier added 11 assists for the double-double.
Penn State was especially efficient, dishing 18 assists and turning the ball over just eight times.
Jack made 4 of 6 from beyond the arc and Taylor added 2 of 4. Those numbers forced LaSalle into a 2-3 zone in the second half to try to cool down Penn State from the outside.
“Any time you add another three-point shooter to your team it dramatically changes it, especially when it’s a big guy,” said LaSalle coach Dr. John Giannini. “He’ll be open all year long. I don’t know if he’ll shoot 4 out of 6 every night, but he’s clearly a good shooter.”
Jack made 2 of 3 3-pointers in the first half and had already exceeded his previous best scoring output of 8 with 10 points at the half. The career game was a belated present for the sophomore, who celebrated his birthday on Monday.
“I just went with the game. Coach always tells us to play within the game. I owe it to my teammates. All the credit goes to my teammates,” Jack said.
“The best thing to do is always be ready. I was feeding off the game, playing off instincts and my teammates.”
The Explorers led 42-40 at the half and extended the lead to 56-52 with 13:03 left in the game, forcing a Nittany Lions timeout.
In that timeout, Frazier said Penn State never lost its resolve.
“We kept battling. We talked about attitude, defend and rebound. Eventually we ended up doing that. We started to grab rebounds, to get out and push it. We made some big stops and we had guys on the ground,” he said.
Jack put Penn State in front with a bucket at the 10:34 mark. Then, about a minute later, he helped the Nittany Lions pad the lead to 61-56 with a 3-pointer from the top of the circle. They wouldn’t trail again.
LaSalle (2-2) rallied to within a point over the next three minutes, cutting the lead to 61-60 with 7:58 to go.
But out of a timeout, Newbill drove to the bucket, was fouled and the ball went in. He made the foul shot to extend the lead to 64-60.
Penn State then ratcheted up its defense. Off a turnover, Taylor hit a 3-pointer and Travis followed with a driving layup to push the Nittany Lion advantage to 69-60 with 4:14 to go.
Penn State pushed the lead to 11 with 3:36 to go as Newbill and Frazier each scored 6 points to fuel a 17-4 run for the Nittany Lions.
Tyrone Garland tried to pull LaSalle back to within striking distance as he scored 8 of the Explorers’ final 14 points.
Penn State, though, held LaSalle at arm’s length the rest of the way.
“I don’t think there was anything mysterious about the second half. They defended better, shot better and passed the ball in the second half,” Giannini said. “They’re a veteran team. We are too and that’s why we’re a little disappointed in how we played.”
For LaSalle, a Sweet 16 team a year ago, four players scored in double figures. Garland led the way with 18 points. Tyreek Duren added 16, Steve Jack 12 and Jerrell Wright 10 for the Explorers.
Taylor and Travis led Penn State with eight rebounds each. The Explorers got 10 rebounds each from Wright and Jack.