Newbill leads Penn State to win over Morgan State in season opener
UNIVERSITY PARK — Patrick Chambers said he knew two weeks ago that Shep Garner was going to be in the Penn State starting lineup.
On Friday night, the Nittany Lions freshman showed why.
He scored 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting and added a pair of 3-pointers to complement D.J. Newbill’s 17 and lead Penn State to a 61-48 victory over Morgan State.
It was the season opener for both teams, but it was even more special for Garner, whose mother, Kim, sang the national anthem prior to the game.
“I was excited for my first college game,” Garner said. “It was like a dream come true. I couldn’t wait to get out on the floor with my brothers and play well.”
Garner downplayed his mother’s role, citing that she did the same at his high school games. But neither Newbill nor Chambers could say enough about Garner’s on-court play.
“I told him before the game that he earned the right to start and to take advantage of it,” said Newbill.
“He gets it done on both ends of the floor,” Chambers said. “It shows our confidence in him to be able to make plays.
“We needed his production tonight. The ball was not dropping for us.”
Geno Thorpe scored 11 for Penn State, which sank 21 of 48 shots (43.8 percent).
“I feel like Geno came in and sparked us,” Chambers said. “He was pesty and like a gnat going after some things.”
The Lions were 5 of 13 from 3-point range but four of them came in the second half to help them pull away from the Bears.
Morgan State was led by Cedric Blossom’s 10 points and Blake Bozeman’s 9.
The Bears shot just 18 of 58 from the field and were only 3 of 18 on their 3-point attempts.
“I thought we had some breakdowns, and we have some things to work on,” Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman said. “We knew coming in that Newbill was going to be a guy who was very active.”
Newbill also pulled down seven rebounds for Penn State. Brandon Taylor led the Lions with nine of Penn State’s 40 rebounds, 18 of which came from the frontcourt of Taylor, Donovon Jack and Ross Travis.
Newbill was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line, and John Johnson was 4 of 4. But overall the Lions were just 14 of 23 from the line.
Eighteen Penn State turnovers allowed Morgan State to lead early and hang within 10 until 4:30 remained.
“We’ll be all right,” Chambers said. “I don’t like the careless turnovers. I expected maybe 15 but not 18.”
Chambers said Morgan State forced some of those turnovers, noting that the Bears “are a three-time championship (MEAC) team.”
Garner came out firing to start the second half with his first 3-pointer for a nine-point Penn State lead.
Morgan State’s Zech Smith and Rasean Simpson pulled the Bears to within four. But Penn State countered with a Newbill jumper, a Thorpe layup off a baseline drive and a short jumper by Taylor to enable the Lions to pull away again.
The Bears’ shooters remained cold, and rebounds by the Lions’ Taylor and Ross Travis allowed Penn State to hold Morgan State to one shot per possession down the stretch.
“We have some work to do,” Bozeman said. “I had three or four big guys who had two fouls in first half.”
Newbill’s 3-pointer and Thorpe’s slam off a fast-break made it 51-37, but Morgan State’s Smith and Blossom converted layups to pull the Bears to within 10.
Ten was as close as the Bears could get. Dickerson’s slam increased the lead to 12 and Newbill’s pair of free throws offset Blake Bozeman’s jumper for Morgan State.
But Thorpe’s 3 and another free throw from Newbill gave the Lions a 61-45 lead with 1:31 left to close it out.