Brown: Philly's best want to take a bite out of Hawkeyes
CHICAGO – Penn State's starting guard court of D.J. Newbill and Shep Garner hail from Philadelphia. On Wednesday, the tandem from the City of Brotherly Love earned the right to spend another night in the Windy City.
The Nittany Lions beat Nebraska in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center, 68-65. Newbill scored 26 points and Garner 19 as Penn State advanced to Thursday's 1:30 p.m. game with fifth-seeded Iowa.
"They're a good team," said Garner, whose team lost to the Hawkeyes at home in overtime, 81-77, on Feb. 28. "They came in and beat us. We were in the game. We're happy to see them again."
For Newbill, Wednesday was his 17th game of 20 points or more. He played like a senior motivated by not making the All-Big Ten first-team released Monday, a question he dodged after the game.
"We're disappointed in how we finished in Big Ten play," Newbill said. "We have another opportunity to prove ourselves and prove to everybody how good we are."
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, whose team was 4-14 in the Big Ten and came into this week the 13th seed, didn't hide the fact that he was not happy Newbill was left off the first-team.
"I've shared that quite often over the last 48 hours," Chambers said. "But he showed us why he should be (on the first-team)."
Now it's on to a game against another former Philadelphia guard in Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
"Take Wisconsin out of this league and I think they're the hottest team in the Big Ten," Chambers said. "(McCaffery's) a great motivator. I think that's why you've seen Iowa have a lot of success under his tenure."
Iowa's 12-6 league mark included six straight victories to end the regular season. The key play in the overtime triumph in Happy Valley was Aaron White's steal of Newbill's in-bounds pass with 29 seconds to play in overtime and Iowa leading by a point. White then closed the Nittany Lions out by making six straight free throws.
"They totally understand that we let one slip away," Chambers said.
McCaffery, who watched Wednesday's game with assistant coaches Sherm Dillard and Andrew Francis, knows what he'll get from Chambers' squad on Thursday. It's a Penn State that lost six league Big Ten games by three points or less or in overtime.
"Penn State's playing really well," McCaffery said. "Newbill is playing great. Garner is playing great. You know you're in for a fight against Penn State. They're physical at the rim. We've got to rebound. We've got to compete."
Nebraska outrebounded the Nittany Lions, 51-34, and had a 20-9 edge in second-chance points. But Penn State blocked a Big Ten Tournament record 16 shots, four by Newbill and five by Brandon Taylor.
"Statistically, that's just amazing," Chambers said.
Newbill had 19 points and Garner 17 in the loss to Iowa. Penn State, a 79-76 winner at Minnesota thanks to Newbill's 31 points and his buzzer-beating 3-pointer, takes a two-game winning streak into Thursday's game for the first time since late January.
"Shep and D.J. have a lot of guts, a lot of grit," Chambers said. "I think that's why you need in tournament play."
The theme for Thursday's game: Philly Tough vs. Philly Tough.
"Every team in the Big Ten is tough," Newbill said. "Iowa is no different. It comes down to a few possessions. Who makes the stops, who makes the plays?"
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.
THURSDAY'S BIG TEN TOURNAMENT GAME
Who: No. 5 seed Iowa (21-10) vs. No. 13 Penn State (17-15)
When, where: Approximately 1:30 p.m. CT, United Center, Chicago
TV: Big Ten Network. Radio: WHO (AM-1040) and the Hawkeye network.
The winner meets: No. 4 seed Purdue at approximately 1:30 p.m. Friday
Matchup overview: Penn State guard Shep Garner said he expects "a different outcome this time" after losing to the Hawkeyes in overtime, 81-77, on Feb. 28 in State College, Pa. "We're a totally different team from two weeks ago," Garner said. … Aaron White's steal of an inbounds pass with Penn State down 1 in the final minute was Iowa's key play in that win. White finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. … Thirteen of Penn State's 19 Big Ten games have been decided by single digits, including Wednesday's 68-65 win over Nebraska. D.J. Newbill scored 26 points, and Garner had 19. … Iowa went 7-3 in true road games this year, but went 0-3 on neutral courts with losses to Texas and Syracuse in New York and to Northern Iowa in Des Moines.