STATE COLLEGE - A 14-point loss to No. 14 Ohio State was the least of D.J. Newbill's concerns on Saturday.
Make no mistake that Penn State's lead guard wants desperately for his team to get its first Big Ten win. The 65-51 defeat to the Buckeyes extended a month-long stretch of misery for the Nittany Lions (8-12, 0-8 Big Ten) in conference play.
But Saturday was a Coaches vs. Cancer game in Happy Valley. For Newbill, that means a lot after losing his mother to cancer less than two months before the season started.
"It's a great privilege. I'm happy I could be part of something like this," Newbill said after the game in which coaches wore sneakers and fans were encouraged to wear gray in solidarity. "At the end of the day, it wasn't about a win or a loss. It was about fighting cancer."
The team has stayed tight during this tough stretch. A close-knit bond was evident in September when the entire squad traveled to Philadelphia for the funeral of Newbill's mother.
Four games into the season, Newbill had to slide over from shooting guard to run the point after Tim Frazier suffered a season-ending left Achilles injury.
On Saturday, Newbill had 15 points and six assists against the Buckeyes (15-4, 5-2) and their standout point guard, Aaron Craft.
"He did a great job," coach Patrick Chambers said about Newbill. "Obviously, (the day) brings up a emotions for him - that affected him to start the game. But once the ball goes up, it's time to play."
Sam Thompson scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and Deshaun Thomas added 11 points, well below his Big Ten-leading average of 20.5.
Thompson picked up the slack against the Nittany Lions, who went 11-plus minutes of the first half without a field goal.
Ohio State gradually asserted control in the second half, though scrappy Penn State tried to hang around with defense and got within 10 points with 2:41 remaining.
Only the Nittany Lions couldn't stop Thompson. Left open in the corner, the lithe 6-foot-7 forward drove the baseline and contorted his body around 6-9 center Sasa Borovnjak for a layup, three-point play and 43-27 lead with about 13:30 left.
Jermaine Marshall added 16 points for the Nittany Lions, who have lost 18 straight to the Buckeyes. Borovnjak scored nine.
The Nittany Lions tried to keep up throughout the afternoon with defense, mixing up looks against Ohio State. Though they often lack in talent, Chambers' team has been well-schooled in hustling and scrambling for loose balls for 40 minutes.
"I feel like we're close, if we can just get a third scorer," Chambers said. "Our defense is really at a good place."
OHIO ST. (15-4)
Thomas 4-13 2-2 11, Thompson 6-7 2-2 16, Williams 0-1 3-6 3, Craft 3-9 1-1 7, Smith, Jr. 2-4 7-8 11, Scott 2-4 0-0 4, Ross 1-5 2-2 5, Ravenel 2-4 2-2 6, Della Valle 0-0 0-0 0, McDonald 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-48 19-23 65.
PENN ST. (8-12)
Borovnjak 4-8 1-2 9, Travis 0-3 0-0 0, Newbill 5-9 5-8 15, Marshall 4-11 6-9 16, Colella 1-2 1-3 4, Jack 1-2 0-0 2, Taylor 1-8 0-0 3, Montminy 0-1 0-0 0, Graham 0-1 0-0 0, Ackerman 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 17-47 13-22 51.
Halftime-Ohio St. 29-18. 3-Point Goals-Ohio St. 4-9 (Thompson 2-2, Ross 1-2, Thomas 1-3, Craft 0-1, Smith, Jr. 0-1), Penn St. 4-17 (Marshall 2-6, Colella 1-2, Taylor 1-8, Montminy 0-1). Fouled Out-Ravenel, Travis. Rebounds-Ohio St. 39 (Smith, Jr. 8), Penn St. 25 (Graham 6). Assists-Ohio St. 10 (Craft 5), Penn St. 11 (Newbill 6). Total Fouls-Ohio St. 17, Penn St. 19. A-11,212.