Travis, Jack lead Penn State past Marshall 90-77

UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) – Donovon Jack was either making shots or blocking them on Saturday, and his prowess at each enabled Penn State to race past Marshall, 90-77.

Jack sank nine shots in his 18-point outing and blocked seven, a career-high and most from a Penn State player since 1999 as the Nittany Lions (7-3) ran away from a Marshall squad that was averaging nearly 86 points per game.

“I didn’t even know I had seven blocks; I was just out there playing hard,” Jack said.

Ross Travis was Penn State’s leading scorer with 20 points, including nine from the free throw line, while D.J. Newbill added 17 – his 25th straight game in double figures.

Brandon Taylor and Tim Frazier each tossed in 10 as the Nittany Lions rebounded after back-to-back losses to Mississippi and Pittsburgh.

Penn State has scored 70 points in all but one of its games this season, and its quick transition offense built as much as a 26-point lead before Marshall (4-5) closed the gap late.

Jack complemented his seven blocks with a team-high seven rebounds that allowed Penn State to win that battle as well against the Thundering Herd (4-5), 47-40.

“I told him (Jack) to have some confidence and he smiled,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “He shot lights out. He was dialed in.”

Penn State was ready from the outset, jumping out to an 11-1 lead before Marshall’s only serious run closed the gap to 13-11.

From there, Penn State’s transition offense created opportunities for numerous dunks and layups. The Lions shot 48.5 percent overall as their 53-percent effort in the first half allowed the Lions to race out to a 47-32 halftime bulge.

“Coaches – obviously, we’re crazy – but we have gut feelings about things,” Chambers said. “And I thought (Jack) was going to have a good game today. He knows that I have great confidence in him. We just need more consistency now.

“Seven blocks in a game; that’s incredible. And that’s an athletic team; he’s not doing it against just anybody. That’s against Marshall.”

Thundering Herd coach Tom Herrion wasn’t surprised by Penn State’s up-tempo offense, but he was a bit shocked by his own.

“I thought we ran into a little bit of a buzz-saw,” Herrion said. “Our quick shots and our bad offense really led to tremendously poor defense in transition.

“We got exposed early and often on transition defense. We let them get too many baskets and get their offense going. We know how good of an offensive team they are.”

The Nittany Lions’ frontcourt of Travis, Jack and Taylor combined for 48 points. The bulk of Penn State’s scoring typically comes from Newbill and Frazier, who had nine assists.

Kareem Canty scored 28 points for Marshall, which was slowed by eight first-half turnovers and a 7 for 13 effort from the foul line.

Canty’s successful 40-foot heave at the first-half buzzer brought Marshall to within 15, but the Thundering Herd were unable to push any momentum forward.

Elijah Pittman added 10 points for Marshall, well under his 23-point scoring average. He had converted 27 3-pointers in eight games for the Thundering Herd but connected on just one against the Lions.

“They jumped us early,” Herrion said. “We had a couple of good looks that didn’t drop and then we had poor defensive transition.

“It’s the first team that really kind of carved us up against our pressure. And, defensively we were really poor, and it contributed mightily to giving up 90 points. You’re not going to win many games giving up 90 anywhere.”

Penn State’s Travis scored nine of his 20 in the first half and converted on a couple of slams.

“One of the game plans for us was to push the ball and I think that’s what you saw,” Travis said. “Getting those inside buckets opens up the outside shots for guys like D.J. and Tim and it lifts the team; everybody gets pumped.”

Especially Chambers, whose squad has non-conference games remaining against Duquesne, Princeton and Mount St. Mary’s prior to its New Year ‘s Eve Big Ten opener against Michigan State.

“I would take the last five minutes out but I thought we did a phenomenal job against their length and athleticism and skill,” Chambers said.

“I thought we did a really good job defensively, and I’m seeing progression. We still have a lot of room for growth and that’s exciting. We played good defense, we scored 90 points, and we can get better.”