STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania — Penn State has gotten off to its best start in more than a decade because it's been able to finish.
The Nittany Lions took the lead late in the first half and never trailed in the second en route to a 64-62 victory over Duquesne Wednesday night. Their seventh straight victory is the longest streak since 2007-08 and is the longest active streak among Big Ten teams.
Geno Thorpe scored a career-high 19 points, freshman Shep Garner added 13 and Penn State upped its record to 9-1, its best start since the Lions' 2000-01 Sweet 16 season.
The Dukes (3-3), who were led by 18 points from Jordan Stevens and 11 from TySean Powell, took a potential game-winning shot at the final buzzer, but Micah Mason's 3-pointer fell short.
"We went to a switching defense," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "Hopefully everybody's in their gaps. We talked early, we talked often and everybody had high hands.
"We made it tough for Mason. We dodged a bullet."
D.J. Newbill and Donovon Jack each added 11 for Penn State, and Jack made good on four free throws in the final two minutes.
Penn State, after a 5-of-10 first-half performance at the free throw line, sank 15 of 18 in the final 20 minutes.
Penn State led by 10 early in the second half but Powell and Stevens teamed up for an 8-2 Duquesne run to close to 46-42, and Duquesne got to within 52-51 when Darius Lewis made good on a three-point play.
Neither team was able to establish control from that point.
"We go up 10 and they scored out of a timeout and it's right back to eight," Chambers said. "Once you have somebody down, you have to bury them and we haven't done that.
"Now we have to learn how to be dominant and put teams away."
Duquesne held Newbill to 11 points, or 12 points below his average. Thorpe was one player who filled that scoring gap.
"We all had to pick it up as a unit," Thorpe said. "D.J. was struggling but we were all in the loop to start the half.
"Coach decided to start me the second half and told me to be aggressive and that's what I did."
Duquesne owned the edge in rebounding, 38-33, but shot just 40 percent from the field, including 4 of 19 from 3-point range, usually the Dukes' strong suit.
"I thought we had some really good looks that didn't go in early," Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. "I told the kids to keep shooting."
Both teams were hot to start the game, combining for 7 of 12 shooting, but that play changed to cold and sloppy on both ends of the floor.
"I thought it got ugly, it turned into a rock fight," Ferry said. "It was dictated a lot by free throws.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win."
Penn State: D.J. Newbill's 23.3 points per game average led the Big Ten and was third in the nation through Tuesday's games, but Duquesne held Newbill to just a pair of first-half points; he finished with 11. .The Nittany Lions have won each of its five games that have been decided by five points or fewer this season; they are 4-0 in one-possession games. . Penn State has outscored its 10 opponents 393-348 in the second half this season . Penn State committed an average of 14 turnovers per game through nine games and had 11 on Wednesday.
Duquesne: The Dukes began had shot 50 percent or above from 3-point range in three of their previous five games and averaged 11 3-pointers per game. But they went cold against Penn State, hitting just 4 of 19 for 21 percent. "If you were going to tell me that we hold them to four 3s, I'd say we win by 10 or 12," Penn State's Chambers said.
Penn State hosts George Washington on Sunday.
Duquesne is at Robert Morris on Saturday.