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Game 11 Recap: Penn State Blows Large Lead, Falls to Princeton in Overtime, 81-79

The Return to Rec was spoiled by a 1-3-1 zone and some uncharacteristically poor ballhandling.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

On a day that was supposed to be a celebration of Penn State basketball history, the Nittany Lions honored that tradition by blowing a 20-point lead with 10:23 to play. Credit to Princeton, who found their stroke just in time to force overtime and win the extra period, but to say this wasn't a collapse by the home team would be flat-out incorrect.

It started off well, however sloppily, for Pat Chambers' bunch. D.J. Newbill couldn't be stopped and the Lions controlled the glass, not allowing the Tigers to grab a single offensive rebound in the first half. Tim Frazier knocked down a couple of threes and Princeton couldn't buy a bucket (40% eFG in the first half). It was hard to envision that poor shooting performance continuing for the visitors and sure enough, it didn't.

Princeton roared back on the back of a switch to the 1-3-1 zone, which slowed down Penn State's normally excellent ball movement and forced them to make one long skip pass after another. Uncharacteristic turnovers ensued and the Tigers, behind the suddenly-hot shooting of Will Barrett, climbed all the way back into the game to ensure five more minutes in Rec Hall.

Barrett hit his sixth three of the game to open the extra period and that set the tone for the remainder of the game. Princeton missed some free throws down the stretch and Frazier's last second attempt to tie the game fell Penn State basketball-ingly short, leaving the once jubilant Rec Hall crowd well and truly stunned. Not a season-killer by any means (remember the Maine loss in 2010-11? Princeton is miles better than that team, and probably better than one or two B1G teams), but on a day that saw so much energy and enthusiasm around the program, it's a disheartening loss to say the least.

Four Factors Analysis

Team Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 81 0.97 54.4% 26.9% 24.6% 40.4
Princeton - 1.00 50.0% 7.7% 12.3% 41.9

Perhaps the biggest reason this one slipped away from PSU was how ineffective Frazier and Newbill were in distributing the ball. The two are normally very careful in possession, but today the Tigers forced them to commit 13 turnovers combined. They were still extremely effective in transition, but once Princeton started making shots and had time to set up the 1-3-1, Penn State's attack was halted to a virtual standstill, left to toss the ball over the heads of their defenders. It was a master stroke by Tigers coach and Bill Carmody-disciple Mitch Henderson.

On the plus side, the Lions were really dominant on the glass for the first time this season. Princeton has a lot of size on the inside but Ross Travis (12) and Brandon Taylor (9) nearly outrebounded the Tigers (22 team rebounds) by themselves.

Player of the Game

Frazier and Newbill once again paved the way in the scoring department (24 points each), but Boss Travis (15 points, 12 rebounds) was probably the biggest factor in Penn State's success for the better part of 30 minutes, despite a late, hardly avoidable turnover in regulation that helped Princeton get the game to OT. The junior secured a double-double with five minutes gone in the second half, and this dunk re-energized the crowd after a quick 10-4 Tigers run. He knocked down a #RossTravisJumpshot in the first half but played with the appropriate aggression and attacked the rim all afternoon. The BTN crew talked about him having a breakout season and when he has games like this it's hard not to agree.

Random Observations

  • Rowdy Rec - The sold-out Rec Hall crowd was nothing short of electric all game long. The BTN camera angle didn't show just how close the student section was to the court, but you could see how unique this game was for the players. Credit to the hoops marketing staff for pulling this off, now let's never do or speak of this again.
  • Cruel finish - It was pretty agonizing watching the waning moments of the game, knowing Penn State would lose even though there was reason for hope. With 17 seconds left, PU's Ben Hazell, a 96% free throw shooter, missed two at the line, giving PSU hope. The teams traded buckets for free throws, until Penn State got a shot with 2.9 seconds left. Pat Chambers drew up a nice play which gave Frazier a great look from an Allen Roberts baseball pass, but it lipped out as time expired. Heartbreaking, especially for the senior leader.

    want 2 hug u, timmy

  • Depth - Chambers seemed pretty excited for the depth that his squad had, compared to years past, but today only six guys really saw meaningful minutes. Don't get it twisted, it was great to have the starters out of foul trouble and on the floor, but with only six guys seeing minutes today, you wonder just how much Pat actually trusts his bench. The good news on this front is that John Johnson is eligible for next Sunday's game against Mount St. Mary's, his only warm-up game before the Lions open B1G play on New Year's Eve against Michigan State.

Looking Ahead

The Lions will have a week to shrug off this defeat before MSM visits on the 22nd. How Penn State responds to this will likely determine how they fare the rest of the season. The Mountaineers (oh, real creative) aren't nearly as good as Princeton, so a big win sure would be nice.