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Penn State Hoops Drops A Tough One At Home To Wisconsin 64-63

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The team was unable to hit shots early but had a final chance to make a one to win the game.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State found itself down 17 points late in the second half and was able to mount a comeback. With less than ten seconds to play, Tony Carr had a chance to make a shot to give the Lions a lead and likely win. Instead it went off the rim, and Pat Chambers’ squad went home with a disappointing one-point home loss in-conference.

Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr came into the game averaging a combined 35 points per game. The pair combined for 20 on the night as Carr struggled until late in the game and Stevens never found his footing, scoring just four points.

Mike Watkins asserted himself early with 8 of the first 10 points for Penn State, including a couple of dunks. Watkins also had two blocks and two rebounds before the first media timeout at which time PSU had the lead 10-8. Pat Chambers began to use a press to slow Wisconsin down from getting into its half-court offense. The strategy worked as the Badgers had to work so hard to get the ball across half-court that they were not able to set up their swing offense or get quality shots. The Lions led 13-10 with 11:03 left in the first half.

Julian Moore came into the game early to provide additional low-post support. John Harrar made the earliest meaningful appearance of his career, entering the game as the second big-man off the bench. Shortly after Harrar and Moore went to the bench and Chambers used Lamar Stevens at center. It was a show of the options that are available to Chambers now that he has several players on the bench to play the low-post. The Lions held a thin 14-13 lead with 7:41 before halftime.

With Tony Carr out to a slow 1 for 9 start from the field PSU found itself floundering on offense, allowing Wisconsin to gain a small lead, 25-21. That’s when Josh Reaves found Mike Watkins for the dunk and foul shot.

The play energized Penn State but it was not enough for the team to regain the lead before the half, Wisconsin was ahead 31-25 at the break.

Penn State trailed by nine points early in the second half when Mike Watkins made a block on Ethan Happ. On the next trip down the court Tony Carr made a three-point play with a hoop and foul shot. Happ got his third foul shortly after, and being the only productive low-post player for Wisconsin, it opened things up for Penn State when he went to the bench. Unfortunately that did not change the results as the Lions missed the next five shots over two minutes and trailed 40-30 with 14:46 to play.

Tony Carr struggled to a 2 for 13 night shooting to this point in the game. The sophomore guard was taking good shots but they were not going down for him.

The lead for the Badgers extended to fourteen points with twelve minutes to play. Tony Carr answered with a drive and a bank shot. The team got the ball back with a steal on the next defensive series. It seemed like the Lions were poised to make a comeback but instead trailed by 17 with 9:33 on the clock.

Shep Garner hit two consecutive buckets and a free throw to cut it to a 51-39 game with fewer than eight minutes to go. The next time down the court Mike Watkins had another dunk.

There was still time for the team to make a late comeback attempt. Four minutes later at the final media timeout the deficit was still 12. Penn State made four consecutive free throws and it was 57-49 with 3:25 remaining in the game. Josh Reaves made a great recovery and clean block to keep the momentum in the Lions’ favor, providing not just a defensive stop but some attitude to encourage his team.

Tony Carr made another three-point play during a 14-3 run for Penn State, and the game was 60-57 with two minutes to play. Shep Garner hit a three pointer to cut it to a one-possession game. Lamar Stevens had the ball stolen for him while driving in the lane with the ball and a chance to tie the game.

Garner made a diving steal on the next possession and was fouled to keep hopes alive for Penn State. He hit two free throws to cut the lead to 60-59 with 34 seconds to play. Garner was picking up the gap in leadership on the night and continued to do so on the defensive end. Here he is late in the game reminding his post players to rebound if there is a missed shot.

Tony Carr hit two free throws to cut the lead to one with 15 seconds to play. On the first attempt to inbound the ball the Badgers were forced to call timeout to avoid a 5-second call. After being fouled on the next inbound try Wisconsin missed a free throw and the Lions had the ball back with a chance to win. Tony Carr attempted a three-point shot with time running out, down by one point, and it did not go in.

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 67 1.32 61.4% 35.5% 15.0% 40.4%
Coppin State 0.64 36.4% 11.8% 27.0% 30.4%

Considering the way that the game went early, it is hard to look at these numbers and be disappointed. Penn State had a reasonable amount of turnovers. Shooting 2-14 from behind the arc was the killer. Had one more gone in, even the last shot of the game by Carr, this would be remembered as a great win.

Player of the Game

Mike Watkins- (22 points, 8 rebounds) Watkins played solid early and often. He was the force that kept the team in the game for most of the game.

Random Thoughts

  • Clearly there remains a struggle for the team to avoid offensive scoring droughts. While it may seem like a small victory, Penn State got good shots during its struggles in the first half. The team did not panic and start shooting up three pointers. Unfortunately the ball didn’t want to go into the hoop, as the team missed the final six shots of the first half.
  • Tony Carr was not hitting shots at his normal rate, but he did accept the responsibility a couple of times of taking the tough shot during a PSU time of need. Unlike last season, where some of his shots were forced when the team was under duress or need a hoop, this year he seems more comfortable and able to get a high-percentage shot at critical times.
  • This will be a tough loss for some fans to take. It appeared that Wisconsin was there for the taking, a vulnerable opponent, a win that would give PSU a 2-0 start to the Big Ten season. Patience may be the key to enjoying this team. There will be speculation about the future all season when the team loses, but we should try not to let that interfere with appreciating the team as they play through the schedule. There could be a great deal of good times to be had over the next few months. A 1-1 start to the conference schedule is on pace for even the most lofty goals the team had for the year.
  • This was the crowd at the final media timeout. As bad as it looks, this is actually a flattering picture of the stadium’s capacity. It would be like taking a balding man with a comb-over and getting a shot that makes it look like he simply has one thinning spot. Penn State was able to scrape back into the game with less help from the home crowd than is typical for a team that hopes to make a run at the NCAA tournament. The last thing in the world I would want to do is point a finger at anyone in this shot and accuse them of not doing enough to support the team. To the contrary, they are doing everything that they can to help the team while other fans such as myself are unable to attend the games.

The students on the lower right have filled in the student section. Toward the end of the game, the student section provided enough vocal support to let the team know that they were there. It made a difference. The sparse fans on the other side of the stadium are at the game and that is more than most PSU hoops fans can say. See the PSU Blue Band in the lower-left, they are there. The cheerleaders with their pom poms held high are representing the team on both sides of the floor. This isn’t about pointing a finger left or right, blaming ourselves or another; a circular firing squad among we few Penn State basketball fans. Many Penn State basketball supporters are unable to attend the games and would love to be able to do so. At the same time, there has to be a way to get more people to the games; there to support the players. Other sports such as hockey and football speak of the boost that the crowd gives them when the arena is full and rocking. It’s not all that matters, but it does matter. It’s something that we fans can work on, while we think of ways that the team can improve. Let’s find a way to get more people to the games. Maybe Bon Jovi could play an abbreviated show at half-time?

Up Next

Penn State will host George Washington on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. It will be the only game between tonight’s game and the next time the Lions will take the court on December 17, versus another George, this time Mason. The 13-day span with just one game is the lengthiest break in action that the team will have this season.