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Penn State Basketball Drops Another Close One: Indiana 74, PSU 70

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The Lions played another solid game but were unable to secure the victory.

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

The Penn State basketball team put in another solid effort in Big Ten play, but came up short.

Much like the loss to Maryland last week and in December versus Wisconsin, this game had the feeling it could have been a win for Pat Chambers’ squad. The near-misses are piling up in the first half of the conference season, but with a 2-3 record in the B1G, this is far from the swan song for the team.

Josh Reaves wasn’t available for Pat Chambers with what was called an academic issue, so Nazeer Bostick started in his place. Reaves is expected to be back in the lineup on Friday. In the early-going the Hoosiers got out to a 12-8 lead thanks to Juwan Morgan, who hit a pair of threes and a shot from the floor to score the first 8 points of the game for the home team.

Lamar Stevens had nine points at the second timeout for the Lions but his team trailed 19-13. Stevens was a presence on both sides of the floor, including this clean block while giving backside help to big man Mike Watkins.

With Reaves out the supporting cast got a longer than normal look for Penn State. Jamari Wheeler and Julian Moore saw minutes early and when Watkins picked up his second foul with nine minutes to play in the first half, Satchel Pierce came in at center.

With Watkins on the bench PSU went on an 8-0 run to take the lead 24-23. The push was made possible by a smothering defensive effort by the entire Penn State team. There were steals, blocks, deflected passes and the shot clock often got low for the Hoosiers before they forced up an awkward shot.

The teams went back and forth exchanging leads for the final minutes before halftime, but it was Indiana on top 35-31 when the buzzer sounded.

Penn State shot its first free throw of the game in the opening minutes of the second-half, a miss by Lamar Stevens, while Indiana shot ten from the charity stripe in the opening half. Indiana continued to pull away, forcing Pat Chambers to slow things down with a timeout at the 15:44 mark, trailing 44-36.

The lead got to 11 before Jamari Wheeler took matters into his own hands, making a steal and getting two foul shots, making one.

Minutes later the lead was cut to 49-43 as Penn State continued the defensive pressure. Mike Watkins didn’t score until the second half but he began to get on the board when the Lions were flailing on offense. Watkins had six points in a three-possession stretch, helping to cut the lead from nine down to five with 7:31 to play.

A floater in the lane by Tony Carr cut the score to 56-53. Indiana then went on a 5-0 run before the PSU defense showed up again, forcing a shot clock violation. Carr hit three foul shots to cut the lead to five with four minutes to play.

Mike Watkins missed the front end of a one-and-one chance while PSU trailed by 8 with 3:35 left in the game. It appeared that this may be the final chance squandered, but on the inbound, the Lions forced a ten-second violation. Once again the defense refused to give up. Tony Carr hit a pair of free throws to cut into the lead.

Lamar Stevens missed two free throws with his team trailing by 6 with two minutes to play. It was a very disappointing situation for Stevens, who played a great game up to that point. Tony Carr missed a three-pointer from deep range on the next chance for PSU and just like that the game was in hand for the Hoosiers.

Carr hit a three-pointer with 8 seconds left to cut the lead to 3 points but it was too little too late.

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 56 1.09 59.3% 37.3% 25.0% 34.9%
Northwestern 1.25 46.9% 39.0% 12.5% 35.4%

PSU had a few too many turnovers tonight, combined with missing critical free throws late in the game, it could not overcome its miscues. The other numbers look reasonable and it’s a shame that the team can’t quite seem to put it all together to get the win in another conference game that slipped through its fingers.

Player of the Game

Mike Watkins- (10 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist) Watkins got two early fouls and it took him out of the game for the first half. In the second half, however, Watkins came alive. His effort was enough, and just in time, to keep his team in the game until the bitter end.

Random Thoughts

  • Even without defensive menace Josh Reaves on the court, Penn State was able to sustain pressure. Late in the first half with Wheeler, Bostick, Pierce and Stevens on the court with Tony Carr, the Lions forced a half-dozen consecutive missed shots. With Mike Watkins on the bench with two fouls at the time, it was nice to have a legitimate big man in the paint alongside a solid group of defenders. Unlike last year, there was no free for all for the opposing team without Watkins in the game.
  • It’s pretty hard to play on the road in a place like Indiana. Even during a down year for the team, the crowd was very supportive for the home team. It would be nice to have half of that support in State College some day.
  • Pat Chambers seems to have backed away from using the press as a weapon for the past five or so games. Late in the game the press was used during desperate times, and it seemed to throw Indiana off without giving up layups on the other end. I’m sure he has his reasons for this tactical decision.
  • As sad as it is to lose another winnable game on the road in conference, this is not going get me down on a Tuesday night. Here’s a little 1980’s music to bring fans back from the edge. Hang in their, peeps, it’s a long season.

Up Next

The Lions will head home to host Nebraska on Friday night. The game will be televised at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.