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Purdue 76, Penn State 73: Close, But No Cigar.

Despite missing Mike Watkins for most of the game, Penn State put up a tough fight in West Lafayette but came up short in the end.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

What if I told you that Penn State would lose their best post player in program history just a few minutes into the first half due to foul trouble, sit him for the reminder of the half, and still continue to play solid defense and own the advantage in rebounds, allowing themselves to jump out to as high as nine-point lead en route to leading the game at the half? Because that’s precisely what happened, as Julian Moore, Satchel Pierce, and even John Harrar stepped up as a collective bunch to make sure Purdue’s 7’2” behemoth Isaac Haas didn’t have his way in the paint. That, combined with the scoring from Lamar Stevens, Shep Garner, and Tony Carr allowed PSU to take a 36-32 lead to the locker room.

The second half saw Purdue pick up where they left off, continuing to knock down shots, while Watkins foolishly picked up his third and fourth fouls on the same play, committing a foul and then picking up a technical foul on top of that, after jawing with a Purdue player (Watkins was not seen again until the game’s final couple of minutes). PSU as a whole came out looking lost and out-of-sync as the Boilermakers swiftly built an 11-point lead and seemed poised to blow this game wide open.

The Nittany Lions however, would end up going down swinging, as they fought back to complete erase the deficit and tie the game up a few times, but Purdue always seemed to have an answer, whether it was Carsen Edwards (27 points) or Dakota Mathias (18 points), both of whom picked up some of the scoring slack left behind by the injured Vincent Edwards. With 4.3 seconds left and PSU trailing 74-72, Watkins drew a foul after attempting to put back a miss by Carr, sending the 61% season free throw shooter to the line to shoot a pair that could potentially force overtime in Mackey Arena. Watkins would miss the first foul shot, but nail the second, and PSU quickly fouled Edwards with 2.8 seconds left to send him to the line.

Edwards would hit both free throws to make it 76-73, giving Penn State a chance to set up an in-bounds play with no timeouts left. Josh Reaves’ baseball pass ended up in Tony Carr’s hands at mid-court, allowing Carr to get a clean look at the basket from about the same spot where he nailed the game-winning shot against Ohio State in Columbus. This time however, Carr’s shot was a little high and went off the backboard and onto the Mackey Arena floor, sealing the Lions’ fate.

Despite the loss however, the Lions showed an ability to overcome adversity and nearly steal a win on the road that few people predicted they would do. Such a performance should only help with their confidence in their ability to win their two remaining regular season games against Michigan and Nebraska, as they try to push towards a once-improbable NCAA Tournament bid.

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 64 1.13 45.7% 36.8% 14.0% 43.1%
Notre Dame 0.98 41.7% 40.0% 18.6% 28.3%

In a game as tight as this one, where both teams shot well (PSU at 50%, Purdue at 49% from the floor), this one came down to turnovers and free throw shooting. PSU had 15 turnovers to Purdue’s 9, and the Boilermakers had twice as many trips to the charity stripe (27) as PSU (13). However, both teams struggled immensely from the line, as Purdue only hit 17 of their 27 attempts and PSU 8 of 13.

Player Of The Game

Random Observations

  • Of the remaining three games going into tonight (at Purdue, Michigan, at Nebraska). I’m pretty sure the fan base was in agreement that this was the least likely win of the three. The important thing now, is for the team to bring the same swagger they brought tonight in their home finale against a ranked Michigan squad and on the road at fellow bubble team Nebraska.
  • The fact that Penn State was able to out-rebound the Boilers (35 to 28) and score 73 points despite Watkins playing only nine minutes tonight is a great sign, presuming this was merely an off-night for Watkins.
  • Tony Carr went 8-for-22 shooting for 19 points, taking 39% of the team’s 56 total field goal attempts. While he did dish out five assists, it still felt like Carr once again reverted to his old ‘hero ball’ habits. He will need to spread the wealth a little more if Penn State is going to pull off the wins it needs to get to the Big Dance.

Up Next

Penn State (19-10, 9-7) will play their home finale on Wednesday against Michigan. That game tips off at 7:00 PM ET on BTN.