Penn State fell to Ole Miss in the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic, 79-76, on Saturday night in Brooklyn.
The game was close throughout, and after falling behind early in the game by 13 points, the Nittany Lions were able to show fight and resilience as they battled back. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough against the defending SEC Tournament Champions.
Ole Miss came out hot, racing to an early 28-15 lead on the Nittany Lions. The Rebels knocked down six three pointers in the game’s first 8:12, and shot 45.8 percent from downtown throughout the game.
“We can’t start games like that,” Pat Chambers told reporters after the game. “Not against a great team like Ole Miss, who can shoot the basketball, who is well coached, who has everything you need.”
However, the Nittany Lions battled back and were able to cut the Rebels lead to five at the end of the first half, behind a huge 20 minutes from D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis. While Newbill wasn’t as hot during the first half as he was against St. John’s, he still had a very respectable 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Travis score 8 and added 3 rebounds in the period.
Going into the half, Ole Miss held a 44-39 lead on Penn State. However, Penn State came out of the second half at a torrid pace and went on a 13-6 run to take a 52-50 lead, its first of the night.
Penn State continued to pounce on the Rebels, extending its lead to as many as seven points. The team led 59-52 with 13:34 remaining in the contest, its largest lead that Chambers and Co. had on the night.
“We had opportunities to put it away,” Chambers said. “And I think we settled a little bit. We got some stops, but we settled, we took a lot of jump shots instead of getting to the basket, I’d like to see us share the ball a little bit more. But we had opportunities, there’s no question.”
The two teams continued to battle back and forth, and neither team was able to get much separation. With 1:35 remaining, D.J. Newbill threw down a dunk on Ole Miss star and defending SEC Player of the Year Marshall Henderson to pull the Lions within one point, 75-74. (Embedded below is a GIF of the dunk for your enjoyment, courtesy of @BSD_Eric.)
However, on the next possession, Henderson, pump faked, got Newbill to bite and jump, and put up a shot, which Newbill blocked. While it looked like Newbill may have gotten all ball, a controversial foul was called that sent Henderson to the line for three free attempts and conversions.
“Tough call, tough play,” Chambers said. “That’s why he’s a great player, he’s able to draw those kinds of fouls. Give the kid credit. The official was in position, he has to call something, he has to do something. He just can’t leave that out there. That was a critical play in the game.”
“It was a huge game moment,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “When you foul a three point shooter, to me, it switches momentum. It’s such a huge play.”
The three free throws pushed the Rebels lead to 78-74. Penn State continued to fight for the last minute of the game, but by that point, the game was out of hand. The team went 0-for-5 down the stretch until Travis threw down a dunk on an inbounds with 0.1 seconds left and the game already out of hand.
“Honestly, they wore us down at the end,” Chambers said. “It’s just disappointing.”
Newbill ended the game with a game-high 23 points for Penn State, while Travis chipped in with his second double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. Tim Frazier had an off night, scoring 9 points on 3-of-13 shooting, but he made his impact by setting up his teammates and racking up 10 assists.
The Nittany Lions return to the hardwood on Tuesday evening, when the team travels to take on in-state rival Pitt in Pittsburgh as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The game tips off at 7:30 p.m.