For those who attended Penn State’s heartbreaking loss to No. 14 Purdue on Tuesday, you witnessed what most would dub a “predictable” outcome play out in the most unpredictable fashion. Not only did Penn State lead the Boilermakers outright until the seven-minute mark in the second half — the Nittany Lions shut down arguably the best frontcourt in the Big Ten. But, despite all this, the result remained the same.
The encouraging notion is that Penn State is dangerously close to breaking through — you don’t hang with the likes of Purdue, let alone shut down likely NBA first round pick Caleb Swanigan, by accident. But even Pat Chambers will say it — promise will only get you so far. “We need to start getting things done,” Chambers said. “But they’re going to continue to get better, and they continue to fight. That’s not going to change.”
The Nittany Lions likely won’t be heading to the NIT barring any surprise run in the Big Ten Tournament in two weeks. No, the young Philadelphia nucleus wasn’t able to lead Penn State back to the Big Dance — not just yet, at least. Chambers makes a valid point in his postgame statement: There are no more moral victories — Penn State can’t accept results like the one it faced Tuesday, especially after leading for the better part of the contest. But, as has been said all year long, the future remains bright. The primary reason is point guard Tony Carr.
“We had no answer for Tony Carr tonight,” said Purdue head coach Matt Painter following his team’s four-point victory over the Nittany Lions. He’s not wrong — Carr scored 14 of his team’s final 18 points down the stretch en route to a 21-point showing. Carr’s value to the Nittany Lions is undeniable — Steve Jones said it perfectly. “Put a guy like Tony Carr in Purdue’s backcourt — a team lacking a true point guard — and you’re probably looking at a Final Four team,” Jones said during the break of his ESPN 1450 show. His scoring prowess combined with his passing acumen makes him the ideal cornerstone for a program in Penn State’s position.
The team is nearing the light at the tunnel; it’s endured the full spectrum of emotions — especially in a season full of actual expectation. This season might be looked on as a failure, but that’s the “glass half empty” approach. This season was always going to be the foundation layer; every program’s rise must start somewhere — it just so happens Penn State’s begins this season.
Chambers can see it in his unit — a unit that doesn’t lose a single player to either the draft or graduation. The team’s growth has been evident, and soon players like Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Mike Watkins won’t simply show flashes in the pan — they’ll dominate like they’ve shown they can.
So, for lack of a better phrase, just keep the faith. If the stars align like they’ve indicated they will, promise will blossom into results. “What if,” will be replaced with tangible success. It’s just a matter of time.