Penn State Snatches Defeat From The Jaws of Victory
For 39 minutes and 46 seconds, Jon Graham was having one of his best games as a Nittany Lion. The redshirt freshman forward likely wishes he could have back the 11.4 seconds that followed. In that time, Graham missed two free throws that would have extended a one point lead then fouled Northwestern’s John Shurna with 2.6 seconds remaining. Shurna made both of his foul shots to give Northwestern (17-11 overall, 7-9 Big Ten) a 67-66 win over Penn State (12-17 overall, 4-12 Big Ten) after a desperate three point attempt from Tim Frazier fell short at the buzzer.
One of the more exciting games played at the Bryce Jordan Center all year was not without some controversy. Several questionable calls were made throughout the game, most notably the foul called on Graham with under three seconds to go. Pat Chambers was visibly upset after the game, chasing after officials while being held back by assistant coaches. In his post-game comments, Chambers acknowledged that he believed it was a late whistle.
“I thought we had the ball and were going to shoot 1 and 1,” Chambers said of the final call.
The last-second loss overshadowed a solid offensive performance by Penn State. Tim Frazier led the way with 23 points, while Graham and Ross Travis, who played one of his better games of the season, each finished with 10 points. Poor perimeter defense, however, killed the Lions as Northwestern made 15 three-point field goals on 29 attempts with Drew Crawford and Alex Marcotullio combining for eight of them. The 15 threes that Penn State allowed were only four away from an all-time record.
“We had 57 possessions where we could have made up the points”, said Chambers, refusing to put the blame on one play or person. Chambers’ squad went into the game with a terrific chance to spoil Northwestern’s NCAA tournament hopes. It appeared they had done just that before free throws and fouls spoiled a great effort. In such a close game, mistakes like two missed free throws by Matt Glover early on and the two misses from Graham proved costly. While the case can be made that Shurna was not fouled (or that he may have traveled before the foul), one made free throw would have pushed the game to overtime.
The Nittany Lions will resume action on the road Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. against a Purdue team who they defeated by twenty earlier in the season. They return home next Sunday for their regular season finale against Michigan.