Penn State Loses Heartbreaker to Iowa
Jermaine Marshall missed four free throws last night against Iowa, as Penn State came just short of winning its first Big Ten game of the season. When he needed to miss a fifth one, he did just the opposite as Penn State fell 74-72.
Fouled with 1.5 seconds remaining and Penn State trailing by three, Marshall calmly sunk the first free throw. He then tried to intentionally miss the second shot, giving the Nittany Lions a chance to get an offensive rebound and tie the game.
“I tried to push it long, and I did, but it ended up going in,” said Marshall.
That right there essentially sums up the season that has seen the Nittany Lions lose their first 12 Big Ten contests. Tonight felt different, looked different, and sounded different.
The Nittany Lions shot 44.3% from the field, limited turnovers, and had most of the 7,636 fans in attendance at the Bryce Jordan Center on their feet and making a ton of noise down the stretch. In the end, the result was the same — another loss, although this one was more of the heartbreaking variety than a blowout defeat.
Marshall, who played a nice Robin to D.J. Newbill’s Batman for most of the night finished with 14 points, a career-high 10 assists, and only 2 turnovers, but the junior guard had a rough final few minutes that saw him miss a key free throw, have a potential game-tying shot blocked, and then ultimately make a crucial foul shot that he needed to miss. He would not admit that the final-made free throw was symbolic of what has turned into a very frustrating season, but head coach Pat Chambers would.
“We tried to miss the free throw there, and we made it. The ones we’re trying to make, we miss. Sometimes you can’t win in this game, ” said Chambers.
After that sequence, Devyn Marble would make a free throw and miss another before a desperation heave from Brandon Taylor was way off as the Hawkeyes (16-9, 5-7) hung on to beat the Nittany Lions (8-16, 0-12).
The best opportunity for the Nittany Lions in a back and forth contest came with 35 seconds remaining, after Ross Travis got a huge steal and found Newbill open behind the three point line. Newbill shot 11-20 on the night and made a game-high 3 three-point shots, but this one would not go down.
The Nittany Lions hung around most of the game and stormed back when Iowa opened up a 12-point lead midway through the second half, but they would play from behind most of the way, their last lead coming a minute into the second half.
Solid games from Sasa Borovnjak and Kevin Montminy helped, but it was Newbill, playing arguably the best game of his young career, that allowed the Nittany Lions to hang around. “He was a great leader tonight. It wasn’t even about the points, but the hustle plays,” said Chambers.
Newbill represents what should be brighter days ahead for a program that has not had much luck and been unable to make its own luck. Insert him back at his true two-guard position with the return of Tim Frazier next season, and it could mean big things for the Nittany Lions back-court, but even so, the focus remains on winning a game before the 2012-2013 campaign concludes to carry some momentum into next year.
Chambers, who ended up donating $14,200 as part of his THON pledge based on attendance, raved about the atmosphere and believes his team is close, but the schedule gets tougher and the home games are dwindling.
The Nittany Lions have not won a Big Ten road game since March 6, 2011 when Chambers was still coaching at Boston. The only two home games that remain are against ranked opponents in Michigan and Wisconsin. Before returning back to the Bryce Jordan Center, road dates with Michigan and Illinois loom beginning in Ann Arbor on Sunday.
“We know we can do it. I know we play Michigan and there’s a number next to their name, but it’s the next game on our schedule. We have to get better,” said Chambers.
The positive attitude remains in both the coach and his players’ efforts on the court, but the harsh reality of 0-18 is creeping closer, and the best chance to prevent it may have just slipped through the cracks.
Sometimes things don’t go your way even when you intentionally try to miss.