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Penn State Loses Heartbreaker To Princeton In Return to Rec

Despite an electric atmosphere in men’s basketball’s return to Rec Hall, the Nittany Lions lost an overtime heartbreaker to the Princeton Tigers, 81-79, on Saturday afternoon.

The team returned to its old digs for the first time in 17 years to play a game dubbed “Return to Rec” — and Nittany Nation came out in full force to support the squad, packing Rec Hall’s 6,000 seats. The team played great basketball for the first 30 minutes, but unfortunately, it was another game in which the Nittany Lions simply couldn’t finish the job.

“We need to work on closing out games… running game situations in practice, putting ourselves in the moment, being intense, running those cuts and running the plays,” head coach Pat Chambers said. “We are a free throw away, a stop away from sitting up here and celebrating. It should be celebrated. What went on here today is amazing. 17 years, it’s pretty incredible.”

The game looked like it wouldn’t be competitive from the start as the Nittany Lions baffled the Tigers on both ends of the court, forcing bad shots on defense and having their way with Princeton on offense. D.J. Newbill was dominant in the matchup, posting a statline of 24 points, six rebounds, and three assists while sharing the game’s scoring lead with Frazier.

The energy rivaled that of the NCAA’s most storied arenas like Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. The student section was raucously loud and swarmed opposing players as they inbounded the ball. While it can’t be measured how much the “sixth man” really did, Princeton shot an abysmal 36 percent in the first half while shooting 2-for-10 from beyond the arc.

Everything changed late in the second half when Princeton switching to a 1-3-1 zone on defense, forced some turnovers, made a few shots, and gained a ton of momentum in the process. Rec Hall quieted down and the Tigers heated up, slowly clawing at a 20-point lead that Penn State held with 8:29 to go.

Just over three minutes of game time later, the Nittany Lions’ lead was down to just ten points. By the 3:45 mark, an exchange of baskets kept that margin at the same number. And then senior forward Will Barrett hit a three. And then he hit another. And another. It was suddenly a three-point game.

A Donovon Jack foul with 25 seconds remaining allowed Princeton to cut it to two. An ill-advised Ross Travis foul soon after let Spencer Weisz tie up the game with a pair of three throws. Tim Frazier missed a three just before the buzzer and a game that had looked to be in the books for Penn State ended up heading to overtime.

The Tigers’ momentum continued into the extra period as they raced out to a 75-69 lead. An exchange of Penn State fouls and Princeton free throws led to an 81-79 Tiger lead with three seconds to go. Tim Frazier was wide open deep downcourt to catch a hail mary inbounds pass but he couldn’t make tying layup as a Princeton defender made contact.

“That’s on myself,” Tim Frazier said of the team’s issues finishing games. “I’m the captain and a fifth-year senior and I have to keep the team together. We have to limit turnovers late in games, especially me.”

Game Notes:

  • The Nittany Lions outplayed Princeton statistically, but unfortunately the stat sheet battle isn’t what determines the end result. The Nittany Lions shot 50 percent from the field compared to Princeton’s 41.9. Penn State out-rebounded the Tigers 43 to 22.
  • Ross Travis earned his eighth career double-double in the game, scoring 15 points along with 12 rebounds.
  • Tim Frazier was overshadowed by D.J. Newbill early in the game, but ended up equaling his 24 points to along with one rebound and six assists.
  • Donovon Jack had two blocks in the game, making it his fifth straight game with multiple blocks.

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.


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