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Power Ranking The Most Heartbreaking Men’s Basketball Season Losses

There have been many ups and downs to the 2014 Penn State men’s basketball season, but this year looked promising at the start as the Nittany Lions went 12-1 against non-conference foes. Since that uplifting start, the Lions went 0-6 to begin conference play and now sit at 2-7 in the Big Ten. With every one of the eight losses this season, there has been some sort of excruciating heartbreak.

No one likes to lose. So here are the eight most heartbreaking losses of the Penn State Men’s Basketball season so far.

8. Michigan, 73-64

This game had all of the implications of another basketball let-down. Penn State trails 51-41, they go on a 12-2 run during a four-minute stretch to tie the game at 53, and then get outscored 20-9 to end the game. D.J. Newbill and John Johnson accounted for 36 of the Nittany Lions’ 64 and Penn State could not play defense. This one wasn’t too heartbreaking after the 0-2 Big Ten start, but it was a loss to Michigan and no matter what time of it day it is, they still suck.

7. @ Rutgers, 50-46

Penn State shot terribly in this game — just 28.8 percent — but what makes the loss more heartbreaking than the Michigan game was the defense that Penn State played on Rutgers in the second half. The Nittany Lions held Rutgers to 16 percent shooting from the field in the second frame and were within one point heading into the final minute, but just could not stick around for the win.

6. Wisconsin, 89-72

The score does not look like a heartbreaker, but the situation definitely was. Penn State was going into its first Big Ten game after winning 10 in a row and ended up scoring 72 points against the No. 4 team in the country. The Nittany Lions came out ready to play, shooting 64 percent in the first half while Newbill put up 29 points in the game. They just had no answer for Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers.

5. @ Indiana, 76-73

Even though Penn State scored 76 points, the team really couldn’t get it going on defense. Newbill did not play his best game, only scoring 12 points, but he did get six assists. Penn State balanced the scoring, though, as Ross Travis and Shep Garner led the team with 14 points each. Penn State had six players score double-digit points in this game. Indiana just shot slightly better, hit more threes, and got to the line more often. It was still a one-possession game, which makes it yet another heartbreaking loss.

4. @ Michigan State, 66-60

Penn State really put up a fight against the Spartans in this one in East Lansing. D.J. Newbill again scored over 20 points (scoring 27), but the Nittany Lions had no answer for Michigan State’s offense toward the end. And even worse, Penn State had no answer for the referees. Four Michigan State players ended with double-digit points, and the Spartans shot 58 percent in the second half. Penn State ended up shooting the same shooting percentage as Michigan State. This loss is No. 4 because any time that Penn State plays well enough to beat a powerhouse conference rival and loses following some questionable late-game calls, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed with disappointment and sadness.

3. Charlotte, 106-97 (2OT)

With over 200 points in a college basketball game, this was truly an offensive showdown. Penn State came back from a 17-point deficit in the second half, and John Johnson hit a three-pointer to send the game into overtime. In the first overtime, Newbill missed a shot at the buzzer, forcing a back-and-forth contest into double-overtime. After that, Penn State just could not muster enough to put away the 49ers. This was Penn State’s first loss of the season, making them 2-1 at the time. They had plenty of chances to put the game away, but there’s no consolation prize for effort when you lose a double-overtime thriller.

2. @ Illinois, 60-58

Penn State led the majority of this game and was up 10 at halftime. In the second half, the Fighting Illini put the ball in the hands of star Malcolm Hill, who ended up scoring 27 points in the win. Newbill put up another 20-point performance while emerging role player Julian Moore notched a career-high 10 points. What makes this game so heartbreaking was the final play and the events leading up to it.

In classic Penn State fashion, Devin Foster handed Illinois the ball thanks to a moving screen with under a minute to go in a tie game. After the Illini took a two-point lead, Penn State had the ball with three seconds left in the game. Coach Pat Chambers set up a beautiful play to inbound the ball to Newbill, which allowed him an open lane to the rim. With the last shot of the game, Newbill missed the contested layup, snapping the Nittany Lions’ two-game winning streak.

1. Purdue, 74-67 (OT)

The most heartbreaking loss of the Penn State men’s basketball season so far has to be this overtime defeat against Purdue on Jan. 13. The game had everything: the students were back in State College, James Franklin was there, and even Flavor Flav was in attendance to watch the Nittany Lions. It looked like Penn State was going to get its first Big Ten win of the season after starting 0-4 in the conference.

Toward the end of the game with Penn State up three, Purdue missed a free throw that looked like it would be the dagger. Purdue’s Kendall Stephens ended up snatching the rebound and ran out to the left corner to nail a three with 5.9 seconds left to tie it up at 67. That shot completely deflated the Nittany Lions and everyone in the Bryce Jordan Center. During overtime, Penn State could not manage to score a single basket. D.J. Newbill had a sensational game scoring a career-high 37 points and the crowd was buzzing, but Purdue stole it from under Penn State’s noses, making this the most heartbreaking loss of the season so far.


Penn State is preparing to face No. 17 Maryland in College Park tonight at 8:30 p.m. The game can be watched on the Big Ten Network.

Photo: Mark Selders/

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About the Author

Jacob Abrams

Jacob Abrams is a sophomore from Oxford, PA, majoring in Management in the Smeal College of Business. Jacob is the President/GM of The LION 90.7 FM along with being a play-by-play commentator and sports talk show host. He is a sports fanatic, and strongly supports the Philadelphia Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, and the New Orleans Saints. He is a first-generation Penn Stater, and in his free time he likes to play sports and sing. You can follow him on Twitter @jake_abrams and contact him at [email protected]

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