Penn State basketball (21-13 , 11-10 B1G) was eliminated 78-70 by third-seeded Purdue (28-5, 17-3 B1G) in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal round on Saturday afternoon.
Shep Garner led the way for the Nittany Lions, scoring 33 points thanks to a 6-for-8 performance from beyond the arc. Tony Carr also added 12 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.
Carsen Edwards led the way for the Boilermakers, finishing with 27 points and six made three-pointers.
How It Happened
Penn State got off to a good start in the game, forcing four Purdue turnovers in the first three minutes of action. Two quick three-pointers by Garner gave the Nittany Lions an 8-7 lead with 15:28 left in the first half.
Purdue set the pace from there, reeling off a 9-2 run over the next four-plus minutes, before Garner answered with another three-pointer to make the score 16-13 in favor of Purdue. Both teams went cold after that, as the Nittany Lions and Boilermakers missed 11 out of 12 shots at different points in the period.
A four-point play by Garner put Penn State back in front with less than six minutes left in the half. The Blue and White continued to ride that momentum to a 15-3 run, as Purdue was forced to call a timeout after going down 28-21. The Boilermakers recovered, ending the half on a 7-0 run and taking a 33-31 lead into halftime despite six made three-pointers by the Nittany Lions.
The turning point in momentum came at the end of the first half, as Penn State led 31-29 with 13 seconds left in the period. Tony Carr was called for an offensive foul, his second foul of the game, and then Pat Chambers was called for a technical after arguing with the officials. Purdue split the technical foul free throws, then nailed a three-pointer to take the lead heading into the break.
Purdue’s Dakota Mathias started the second half on fire. The guard made his first three shots of the period, tallying nine points in the first seven minutes of the period. Luckily for Penn State, Matt Haarms was whistled for a technical after fighting on the floor for a jump ball with Josh Reaves, giving the Nittany Lions a chance to stay in the game early in the period.
Carr picked up his third personal foul for pushing off on what would’ve been a made basket with less than 13 minutes to go, sending the star guard to the bench. A five-point deficit became nine points for Penn State in the 75 or so seconds that Carr sat out, as Penn State was forced to call a timeout with 11:19 left to play, trailing 51-42.
The story of the second half was the respective shooting performances by the two teams. Penn State shot just 35 percent in the half, while Purdue made 60 percent of its shots in the final 20 minutes. The Boilermakers couldn’t be stopped, as they led by as many as 18 points with three and a half minutes remaining. Purdue drilled seven of their 10 three-point shots after halftime.
Three games in three days finally caught up to the Nittany Lions, who out-rebounded Purdue while also turning the ball over less and making a higher percentage of free throws. Chambers’ team simply didn’t have the legs late in the game to make shots.
Player Of The Game
Shep Garner| Senior | Guard
The team leader put on a show at Madison Square Garden in this win-or-go-home scenario, finishing with 33 points, six made three-pointers, and a 11-for-12 performance at the free throw line. Garner led all scorers at the half with 15 points, including a four-point play that spurred Penn State’s 15-3 run in the first half.
Penn State will have to wait and watch all week as the rest of the conference tournaments play out to find out its fate for the remainder of the postseason. Going into the Purdue game, ESPN bracketology expert Joe Lunardi had the Nittany Lions as the No. 2 team in his “First Four Out” category for the NCAA Tournament.