Penn State Hoops’ Comeback Falls Short In 76-64 Loss At No. 12 Purdue
Penn State men’s basketball (9-16, 2-12 Big Ten) struggled down the stretch against No. 12 Purdue (18-7, 11-3 Big Ten) as it fell 76-64 on Saturday.
The Nittany Lions’ freshman guards were productive enough offensively to keep the team close early on, but foul trouble and 39 combined points from Boilermaker stars Carsen Edwards and Matt Haarms were too much for Penn State to overcome.
How It Happened
The Nittany Lions ran out to an 8-0 lead in no small part thanks to a pair of Myles Dread three-pointers in the opening minutes. Purdue closed the gap to three, but Penn State answered to take a 17-10 advantage at the halfway point of the first 20 minutes.
An 11-0 Purdue run over three minutes gave it a 23-19 lead. The Nittany Lions missed all three of their shots while also turning the ball over three times during the drought.
The scoring of Dread and Rasir Bolton kept the Nittany Lions in the game. The freshmen entered the break with 11 and eight points, respectively, as Penn State trailed by just three at the break.
The second half started with a scoring outbreak from the Boilermakers. They reeled off a 17-4 run in the first five minutes of the half while Mike Watkins was off the floor due to foul trouble.
Myreon Jones played double-digit minutes for the first time since Penn State’s loss at Minnesota in January, and his two quick steals ended Purdue’s run. Jones’ dunk and assist to Lamar Stevens trimmed the gap to 50-40 with fewer than 14 minutes to play.
The teams traded baskets over the next couple minutes. Penn State could’t get within single-digits but never trailed by more than 17. A steal-and-slam by Reaves followed by a layup from Stevens forced a Purdue timeout and shifted momentum.
Stevens joined Watkins on the bench with four fouls with fewer than seven minutes remaining, so Harrar was forced back into the action with four personal fouls. A couple free throws by Jones cut the deficit to 61-53 with 6:20 left, but Harrar managed to foul out of the game less than a minute later.
The underdogs didn’t take their foot off of the gas. Reaves made a tough and-1 layup and made the free throw. That capped a 12-0 Penn State run and brought the Nittany Lions within five.
Of course, Purdue answered to take control of the game. Grady Eifert ended the run with a layup and drew Watkins’ fifth and final foul with 3:54 to play. The Boilermakers never looked back, out-scoring Penn State 15-8 in the final four and a half minutes to win by a dozen.
- This may have been the first time all three of Penn State’s freshman guards played well in the same game. Bolton finished with 15 points on 55 percent shooting from three, Dread added two triples and tacked on 10 more points, and Jones helped end Purdue’s run early in the second half.
- Mike Watkins’ showing on Saturday was one of the worst in his Penn State career. The big man fouled out in just 12 minutes of action, keeping him off of the floor for most of the game and preventing the junior from building any rhythm. He didn’t attempt a shot and registered just three rebounds. It’s hard to ask John Harrar and Stevens to step up to the challenge of playing long minutes.
- Watkins wasn’t the only veteran player who struggled. Lamar Stevens scored 18 points to lead the team, but he also had four fouls and eight turnovers in the game. Elsewhere, Reaves started the game 1-for-6 and ended with a 3-for-11 line. The senior missed all five of his 3-point attempts, and that just isn’t going to cut it from the two best players on the team.
Penn State is back at the BJC on Tuesday night to take on Nebraska at 7 p.m. You can catch the game on FS1.
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