Penn State Falls Again in Big Ten Play

posted January 20, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Eric Deberardinis

As the game clock expired on Saturday, Jermaine Marshall slowly walked to the Penn State bench with his hands over his head in disbelief. Unwilling to move, the junior co-captain was unable to believe his team didn’t win.

The Nittany Lions (8-10, 0-6) fell in demoralizing fashion to Nebraska (10-9, 1-5) 68-64, after a barrage of missed free throws in the game’s waning moments. Penn State, who entered the game atop the leaderboard in free throw percentage in Big 10 play, made just 1 of 6 foul shots in the final 25 seconds, allowing the Cornhuskers to escape with their first conference victory. Marshall was guilty of two misses that could have tied the game with 15 seconds left.

Coming off a career-high 29 points Wednesday against Michigan State, the redshirt junior again led the Nittany Lions in scoring with 18. However, he shot just 5-16 from the field while his teammates suffered several poor shooting stretches and defensive lapses.

“It didn’t just come down to the free throws, said D.J. Newbill. “It came down to the whole game.”

Penn State head coach, Pat Chambers, said he was shocked that his team lacked intensity and effort in the first twenty minutes.

“We didn’t deserve to win,” exclaimed Chambers. “That’s just being truthful.”

The Nittany Lions started strong but just momentarily, bursting out to a 7-0 advantage. The Cornhuskers responded though with a ten-point spurt to begin a trend of runs by each team.

Nebraska never relinquished the lead the rest of the half, but Penn State was able to trim the margin to five due to the heroics of a seldom-used walk-on. While trying to draw contact, Kevin Montminy launched a buzzer-beating 30-footer, to inch closer and make the halftime score 33-28.

The momentum did not immediately carry over as Nebraska emerged from the locker room and gained a 10-point advantage, equaling their biggest lead of the game. Cornhusker freshman, Shavon Shields, carried his team all afternoon, notching a game-high 29 points, shooting 10-11 from the field and hitting a perfect 8 of 8 on free throws. 

Never a team to give up, Penn State rattled off 12 straight points to go ahead, highlighted by 3-pointers from Marshall and senior, Nick Colella.

The Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers traded baskets and the lead for a few minutes before yet another run from Nebraska. Down four, they stormed in front with an 11-0 run.

A Bryce Jordan Center crowd of nearly 10,000 then witnessed a near comeback but ultimately a collapse by the home team.

Trailing by six, Marshall connected on his second three of the game. With 32 seconds left, Newbill stole an inbounds pass and was fouled in the process of shooting. After a lengthy discussion and mass confusion, officials ruled that there was also a Type 2 flagrant foul off the ball, which resulted in an additional two free throws and possession for Penn State.

Newbill sunk one of two making the score 66-64. Ross Travis then paraded to the line as a recipient of the intentional elbow that gained the flagrant. Travis clanked the first and pushed the second.

“We missed free throws when we needed them,” said Newbill. “We just have to execute.”

Three straight misses could have been deflating, but Penn State had more opportunities with possession of the ball. Marshall drove to the rim and was fouled. Marshall unceremoniously missed both free throws. The Nittany Lions were forced to foul.

Opposite to the Nittany Lions, Nebraska’s Brandon Ubel marched to the other end of the court and calmly swished two free throws, effectively ending the game.

Penn State missed five of their final six attempts. The Cornhuskers were a perfect 16 for 16 from the line on the day. A noticeable upset group of Nittany Lions failed to capitalize and thus were beat again. Chambers refused to call the loss, devastating, but said he worries about his team moving forward.

“They can’t feel sorry for themselves,” said Chambers. “Nobody feels sorry for us.”

With the defeat, Penn State is still searching for its first Big 10 victory in what many regard the best conference in the country. Newbill understands just how tough every game will be.

“We are playing against some of the best teams and Hall of Fame coaches,” he said. “There are no nights off in the Big 10.”

Penn State faces another challenge in their next matchup on Wednesday on the road at #2 ranked Indiana. The Nittany Lions lost to the Hoosiers 74-51 at home in early January.

Eric DeBerardinis is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism.To contact him, please e-mail ejd5136@psu.edu.