Game Grades: Purdue
Penn State’s potential Cinderella run in the Big Ten tournament ended in the semifinals at the hand of the Purdue Boilermakers in a competitive 78-70 loss. Purdue ran away from the Nittany Lions in the second half en route to a matchup with Michigan in tomorrow's championship game.
Now, Coach Chambers and the Nittany Lions will not wait until next Sunday to hear their postseason fate. While many have Penn State on the first four out, there is some reason for hope thanks to three wins over Ohio State.
Outside of senior Shep Garner, the Nittany Lion offense struggled to consistently score for much of the game.
Garner was by far Penn State’s best player as he went for 33 points, a record for a Penn State player in the conference tournament, on 8-11 shooting. Garner was lights out in the first half and was the main reason the Nittany Lions were even with Purdue.
The rest of team was a different story. First-Team All-Big Ten point guard Tony Carr was off the whole night as it looked like fatigue from carrying the team over the last couple nights caught up to him. Carr scored only 12 points and was a horrendous 4-18 from the field. Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves combined for just 14 points and shot 4-21 from the field and 1-8 from three.
Penn State went through a rough stretch of shooting in the second half when Purdue couldn’t miss. This forced the Nittany Lions to be down by as many as 18. Shooting 33.9 percent from the field isn’t going to get it done against many teams, especially to a team of Purdue's caliber.
Mike Watkins' absence was felt greatly on the defensive end against the Boilermakers. Purdue shot 52 percent from the field including 52.4 percent from the three-point arc.
This was most noticeable with the play of Isaac Haas. The seven-foot big man for Purdue was dominant inside the whole game, and Penn State couldn’t seem to find an answer. John Harrar, Julian Moore, and Satchel Pierce all saw time against Haas, but couldn’t seem to stop him. Haas finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.
Penn State had severe trouble defending Purdue’s First-Team All-Big Ten point guard in Carsen Edwards. Edwards went for 27 points including 6-9 from three. No matter which defender Coach Chambers put on him, it didn’t seem to matter. It was the second game in a row that Edwards scored 27 points against the Nittany Lions.
The Nittany Lions seemed to run out of gas in the second half and it turned out to be the perfect storm. Purdue caught fire in the second half and Penn State couldn’t seem to find a rhythm on offense.
Coach Pat Chambers has received tons of criticism from the Nittany Lion fan base this season, but he should have silenced many of them in this Big Ten tournament. Beating a very good Ohio State team for the third time and playing with Purdue for much of the game, both without Mike Watkins, is very impressive.
This loss is not on Chambers. Purdue is simply a much better team than Penn State, but the Nittany Lions came out motivated to play and hung around for much of this game against a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Fatigue and lack of shooting was the perfect storm for the Nittany Lions' elimination. When three of your best players combine to shoot 20.5 percent from the field, your chances of winning aren’t that high.
Chambers now has to hope he and his team have done enough to impress the NCAA selection committee and earn their first tournament berth since 2011.
Camden Tofil is a freshman majoring in advertising. To contact him, email email@example.com.