A tale as old as time, or at least as old as the Pat Chambers era — Penn State went down to Alabama and fell prey to a 24-0 run after a promising start against a middling Crimson Tide team. The maturity issues that have plagued the Nittany Lions all season resurfaced again on Friday night, who went up 23-9 over the first ten minutes before the onslaught ensued.
Mike Watkins went to the bench early with two fouls, but Penn State was as locked in on defense as they have been all season, holding Alabama under ten points over the first ten minutes of the game. The Nittany Lions led by as many as 14 — thanks in part to a bonus five points on back-to-back possessions from Trent Buttrick — but the scoring droughts that have plagued PSU all season let 'Bama back into the game. This time, it was a 24-0 run by Avery Johnson's bunch that lasted just under 8 minutes.
The Lions missed nine consecutive shots and ended up down six at the break, kept afloat by a tip in from Watkins and a jumper from Stevens. The momentum gained at the beginning of the game was long gone, however, and there was no coming back. Penn State's unfortunate tendency to go on long scoring droughts killed them again.
Or at least it would have, had Chambers not gone to a big lineup with Myreon Jones at the point and extended minutes for Buttrick alongside Stevens and John Harrar. Penn State clawed its way back to a lead on a Buttrick three with 8:53 left, and the game was in seesaw mode...until another cold spell during the last four minutes ultimately sealed the Lions' fate. Freshman stud Kira Lewis and Donta Hall were too much for the big lineup to handle down the stretch, and the Tide sealed things up at the line to win 73-64.
Stevens picked a bad time to have a down night after an outstanding effort at Duquesne on Wednesday. He and Jones, who was asked to gun as part of the big lineup, went a combined 9-for-35 from the floor. Any two teammates shooting that poorly won't end in a favorable result.
Penn State's non-conference wraps up next Saturday against UMBC, who obviously have experience beating teams much better than this PSU team. The Nittany Lions sit at 6-6 (0-2) with an absolutely daunting January Big Ten schedule staring them in the face. The margin of error for postseason contention is slim, and Chambers may well find himself on the hot seat soon despite signing a long-term extension this summer.