One stop is all Penn State needed. Leading 85-83 with 13 seconds left, the Nittany Lions were so close to finally getting over the hump and securing a much-needed win against No. 17 Purdue. Carsen Edwards, who scored 38 points on the night, tied the game on a missed double-team by Penn State and sent it to overtime. From there, a dominant overtime session by the Boilermakers lifted Purdue to a 99-90 victory, their third straight overtime win in State College.
The first half was as exciting of a half as we have seen from the Nittany Lions all season, but it didn't start promisingly. Edwards was blistering hot from the field early on. The Big Ten’s leading scorer had 17 points in the game's first eight minutes, including five three-pointers. Edwards and the Boilermakers scored early and often, and when another from Sasha Stefanovic extended the game to 31-14, it seemed like the 17th-ranked team in the country was going to win their sixth-straight with ease.
With the first half coming to an end, the Lions went on a run of their own. Nine-straight points by Penn State cut a 17 point deficit to eight, with Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins leading the way. Stevens registered 10 first-half points, while Watkins had nine. Watkins was dominant on the boards in the half. He collected nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass - which was huge in the Nittany Lions' efforts to climb back into the game.
Three-point shooting was the story of the half. The Boilermakers were a net-scorching 10-15 from deep in the first period, led by Edwards and Cline. Penn State answered with eight of their own to close the gap. A Watkins put-back on an offensive rebound put Penn State just three points behind Purdue with five seconds left in the half, but a deep, banked-in buzzer-beater by Aaron Wheeler concluded the first half at 50-44.
Edwards had another run in him to start the second half. Early on in the second half, Edwards scored 10 points in a row for Purdue to put them up by 8. Stevens was the Nittany Lion's leading scorer on the night with 24 points, despite shooting 4-13 from the field, and kept the home team in the game with his aggressiveness. Stevens made his living at the charity stripe all night, getting to the line 17 times and making 14 of them. Penn State attempted a season-high 41 free throws tonight, converting at a 73.2% clip - for once, free throw shooting wasn't a major concern in a tight game. At one of the TV timeouts, Matt Painter was heard yelling "don't foul them" to his team, frustrated by all the free points his team was giving to the underdogs.
After Myles Dread hit a big three to tie the game at 81-81, Ryan Cline knocked down a pair of free throws. Stevens was fouled on the next trip down, and stepped up to the line to convert on two big free throws to tie the game. After a stop by the defense and a huge offensive rebound by John Harrar, Bolton hit a baseline floater and Penn State took their first lead of the game with just 58 seconds to go, 85-83. This was a clutch shot from the freshman, a shot that the Nittany Lions have not hit all year long.
On the ensuing possession, Stevens appeared to have gotten fouled driving to the rim, but no call was made and Purdue was awarded the ball after the turnover. It was doubly frustrating as the play was reviewed for possession, making it all the more evident that a foul transpired. Stevens himself was not happy with the call:
— Lamar Stevens (@LamarStevens8) February 1, 2019
Nonetheless, Penn State was one stop away from the elusive first conference win. Out of the timeout, Painter gave the ball to Carson Edwards (who else?), who got to the rim far too easily and tied the game with five seconds left. After the game, Chambers stated there was a double team that was supposed to come but Edwards was too fast and beat the double before it could come together. Bolton pushed the ball down the right side of the court but his would-be game-winning three was blocked by Nojel Eastern and the game went to overtime.
Overtime was a struggle for the Lions, as absolutely nothing came easily and Purdue came out of the gates firing. Penn State went scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the extra session and didn't get their first field goal until there were 32 seconds left on the clock. Purdue did not waste time, scoring eight points on the first three possessions of overtime. The dagger came when Edwards anticipated a foul by Jamari Wheeler, chucking up a deep three that fell and drew a whistle for a back-breaking four point play. He made his free throw, and that was that. With 1:15 left, the Nittany Lions resorted to fouling, and Nojel Eastern made all six free throws to secure the 99-90 win for the visitors.
This was another classic Penn State performance, where they only played well on one side of the ball. 90 points should win the game for a typically defensively stout Nittany Lion team every single time, but the defense failed to make stops all game long, including crunch time. Purdue shot 55% from both the floor and the three-point line. While they made some tough baskets, they had far too many open players all night long. Purdue spread the ball excellently - every player who saw the floor scored on the night.
Penn State was excellent on the boards, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds leading to a whopping 23 second-chance points. They also only turned the ball over nine times in 45 minutes. Yet, 0-10 is a reality and that first win could be a long time coming.
Penn State will travel to Chicago to face off against Northwestern (12-9, 3-7) on Monday night (8pm EST, FS1). This game will be the first of a two game road trip after a two-game homestand. More on the Wildcats soon.