"Foul" Play Dooms Nittany Lions

Confusion over a foul call forces Penn State star guard Frazier to bench near the end of Wednesday's tight Big Ten loss to Minnesota at the Jordan Center.

Penn State coach Pat Chambers was in a foul mood after Wednesday's 68-65 loss to Minnesota at the Jordan Center. In falling to 0-3 in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions blew an eight-point second-half lead and played the final minute with their two best players parked on the bench.

Leading scorer D.J. Newbill fouled out with no points after logging only 14 minutes overall. And All-Big Ten backcourt mate Tim Frazier fouled out with just less than a minute left, after a half-court hack of a Golden Gopher when Frazier thought he had only three fouls.

“He has to be smarter and as a team we've got to be smarter,” Chambers said of Frazier. “Newbill has to be smarter. It's upsetting. (Just) play hard and play smart. We just have to get the concept.”

PSU led 59-57 with 2:08 remaining when Minnesota's Austin Hollins blew down the lane. Bodies fell and a whistle blew. Frazier emerged from the pile limping. And the Penn State bench thought the foul had been called on backup guard Allen Roberts.

Instead, it went to Frazier, and was his fourth.

“It's on me,” Chambers said of losing track of the foul situation.

Frazier left the game for a short spell, and the Gophers pounced. Hollins made one of two to cut it to 59-58, then Minnesota forced a turnover by rookie guard Geno Thorpe and scored on a tip-in to go up 60-59.

Frazier subbed right back in. The Lions tied it (60-60) when forward Ross Travis made one of two free throws, but that proved to be another issue on this night. As a team, PSU was 18 of 29 from the stripe, including 6 of 14 in the second half.

With just under a minute left and the Lions giving half-court pressure to try to disrupt the Gophers, Frazier hacked 6-foot-8 plodder Oto Osenieks 45 feet away from the basket. When the scorer's table announced Frazier had fouled out, the PSU bench was stunned. So was Frazier.

For his part, Frazier, who finished with a game-high 20 points and eight assists, took the blame for the blunder.

“It's a stupid foul,” he said. “I thought it was my fourth, but it wasn't a smart foul whether it was my fourth or fifth. That's all on me.”

Osenieks made one of two. But with State's two best players on the pine, the Lions would never lead again. Down three in the closing seconds, John Johnson and Roberts both got open looks from the arc but both missed.

“We've got to make plays,” Chambers said.

Penn State opened the game 2 of 10 from the floor and quickly fell behind 7-0 and later 12-2. But Frazier helped pull them out of the funk, and the offense flowed for the rest of the first half, going 9 of 20.

Frazier scored 13 before the break, including a 7-of-8 showing from the line, as Penn State took a 35-30 lead into the break. This despite Newbill being limited to eight minutes and no points due to foul trouble.

The Lions fell to 9-7 overall. Minnesota improved to 13-3 and 2-1 in the conference.

SHORT SHOTS

• Thorpe made his first career start, getting the nod in place of forward Brandon Taylor. He finished with eight points. Chambers said he made the change because, “We needed some toughness.”

• Chambers was clearly not happy with his troops after this one, and lamented that they seemed distracted. When asked to elaborate, he said, “You name it. Minutes. Shots. Social media. They're people. Somehow we've got to cocoon them, get our arms around them.”

• Next up for Penn State is a game against Indiana at the BJC Saturday. It tips at noon and can be seen on the BTN.


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