Nittany Lions Unravel Again

Another late gaffe proves costly as Penn State falls to Iowa in OT at the Jordan Center. Photo gallery is included.

HARVEY LEVINE'S PHOTO GALLERY

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The play that effectively decided struggling Penn State's Saturday night home game against surging Iowa at the Jordan Center happened with half a minute remaining in overtime.

And depending on your viewpoint, it was either a great hustle play by one of the Big Ten's best veterans … or … an unthinkable brain cramp by another of the league's top elder statesmen.

Anybody who has been following the hard-luck Nittany Lions all season can probably guess which senior represented which team.

By way of setting the scene, Penn State trailed 75-74 after the Hawkeyes made a free throw with 31 seconds left in OT. The shot clock was off. The game was in the Lions' hands.

That's when, from the Iowa perspective, senior forward Aaron White made one of the team's plays of the season. Instead of bolting down the floor to play defense, he ad-libbed his own one-man press, and intercepted the inbound pass.

He was fouled, and made both free throws for a 77-74 lead. He would make four more freebies in the closing seconds to hold off PSU in an 81-77 win.

“The steal was the play of the game,” Hawkeye coach Fran McCaffery said. “This was a hard-fought game. Both teams really competed. Both teams put themselves in position to win. Somebody has to make the play, and (White) did.”

Penn State fans probably have a different take. With all due respect to the heads-up play by White, it never happens without another late-game gaffe by the Nittany Lions. And senior scoring machine D.J. Newbill has been in the middle of more than his share of them.

Saturday, Newbill was the guy inbounding the ball with 31 seconds remaining. He was nonchalant, the pass to teammate Geno Thorpe lazy.

While Penn State would not have been in this game without Newbill's team-high 19 points -- and its 3-13 B1G record would likely be 1-15 without him -- the turnover was a dagger in a winnable game.

Asked what happened, Newbill said, “I passed it to the other team,” and added he did not see White lurking. When pressed on how important the play was, he replied, “We still had a chance. (There was) still a lot of time left on the clock.”

Under ordinary circumstances, he might have been right. But not on this night. Iowa was sizzling at the free-throw line, hitting 25 of 27 attempts. To the surprise of nobody, White made six in a row in the final 30 seconds, and that was that.

“Let's give Aaron White some credit,” Chambers said. “A senior who came up big on the road.”

That's one way of looking at it.

“I feel for him,” Chambers said of Newbill. “You know he wants to do the right thing, he doesn't want to turn it over there. It's unfortunate, it's unlucky.”

And, for Newbill and his teammates, it has been all too common in this lost Big Ten season.

LOSING RECORD FIRMLY IN PLAY

After going 12-1 in non-conference action, Chambers' squad (15-14, 3-13) now seems likely to finish the regular season with a losing record.

Penn State plays host to Ohio State Wednesday. The Lions must beat either the Buckeyes (who crushed them 75-55 in Columbus Feb. 11) or win at Minnesota next Sunday to finish the regular season with a winning record.

They will be underdogs in both games.

PSU beat Minnesota 63-58 at the BJC Jan. 28. But the Lions are 0-8 on the road in the B1G this year, and have not been competitive away from the Jordan Center since a 64-58 loss at Maryland Feb. 4.

The Ohio State game tips at 6 p.m. and can be seen on BTN.

NOTHING FREE ABOUT IT

Lion forward Ross Travis was an impressive (for him) 2 of 5 from the free throw line Saturday. Why was that noteworthy?

Prior to Saturday, the Lions' starting power forward had not made more than one free throw in a game all season. Wrap your head around that. Travis boosted his free throw percentage to 30 Saturday.

In the meantime, Penn State was 1 of 4 from the stripe in the first half and 13 of 20 in the game. The thing is, 65 percent does not cut it when your opponent is making more than 90 percent.

SHORT SHOTS

Shep Garner had 17 points, Thorpe 14 and Travis 10 for PSU. … White led Iowa (19-10, 10-6) with 21 points and 14 boards. … Center Jordan Dickerson had six rebounds, five points, four blocks, three steals and an assist for the Lions. … Iowa scored 20 points off 15 PSU turnovers, five of them by Newbill.


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