By nearly any measure, Ross Travis had a disappointing regular season for Penn State. But Thursday in Chicago, it all finally came together for the senior power forward and team captain.
Travis scored a season-high 17 points and came through with a huge three-point play late in the game as the No. 13 seed Nittany Lions stunned No. 5 seed Iowa, 67-58, at the Big Ten Tournament.
Penn State (18-15) has won three straight conference games for the first time all season and will now face No. 4 seed Purdue in quarterfinal action Friday. The game tips at 2:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN.
With the Nittany Lions nursing a 58-56 lead and the shot clock winding down in the final minute, Travis went baseline around Hawkeye Gabriel Olaseni. Travis flipped in a reverse layup and was fouled.
A 25-perent free-throw shooter going into the game, he swished this shot to give PSU a 61-56 lead with 30 seconds remaining.
D.J Newbill followed with a steal and slam to boost the edge to 63-56 and ice the game. Newbill finished with a team-high 18.
The Lions trailed 27-19 at the break and seemed doomed after making only 7 of 28 shots in the first half. But as has been the case most of the season, they did not roll over.
In fact, they heated up in the second half, exploding for 48 points. PSU led by as many as nine (52-43) before the season-long bugaboo of allowing opponents to dominate the offensive class popped up again.
Iowa had 18 offensive rebounds in this game, leading to easy stick-backs or free throws. Speaking of which, the Hawkeyes were 25 of 31 from the line, and forward Aaron White's two freebies actually cut the lead to 58-56 with 1:45 showing.
But that only set up Travis' heroics.
White led Iowa with 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Jared Uthoff had 17.
Newbill had seven points with less than eight minutes to go in the game. He scored nine in the final 7:45. More on this later.
Travis made 5 of 6 free throws Thursday. Clutch stuff.
Penn State only had eight turnovers in the game. As dicey as things looked against the Iowa press down the stretch, that's actually not a bad number.
Geno Thorpe did not have a great shooting night for PSU (4 of 12). But he had a career-high six steals.
Shep Garner (1 of 6) and Brandon Taylor (1 of 5) both struggled from the floor for PSU. But both hit big 3-pointers in the second half.
For the second straight game, PSU benefitted from an opponent losing his cool. This time it was Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who was irate over what he thought was a missed goal-tending call on the Lions. Newbill made the two free throws for the Lions, and they were his first points of the second half (and began his late-game tear).
We like BTN color man Jim Jackson. But we're not sure what he was watching when he said the aforementioned non-goaltending call was blown by the zebras. Adam Woodbury's jumper was clearly below the rim when Taylor hauled it in.