Riding a four-game winning streak and coming off arguably the biggest win in Patrick Chambers’ tenure, Penn State had yet another opportunity to impress the NCAA selection committee.
But the Nittany Lions came up short.
Tony Carr’s 3-point attempt as time expired didn’t go, and Penn State fell to No. 6 Purdue 76-73 on Sunday night in West Lafayette.
Carr led the Nittany Lions in scoring with 19 points, Shep Garner added 17 with five 3-pointers, and Carsen Edwards guided Purdue with a game-high 27.
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Penn State faced an 11-point deficit early in the second half — but Garner dialed in from distance, and the Nittany Lions didn’t trail by more than four in the final seven minutes.
The Nittany Lions had a shot to tie it up, down 74-72 with 4.9 seconds remaining. Penn State forward Mike Watkins — a 61 percent free-throw shooter — had two attempts from the charity stripe. But he missed the front end and made the second, and Edwards hit a pair of free throws to give Purdue a three-point advantage with two seconds to go.
Carr’s heave near halfcourt slammed off the backboard and fell harmlessly to the floor as Mackey Arena erupted — and the Nittany Lions’ chance to garner more NCAA tournament attention slipped through their grasps.
Player of the game
Carsen Edwards: With forward Vincent Edwards out with an ankle sprain, the Boilermakers had to replace his 14.9 points per game.
Carsen Edwards, of no relation to Vincent, picked it up.
The sophomore ballhandler connected on 9 of 19 field goal attempts and added four rebounds and two assists in 35 minutes.
The one-time Big Ten Player of the Year candidate showed why he’s held in such high regard.
Missed FT: Sunday wasn’t Mike Watkins’ night.
His foul situation could’ve been fatal to Penn State’s upset chances and wasn’t (see below) — but his missed free throw with 4.9 seconds left was a backbreaker.
After a fine offensive board, Watkins was whacked, his layup attempt sailing wide. With the game in his hands, the big man clanked his first attempt off the back of the rim.
It was a tough situation — and evening — for Watkins.
Julian Moore: Watkins, who averages 12.9 points per game, managed only two after playing nine minutes — hampered by four fouls.
Moore is a big reason why the Nittany Lions hung around without Watkins.
The 6-foot-10 senior posted six points in 14 minutes, hitting all three of his field goal attempts. And while overmatched on paper, Moore held his own defensively against Purdue star center Isaac Haas and 7-foot-3 freshman Matt Haarms.
Home finale: After a disappointing night in West Lafayette, the Nittany Lions return to the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday and host a hot Michigan squad.
The No. 22 Wolverines (22-7, 11-5) have won five of their last six contests, including a 74-62 triumph over No. 8 Ohio State on Sunday.
Of course, Penn State took care of the Buckeyes in its last home game. The BJC was electric for the Nittany Lions’ monumental 23-point win over Ohio State last week.
Wednesday night could deliver a similar atmosphere.