John Johnson stepped to the foul line with a chance to pad Penn State’s lead.
Johnson knocked down 7 of his first 8 free throws and hit four straight earlier in the second half against Marshall. But Johnson missed both free throws and missed two more less than a minute later.
The Thundering Herd was soon within four points, still alive thanks to the misses. Penn State went 19 for 30 from the stripe in the second half, a number that contributed to yet another tight finish in the Nittany Lions’ 73-69 win Saturday.
Penn State never trailed in the second half, but it couldn’t run away with a comfortable victory.
“When you have a 10-point lead, I think it was, and you get yourself to the line, you got to make free throws,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said Monday. “You got to win the game.”
Penn State is riding a six-game winning streak heading into its game against Duquesne at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Chambers said he was surprised by Johnson’s four straight misses. Johnson is among the team’s best free throw shooters at 70.7 percent for the season. Shep Garner leads the team, shooting 15 of 17 (88.2 percent) — with one of his misses intentional to seal PSU’s win over Southern California. Geno Thorpe is shooting 87.9 percent, and D.J. Newbill has made 77.9 percent of his free throws.
Ross Travis is shooting 12.5 percent from the foul line.
Travis went 0 for 9 from the line in three of the first four games. He was then 1 for 5 against Virginia Tech and 1 for 2 against Marshall.
Travis has made a slight change in his routine.
“We just moved him back four to six inches because his form’s fine,” Chambers said. “It’s not like he’s missing right or left. He’s missing back iron every time — almost every time.”
Penn State ranks ninth in the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 68.2 percent.
Newbill said improving comes down to focus and putting in extra work.
“Nothing more than that,” Newbill said. “You can’t really put a game situation in practice. Guys just got to go to the line with confidence.”
Chambers discusses MSG game
Penn State will play Michigan in Madison Square Garden on Jan. 30, 2016 as part of a hockey-basketball doubleheader, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune. The paper spoke with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney.
The doubleheader is being called “Big Ten Day” at MSG and is part of a deal with the World’s Most Famous Arena to host the 2018 Big Ten men’s basketball tournament. It will be announced Tuesday, according to the report, as the conference has an announcement scheduled for 4 p.m.
Chambers spoke about the benefits of playing a game at Madison Square Garden.
“I just think the experience for your players on your team, No. 1,” Chambers said. “No. 2, the Northeast corridor, we’re recruiting in that corridor and we have a lot of kids from the East. And who doesn’t want to play in the most historical arena in the world?”
The coach said he traded a home game while at Boston University in 2011 to play Albany at the arena in New York City. The Terriers won the America East matchup 63-44 in a doubleheader featuring a Big East matchup between St. John’s and Connecticut.
Penn State’s last trip to MSG was in 2009, when the Nittany Lions won the NIT championship under former coach Ed DeChellis.
“I’m hoping that Penn Staters are going to come out,” Chambers said. “If I recall, when (DeChellis) took his team in 2009 for the NIT championship, I heard there was buses upon buses that went to MSG, so I think a lot of good can come out of this game in a couple of years.”
Turnovers plague PSU
Turnovers contributed to Marshall’s comeback Saturday.
Brandon Taylor had a pass picked off that led to a breakaway opportunity and two free throws with eight minutes left. Penn State had a shot-clock violation that was followed by a Thundering Herd 3-pointer late nearly six minutes later. A Newbill turnover gave Marshall the chance to pull within one point with just more than a minute to go.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball,” Chambers said. “We had some just really, just live-ball turnovers that put them back in the game.”
Penn State finished with 14 turnovers, while Marshall had 11. It was the fourth time in five games that the Nittany Lions had more turnovers than their opponent.
Penn State is averaging 14.1 turnovers per game.
Newbill holding up
Newbill remained among the nation’s leading scorers, ranking fourth with 23.3 per game.
But he was also among the country’s leaders in minutes.
He was tied for fifth in total minutes (344) and fifth in minutes per game (38.1).
But Newbill said he’s holding up to the heavy workload.
“Sometimes (Chambers) limits my reps in practice,” Newbill said. “I come in and get treatment like every day: Ice tubs, cold tubs, just getting iced down (to) recover. So no, it doesn’t weigh on me.”