Penn State coach Patrick Chambers briefly explained the individual matchups his team faced in the second half before his mind drifted back to the game-turning play at the end of regulation.
The Nittany Lions led by three points and chose to foul Purdue guard Jon Octeus with 9.4 seconds left. After Octeus missed both free throws, all Penn State needed to do was grab the rebound to seal the win. “This is terrific,” Chambers said of his thoughts on the second miss.
But the loose ball landed in the hands of Kendall Stephens, Purdue’s top 3-point threat. And Stephens dribbled to the left corner and tried to get his feet set behind the arc as quickly as possible.
He buried the game-tying 3 — Purdue’s ninth in the second half — with 5.7 seconds left and the teams went to overtime. The Boilermakers scored the first eight points of the extra period and Penn State couldn’t recover in an 84-77 loss Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“We were prepared for everything,” Chambers said with a shrug before replaying the crucial possession again. “Unlucky right now, unlucky. The strategy was good at the end. I mean they made nine 3s. They haven’t done that in a long time, so give them credit. Hat’s off. We just got to squeeze that rebound. We squeeze that rebound, I’m sitting up here 1-4 and we’re all in a good mood. We’re in a good place heading out to Michigan State.”
Instead, Penn State sits in last place in the Big Ten at 0-5. The Nittany Lions (12-6) will take a five-game losing streak into Wednesday’s matchup with the Spartans, trying to avoid a repeat of an 0-6 start to conference play much like last season. And the devastating loss Saturday left Chambers repeating what he has throughout his tenure.
“I know every year I’m saying this, but we’re so close,” Chambers said.
The loss also turned D.J. Newbill’s career-high 37-point effort into a footnote. Newbill scored 17 of Penn State’s final 19 points in regulation, singlehandedly keeping the Nittany Lions ahead in a tight contest until Stephens’ game-tying 3-pointer. Newbill then scored all 10 of his team’s points in overtime.
Newbill’s 37 points set a single-game record for a Penn State player in Big Ten play. Joe Crispin held the previous mark with 35 against Iowa in 2001. Newbill finished 13 for 23 from the field, accounting for half of the Nittany Lions’ field goals. He was the lone Penn State player to score in double figures.
But his big day wasn’t enough.
After Newbill hit a pair of free throws to push Penn State ahead 67-64 with 12.4 seconds left, the Nittany Lions elected to foul Octeus just past halfcourt to take away Purdue’s chance for a game-tying 3.
Octeus missed both, and Chambers said his players froze when they didn’t get the rebound. Stephens set up for the 3-pointer Chambers tried to negate with the first foul.
“We got to foul again, but we didn’t,” Chambers said.
Stephens knocked down the 3 to send the game to overtime tied 67-67.
“It was probably the biggest shot of my career,” said Stephens, who finished with a team-high 22 points and went 6 for 12 from beyond the arc.
Purdue (11-7, 3-2) trailed for the majority of the final 13-plus minutes, but the Boilermakers went into overtime with confidence.
“It gave us that sense of belief that we can win the game,” Octeus said. “As coach would say, the basketball gods were on our side tonight. He made a big shot for us, and I don’t know, I’m sitting here still excited that we got this one.”
Chambers said Penn State went into overtime “completely deflated.”
“It’s a shame,” Chambers said. “We can’t let that bother us. We can’t get down. We talk about being men and acting like men and that’s what we got to do. It’s unfortunate but we can’t live in the past.”
Penn State took a 34-25 lead into the break, thanks to a hot shooting start. Brandon Taylor went 3 for 3 from beyond the arc to pace the team with nine points. Newbill had eight on 4 of 6 shooting. The Nittany Lions had eight different players score while shooting 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“I thought I was going to see a second half of just blitzkrieg just getting after it,” Chambers said. “And that’s not what I saw. And then obviously overtime, we kind of lost our hope. And I’m constantly working on the mindset, constantly talking to them about we’re a good team.”
In the second half and overtime, Taylor was held scoreless. Newbill poured in 29 of the team’s 43 points while the Nittany Lions shot 38.9 percent from the field.
Still, one play at the end of regulation changed the course of the game.
Penn State couldn’t come up with the rebound.
“We’re finding ways to lose,” Chambers said. “It’s been amazing these last four games we’re right there. We’re going to get over the hump I know it because these kids want to get over the hump.”