Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr. let the game-winning 3-point attempt fly and fell to the floor to watch it drop through the net at the buzzer.
Sitting in front of the Hoosiers’ bench, Blackmon Jr. got to his feet and started to make his back to halfcourt, bringing a finger to his mouth to quiet the crowd.
Chants had just filled the Bryce Jordan Center when the teams returned to the floor to play the final 4.6 seconds after an Indiana timeout.
Now, Blackmon Jr. was running down the court with teammates hanging on him, celebrating Indiana’s 78-75 win over Penn State on Wednesday night. The Nittany Lions (11-8, 3-3 Big Ten) came all the way back to tie it after trailing by as many as 14 in the second half and by 11 with less than five minutes to play, only to see Blackmon Jr. hit the game-winning shot on the final possession.
“It definitely stings a little more when you lose on a shot like that,” said Penn State guard Tony Carr, who finished with a career-high 24 points.
Blackmon Jr., Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson each had 17 points the Hoosiers (13-6, 3-3 Big Ten).
Penn State struggled with foul trouble in the first half, and Indiana took control. With Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins, Payton Banks, Josh Reaves and Julian Moore all being whistled for two fouls in the first half, Carr picked up the slack offensively.
He got into the lane constantly, scoring 13 points and going 8 for 9 from the foul line to lead the Nittany Lions, who shot 32.4 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and trailed 44-37 at the break.
“He willed us,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said of Carr. “He kept us in the game.”
The Nittany Lions then spent the second half playing from behind. Indiana pushed its lead to 12 points on a 3-pointer by Blackmon Jr. with 12:55 to play and maintained a comfortable lead until Carr hit a 3-pointer to bring Penn State within 71-65 with just more than three minutes to play.
Indiana stayed in control going into the final minute, but Penn State continued to rally.
Carr finished to cut the deficit to 75-70 with 57 seconds left, and the Nittany Lions started to foul to send the Hoosiers to the free-throw line. Indiana’s Curtis Jones missed the front end of back-to-back 1-and-1 opportunities to leave the door open for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State made the most of it.
Garner swished a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left, and Stevens came up with a steal and drove to the basket to draw a foul with 4.6 seconds to go. Stevens drilled both free throws to tie it 75-75, eliciting an eruption from the Bryce Jordan Center crowd.
Indiana then drew up a play for Blackmon Jr. He used three dribbles to get past halfcourt and got a screen from Bryant on Carr, forcing Moore to challenge his last-second shot.
“The whole key to things like that, you got a dribble per second, right?” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “That play can be run anywhere from 4 (seconds left) and above. (4.6) that’s right about the cusp of it. He did a great job getting the ball up.”
Blackmon Jr. then rose up and fired from 3-point range over Moore for the game-winner with no time left on the clock.
“He made a tough shot,” Garner said. “It was a tough shot.”
Penn State returns to action at No. 21 Purdue at noon Saturday.