Penn State coach Patrick Chambers already discussed the situation moments earlier and liked what he saw — his best player had the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game in the final seconds.
Nittany Lions point guard Tony Carr grabbed the rebound off of a missed free throw by Wisconsin’s Aleem Ford with 13 seconds left and brought the ball down the floor. With Wisconsin forward Khalil Iverson guarding him and the clock winding down, Carr missed a 3-pointer as the Nittany Lions fell 64-63 to the Badgers on Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Chambers didn’t question his point guard’s decision to fire from beyond the arc on the final possession.
“He’s a heck of a player and he makes really good decisions, so I’m going to trust that decision,” Chambers said.
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Carr scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but the point guard struggled offensively. He finished 5 for 22 from the field and 0 for 3 from beyond the arc in the loss for Penn State (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten). Carr came into the game shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 59.4 percent from 3-point range while averaging a team-high 20.6 points.
“I haven’t seen everybody in the league, but he’s got to be one of the more improved second-year guys in the league,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “You just try to stay solid on him, make him have to make tough shots, try not to let him get to the rim. His 3-point shooting’s improved so you got to be cautious of that.”
The Badgers (4-5, 1-1) played Carr tough all night, but he made plays late to contribute to the Nittany Lions’ comeback. He drove and finished a layup and knocked down a pair of free throws to keep Penn State within one point and set up the final sequence.
Chambers didn’t consider a timeout — he and his staff had talked about the final possession and decided to see what Carr could do if he had the ball.
But he couldn’t get the potential game-winning shot to fall.
“He’s fine,” Penn State guard Shep Garner said. “We’re a team that sticks together through thick and thin. We didn’t lose the game on that shot. It’s a long game — a lot of mistakes from start to finish. We’re confident in him to make those shots. He didn’t make it tonight, but we didn’t lose the game on that play.”
Nittany Lions rally
Penn State trailed by double digits for 10 straight minutes in the second half. The Nittany Lions fell behind by 17 points with less than 10 minutes left, but they chipped away at Wisconsin’s lead and pulled within eight points with 3:36 remaining.
From there, Penn State continued to rally.
“I do have more in me to give,” Chambers said, referring to his team’s mental toughness. “I got more to give, and once they realize that, and they like the defenses that we were playing, we were turning ’em over and we were getting misses and we were getting rebounds and then the ball starts going in.”
Garner knocked down a 3-pointer — the second of the night for Penn State, which finished 2 for 14 from beyond the arc — to pull his team within 60-57 and bring the fans to their feet with less than two minutes to play.
Garner added a pair of free throws to bring his team within one point, but the Nittany Lions never took the lead.
Iverson led Wisconsin with 16 points, Nate Reuvers added 11 points, and Ethan Happ finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Happ finished 3 for 12 from the field.
D’Mitrik Trice added nine points and hit four crucial free throws in the final minute to help hold off Penn State.
Watkins leads PSU
Mike Watkins pulled down lob passes in the paint and soared for dunks to spark Penn State offensively.
The Nittany Lions forward finished with a game-high 22 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks. During an early stretch in the first half, he hit a pair of free throws, finished a layup and threw down two dunks to go with a pair of blocks on Wisconsin’s Happ. Josh Reaves found Watkins throughout the first half and finished with a game-high five assists — with all five coming on finishes by Watkins.
George Washington at Penn State, 4 p.m. Saturday: Penn State returns to nonconference action this weekend. The Nittany Lions have five nonconference games remaining before facing Maryland on the road on Jan. 2.