Despite a strong opening effort that saw Penn State lead Purdue at the half, the Nittany Lions dropped a 58-49 decision to the Boilermakers Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center; their ten straight loss this season and 14th straight in the B1G conference going back to last season. Purdue’s impressive freshman four was led by A.J. Hammons’ 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Ronnie Johnson had a career high 16 points, Donnie Hale scored 10, and Rapheal Davis added eight as Purdue’s freshman combined for 49 of the team’s 59 points. D.J. Newbill led the Lions with 17 points and seven assists.
If you want to play on Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities,” this game really was the best the times, and the worst of times. Penn State came out in the first half playing with a sense of urgency and a commitment to finding a third scorer early. Of the first 20 shots by the Lions, only two were by Newbill and Jermaine Marshall. Brandon Taylor was crashing the boards early and often grabbing two early offensive rebounds and totaling five boards by the midway point of the half. Taylor, the 2nd worst shooter in B1G Conference play, even hit a three to give Penn State at 15-10 lead with 8:33 left in the first half.
After two more Penn state buckets, both assisted on by Newbill, D.J. took and made his first shot attempt with 5:46 left in the half. His jumper gave the Nittany Lions a nine point lead (their largest in B1G play this year) at 21-12. Although Purdue would finish the half on a 12-4 run, Penn State still held a one point lead 25-24 fueled by a balanced attack that saw six Lions register at least two points.
Sasa Borovnjak led the team with six points on 3-6 shooting and held A.J. Hammons to just 1-4 shooting. However, he picked up two unfortunate and unnecessary fouls late in the half that would hamper his contributions the rest of the game. With 3:07 left, Hammons was going in for a dunk when Sasa tried to block his shot from behind, and just over a minute later was called for a reach in foul trying to deny an entry pass into the post, his third foul of the game. Without his presence in the post, Purdue started the second half pounding the ball into the paint with dribble drives and post-ups by Hammons and Hale.
Then, it was the worst of times: Purdue started the second half as hot as they finished it, opening with a 7-1 run to take a 31-26 lead with 16:34 left in the game. Penn State would rally and a Newbill layup actually tied the game 33-33, but the Nittany Lions offense sputtered after that, scoring only one field goal the next 5:25 of the game. Penn State would make one more run (eight of the 10 points scored by Newbill), but Nick Colella missed a wide-open three with a chance to cut the lead to three.
The two teams combined to shoot 2-30 from three point range and 18 turnovers. Jermaine Marshall had an uncharacteristically terrible game shooting 2-14, including 0-5 from behind the three point line. The Nittany Lions had three players (Colella, Borovnjak, and Jon Graham) foul out of the game and only shot 30.6% for the game. In what was billed as one of maybe two potential wins on their schedule left, Penn State couldn’t keep up the #attitude they started with in the first half.
Brandon Taylor stopped rebounding (his five rebounds in the first ten of minutes of the game would also reflect his total for the game) and kept shooting (what I hope were) ill-advised three point shots (1-6). There is no reason he should have the green light to keep launching anymore this season. Overall as a team, Penn State is settling for three point shots instead of forcing the ball into the paint. Let’s hope they can bounce back from another disappointing loss before their next game and possible last chance at a win, Saturday night at Nebraska.