Fans react to Penn State’s Big Ten Tournament loss to Indiana and Puff Johnson’s missed buzzer-beater

Penn State's first season under new head coach Mike Rhoades ended in second-round disappointment with a last-second loss to Indiana. The Nittany Lions will miss the NCAA Tournament and likely the NIT a year after qualifying for the first time since 2011.
Penn State Nittany Lions forward Puff Johnson (4)
Penn State Nittany Lions forward Puff Johnson (4) / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

This time last year, Penn State was a basketball school. Micah Shrewsberry and Jalen Pickett were leading the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten Tournament final and an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. So, despite being seeded 11th in the conference, fans allowed their hopes to get up in Year 1 under Mike Rhoades, that he and Ace Baldwin Jr. could execute a similar unexpected path to steal a ticket to the big dance. 

After beating Michigan in Round 1 of the tournament, Penn State drew Indiana, a team that the Nittany Lions were 2-0 against this season, but shots just wouldn’t fall for Baldwin & Co. He and Qudus Wahab finished the first half a combined 0-13 and Penn State trailed 32-27. 

In the second half, the shooting improved a bit, with the team finishing 7-27 from three, but Puff Johnson, Penn State’s leading scorer on the night, missed the biggest shot of the night. Indiana senior guard Anthony Leal cleaned up a miss from Malik Reneau to give Indiana a two-point lead with just five seconds remaining. The Nittany Lions quickly got the ball up the floor, but Johnson’s three-point attempt at the buzzer wouldn’t go down. 

It was a 4-11 night from the field for Johnson, a senior transfer from North Carolina who said postgame that he hadn’t decided on whether to use his final year of eligibility and return or to finish his collegiate career. Well, certain frustrated Penn State fans are ready to see him go.

Others would like to see the Pittsburgh-native stay in central PA for another season. 

Even with Penn State’s season certainly ending without either an NCAA or NIT bid, spirits are high in Happy Valley. It was a season that could have cratered, especially after the dismissal of Kanye Clary, but Rhoades steadied the ship and maybe the right guy to lead the program. This fan thinks that’s the case. 

Penn State couldn’t get the final defensive stop it needed to extend the first year of Rhoades’s tenure but with the 25th-ranked incoming recruiting class, the Nittany Lions may not have to wait long to get back in the mix in March.