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Penn State Basketball: Miscue Dooms Nittany Lions In 81-77 Overtime Loss

by on March 01, 2015 6:00 AM

"I passed it to the other team."

That was all DJ Newbill had to say about his errant inbound pass turnover with less than a minute to play in overtime with Penn State down by just a single point.

It was a play that essentially ended the game. Iowa took a three point lead on the next possession and hit some clutch free throws to seal the deal. The Hawkeyes notched an 81-77 victory over the Nittany Lions.

For Penn State it was the latest in a long line of near victories that turned into narrow defeats. The Nittany Lions opened the game with a 20-9 lead thanks to hot shooting and strong defense. Penn State cooled midway through the first half but managed to keep the Hawkeyes in check for most of the opening frame. Iowa shot only 35-percent from the field the entire game and the recently potent offense was held to only eight made three-pointers all game.

Iowa eventually gained a two point lead with just over a minute to go in the half, taking a 31-29 margin into the locker room after 20 minutes of play. Despite holding a lead as big as 12 points in the early stages of Saturday night's loss, Penn State had to have felt good about its position heading into the second half. The Nittany Lions scored 29 points with DJ Newbill accounting for only two of those points. Penn State also matched Iowa with timely shots and key rebounds.

When Newbill opened the second half with eight quick points it seemed that Penn State had everything going for it. The offense was making baskets, the defense wasn't giving up big runs and the scoring was balanced.

Iowa slowly chipped away at Penn State though, making shots and forcing turnovers in a critical stretch midway through the second half. In a span of just over four minutes Penn State's one point lead turned into a seven point Iowa advantage with 9:01 to go.

In typical fashion, Penn State didn't roll over after that punch, pushing back to tie the game at 61-61 with 6:24 to go in regulation. The tandem of Geno Thorpe and Shep Garner put together a 31 point outing. Garner hit 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. Ross Travis added 10 points to put four Nittany Lions in double figures on the night.

The game's back and forth final minutes were as hectic as any in Penn State's season but both teams scored only seven points in those final six minutes. A dunk by Aaron White with 2:12 to go put the Hawkeyes up by a basket and it wasn't until a driving DJ Newbill was fouled with 18 seconds to play that another point was scored in the game.

From there Newbill hit both free throws -- a key moment for Penn State's star who has been anything but automatic from the line. Penn State defended out the final 18 seconds of play, sending the game into overtime and more importantly giving the Nittany Lions a chance to finally win. 

In overtime it was the misfortune that always seems to hit Penn State at the worst possible moments. Iowa hit two deep threes in the final seconds of the shot clock to take an early six point lead in the overtime period. Penn State battled back, tying the game with 45 seconds to play, once again giving the Nittany Lions hope.

An Iowa free throw gave the Hawkeyes a one point lead with 31 seconds to go and that set up a Penn State possession to decide the game.

But that was when it happened, Newbill, who scored 17 second half points, went to inbound the ball to Geno Thorpe and failed to see Iowa's Aaron White who easily intercepted the pass.

The rest was history.

Penn State returns to action on Wednesday to face Ohio State for the final home game of the regular season. 

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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