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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Fall 64-63 To Wisconsin

by on December 04, 2017 10:00 PM

For the most part it has gone unspoken but assumed that Penn State needs to make the postseason if Pat Chambers wants to keep his job. It would be inaccurate to say that it's a fact, but it certainly feels that way.

And in truth there is an argument to be made Chambers shouldn't be fired, a conversation for a different day.

But whatever happens, games like Monday night will determine it.

Penn State, a team that has been on a somewhat unforgiving grind to open the year, couldn't hit anything on the offensive end against a Wisconsin team not much more interested in doing the same. The result was a slogging first half that was highlighted only by a dueling Mike Watkins and Ethan Happ. 

Even so the Badgers found themselves ahead 31-25 at the break, despite Penn State having played better basketball along the way.

And in the second half Wisconsin, for all of its issues, slowly pulled away from a Penn State team that just looked out of sort as turnovers and missed shots did little to cut into the mounting deficit. Tony Carr would finish the night going 5-of-22, Lamar Stevens following that up with a 1-of-7 performance of his own.

It has become something of a tradition for Penn State teams under Chambers to rise from their own ashes and make something out of nothing. And the Nittany Lions did it again on Monday -- blocks and steals, free throws and dunks. It added up, and slowly but surely that once 17-point deficit shrank. By the 15 second mark two Carr free throws cut the lead to just a single point, and a missed free throw the other way gave Penn State the ball with a chance to win.

After the game Pat Chambers would say that Carr had the ball in his hands with a favorable matchup, and that there was no reason to call a timeout. But Carr never really got a great look, heaving up a three in the final seconds that was a head scratcher the moment it left his hand. It didn't fall, and moments later Penn State did, 64-63.

In and of itself Penn State's loss is not the end of the world. The Nittany Lions are 7-3 and 1-1 in the Big Ten and still probably one of the five most talented teams in the conference. They will be in far more games this season than not, and will win their fair share.

But ultimately they have to win. The moral victories have dried up with the talent Penn State has on its roster and the combo of Tony Carr and Mike Watkins, who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks, seem not long for Happy Valley before the next stage of their careers.

It's unfair to balance a career on quite literally a single point, but if Penn State is going to make the postseason it will have done so because it won more of these kinds of games than it lost. And so far it's hard to say which way the scales are leaning.

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