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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Fall 76-73 To No. 6 Purdue

by on February 18, 2018 11:39 PM

Penn State lost 76-73 to No. 6 Purdue on the road Sunday night.

Which on one hand was a missed opportunity.

Penn State spent the night largely without Mike Watkins who spent much of the game on the bench after two quick fouls and after a foul/technical combo got him to foul No. 4 not far into the second half. Purdue also spent the night without Vince Edwards, who sits on top a list of Purdue's most important players.

On the other hand it was probably the best display of how far Penn State basketball has come. It isn't wrong to say that the Nittany Lions don't have time for moral victories.

And they don't.

But Penn State has traveled to Purdue for years and has left looking like it didn't know which sport to play. On Sunday night the Nittany Lions played a game without one of its most crucial players, struggled, trailed by double digits, led by nearly double digits, and came a shot away from sending it to overtime.

That's really what you need to know.

By the end of the night Tony Carr rolled in 19 points while Lamar Stevens added 13, and Shep Garner contributed a timely 17 from almost entirely from behind the arc. Nazeer Bostick and Julian Moore added 12 off the bench, Josh Reaves with seven of his own, but it wasn't quite enough. 

As a result Penn State is set to host a Top 25 Michigan team before traveling to Nebraska and the eventual Big Ten Tournament with as somewhat ambiguous understanding of what they have to do to make the NCAA Tournament. That's a truth not yet spoken, the Nittany Lions have a made a run during the back half of the year, but a NCAA postseason birth has been predicated on something of a miracle run through a handful of Top 25 team. So far that goal has seemed certainly possible, but Sunday night was a reminder it's easier said than done.

Nevertheless, Penn State appears to be to a lock for the NIT, something not to be disregarded in the face of so many months of March spend at home.

But if the NCAA dream comes up just a win shy, it will be hard to forget a night like Sunday, where another marquee win was just a bucket shy. Equally true, how far the program has come where losing on the road to a Top 10 Purdue team, has felt like coming up short. 

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