Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Fall Late To Pitt 78-69
Playing in its fifth game in 10 days, Penn State nearly knocked off an undefeated Pitt Panthers' team on Tuesday night but the Nittany Lions lost their legs in the late stages of the game and Pitt pulled away to win the contest 78-69.
The Nittany Lions were led by senior guard Tim Frazier who scored 15 first-half points and 27 by the game's end as Penn State battled back and forth with the Panthers who have only lost three non conference games at home in the history of the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers improved to 105-6 in the arena in non conference play following Tuesday night's game.
The Nittany Lions held their own in the early going thanks to cold shooting by both teams, and the Panthers did not take a lead in the game until 8:06 to go in the first half.
Frazier was all-business the entire night despite being saddled with two early fouls that limited his ability to attack on the defensive side of the ball. Guard DJ Newbill chipped in 18 points but the entire Nittany Lion team struggled to keep Pitt off of the free throw line as the Panthers shot 14 free throws in the first half, while making only 7-of-25 shots from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
Penn State was up by as many as 7 in the first half but Pitt cut into the lead as the Nittany Lions took a 30-28 lead into the break.
In the second half it was a game of runs as both teams looked to gain an advantage as the game entered the later and later stages. Penn State led by 6 with 15:58 to play but Pitt responded quickly to take a 7 point lead of their own with 8:54 to play.
The Nittany Lions were able to survive the Panther push and brought the lead down to a single point thanks to some key free throws by Frazier. Frazier would pick up a phantom third foul with 14:07 left in the game forcing him to the bench and disrupting Penn State's flow midway through the second half.
Penn State would battle back to hold a one-point 59-58 lead with just over five minutes to play though, but Pitt would regain the lead less than 20 seconds later and never looked back. Penn State coach Patrick Chambers used the game as a chance to give his bench and younger players some significant playing time but at the same time Penn State continued to give Pitt momentum shifting And-1 plays and the Nittany Lions struggled to hit their shots late in the game.
Overall the performance proved what Penn State coach Patrick Chambers had been saying heading into the game. That the Nittany Lions should be taken seriously. A double-digit underdog in Vegas by as many as 17-points, Penn State easily held its own in its fifth game in 10 days with one of the more talented teams in the nation. The Nittany Lions will need to continue to get stronger in the paint on both sides of the ball and continue to increase their collective basketball IQ, but there was little doubt that Tuesday night's results was more positive than negative for the program.
Penn State will return to action this weekend at the Bryce Jordan Center against Marshall where the Nittany Lions will look to improve to 7-3 with only four games left before Big Ten play.