After Penn State finished the non-conference slate at 12-1, things were looking good in State College for Pat Chambers' team. One of the strengths of the team was finishing close games. They were 7-1 in games that were decided by 6 points or less, and games decided in overtime.
In conference play though, things changed. They weren't winning those close games. They currently sit at 1-7 in conference play in games that were decided by 6 points or less or overtime. Things simply have not bounced Penn State's way in the end of games, and the Nittany Lions have often found themselves on the wrong side of questionable calls. After Saturday's game against Maryland, coach Pat Chambers lashed back at the Big Ten officiating crew, and he has a point.
In this post, I will chronicle all of the late game calls that have not gone Penn State's way.
Penn State's Recent Frustrating Losses
January 21st: Michigan State 66 - Penn State 60
With the game tied at 51 with about 4:30 left in the game, Michigan State had 7 team fouls and Penn State was in the bonus. Penn State had only 4 team fouls, and they were keeping up with Michigan State on the road. Then Jordan Dickerson got called for a ticky tack foul. Nine seconds later, Shep Garner was called for an even softer foul. Michigan State then scored on the possession to take a 2 point lead. On Penn State's next possession, Jordan Dickerson was called for a moving screen, and just like that the team foul count was even, and MSU was in the bonus heading into the under 4 TV timeout. during the timeout, Pat Chambers was called for a technical foul that stemmed from the previous 3 calls. No one knows exactly what Pat said, but it went something like this:
Penn State coach Pat Chambers very upset with officials. Basically said Penn State can't get a break because it's Penn State.— Mike Wilson (@MikeWScout) January 22, 2015
MSU would then go on to make 1 of 2 free throws, and then they hit a three pointer on the ensuing possession, putting them up by 6, and MSU never looked back.
January 31st: Illinois 60 - Penn State 58
The game was tied at 58 in Champaign with 57 seconds left in the game. Penn State had the ball with a chance to take the lead. Point guard Devin Foster began making his move with 35 seconds left in the game. He dribble to the left wing, handed the ball off to D.J. Newbill, and sealed his defender. Foster was called for an offensive foul on the seal, and Illinois got the ball back with the shot clock turned off. Illinois would go on to make a layup with 4 seconds left to take the lead 60-58. D.J. Newbill had one last shot to tie the game at 60, but he missed the layup as he got clobbered by the Illini defenders. No foul was called and Illinois escaped with a 2 point victory.
February 4th: Maryland 64 - Penn State 58
Penn State had the ball with less than 30 seconds left down 3. D.J. Newbill pump faked at the left elbow, getting his defender to leave the floor. Newbill drew the contact on the shot, but no foul was called, and Maryland grabbed the rebound and made the free throws down the stretch to take the win. Even if the foul had been called, it was still unlikely that PSU would win the game, but they would have had a decent shot.
February 14th: Maryland 76 - Penn State 73
Down two with 2 minutes left in the game, Geno Thorpe was pushing the ball up the court in transition when Jordan Dickerson went to set a screen. He ended up being pulled down by Maryland defender Evan Smotrycz, but the call went against Dickerson, which ended up being his 5th foul, disqualifying him for the rest of the game.
At the time of the foul, Pat Chambers seemed to be more concerned about a potential flagrant foul call due to an elbow by Jake Layman that appeared to connect with Brandon Taylor behind the play. After review, the officials determined that the contact was incidental. But the offensive foul on Dickerson was the bigger play in the game, and Pat Chambers had some harsh words for the officials after the game.
Full Chambers quote on officiating pic.twitter.com/AUJcG353JY— Nate Bauer (@NateBauerBWI) February 15, 2015
Here is the play that drew the comments from Chambers.
After seeing these 4 instances in Penn State's last losses, it's easy to see why Chambers is frustrated. His team's simply aren't getting the benefit of the doubt by the officials. Any coach will tell you that their team shouldn't be in the situation where a bad call can cause them to lose the game, but games will be close and the officials are becoming a factor in the game more often than not in the last few weeks.
When your team is the victim of all of these controversial calls, it's logical to see why Chambers lashed out at the officials. Sometimes the calls don't bounce your way, and that's basketball. But with so many calls that went the wrong way, Chambers sees a pattern emerging against his squad.
What do you think? Has Penn State's misfortune just been a coincidence, or do the officials have it out against Penn State?