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Penn State’s Mistakes Creates Heartbreak in Happy Valley

Missed free throws and turnovers in the second half cost the Nittany Lions.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State lost a heartbreaker on Wednesday night to Indiana in State College just after a thunderous comeback that had the Nittany Lions down by nine with just over three minutes left. Prior to the comeback, the team had stretches of bad turnovers, leading to points in transition for the Hoosiers, mixed with poor free throw shooting that led to Penn State’s deficit. Penn State ended up losing on a last second shot by James Blackmon.

If you look at the total game, the Nittany Lions played very well and just had a few unlucky things go against them throughout the game.

Turnovers

The team had 11 turnovers, which is a great to have for a team that averages almost 14 turnovers a game. However, eight of those turnovers came in the second half, which led to a few points on the other end for Indiana. In almost every game this season, Penn State has had stretches during games, where they get careless with the ball and are just not in sync with each other. Cutting these turnovers down will be a huge step for this team, maturing into a contender in the Big Ten.

Mike Watkins Foul Trouble

The red-shirt freshman only played 13 minutes against Indiana, due to foul trouble. Watkins picked up his second foul, with a little over nine minutes left in the first half, and head coach Pat Chambers had to put his best freshman big man on the bench. Watkins, who has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice this season, is the Nittany Lions best rebounder and their only rim protector (ranked fifth and second in the Big Ten respectively). Playing against Thomas Bryant, who is arguably one of the best big men in the conference, Watkins’ absence was surely missed, as Bryant collected four offensive rebounds and dominated the paint.

Poor Free Throw Shooting

The Nittany Lions shot 21-31 (67.7%) from the free throw line, after coming into the game shooting over 76 percent. Tony Carr, who ultimately saved and carried the Nittany Lions all night, shot 10-11 from the line, so if you take away Carr, the rest of the team shot horrible. Everyone seemed to have one go in and out almost every time they went to the line, especially Josh Reaves. Reaves shot 2-6 from the line, after being over 70 percent for this season and last season as well. Ten free ones is the difference in the game. Obviously you’re not going to make them all, but missing in crunch time is the dagger at the end of the day.

Looking Ahead

The Nittany Lions did claw their way back, which is a good sign for a young team. But doing the little things, like not having careless turnovers and making free throws when they count, is what separates the good teams from the great teams. This would have been an impressive and important win for the Nittany Lions if they were sitting at 4-2, as they head into two tough games against Purdue and Wisconsin. Penn State could be in danger of dropping three in a row, as they have to go on the road to both ranked schools. The Nittany Lions will look to stay out of the doghouse and avoid a 3-5 record, which will set them way behind the pace.