Penn State had lost 16 games in 2011-2012 entering Saturday night's matchup against Northwestern at the Bryce Jordan Center, but the latest one, a 66-67 defeat at the hands of the Wildcats, might be the toughest to swallow yet this season.
The Nittany Lions (12-17, 4-12 Big Ten) rallied from a six-point halftime deficit to take a one-point lead down to 2.6 seconds remaining in regulation. After Jonathan Graham missed a pair of free throws at the offensive end with 14.1 to play, however, he fouled to put Northwestern's John Shurna on the line. The senior hit both attempts and a late heave by Penn State's Tim Frazier fell short, sending the Lions down hard-luck losers.
The Wildcats (17-11, 7-9 Big Ten) were outshot 50.9 percent to 44.0 percent and pounded 37-22 on the glass by their opponents, but were a staggering 15-29 (51.7 percent) from 3-point territory, enough to keep them in position to prevail until the end.
The win keeps Northwestern's dwindling NCAA Tournament hopes alive, and coach Bill Carmody was thankful to escape Happy Valley with a win after the game.
"We had to get this game," Carmody said. "You've got Ohio State at home, which is tough a Iowa way, which is tough, so you've got to win a few games here to be more than just around the periphery of this discussion, I think."
Frazier and Shurna each had a game-high 23 points to lead their respective teams. Frazier also put up nine assists while Shurna had six dishes and two rebounds.
Frazier was aided by Graham and Ross Travis, who had 10 points each on the night, while Shurna got help from Drew Crawford and Alex Marcotullio, who had 13 and 12 points respectively.
Penn State will now head back to the road (where it hasn't won on the road yet this conference season) to face Purdue on Wednesday. And though his team's postseason hopes are essentially crushed at this point, coach Patrick Chambers hopes his team can carry over the good things from its loss against the Wildcats down the home stretch.
"I'm proud of the way the team fought and competed," Chambers said. "And we knew Northwestern was a desperate team and they have a lot of stake, but we believe we're playing for something too. We're playing for Penn State pride."
For full analysis and reaction from this game, be sure to stay tuned to SB Nation Pittsburgh on Sunday morning.