Purdue rallies past PSU

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State outrebounded No. 14 Purdue, but needed one more to have a chance at marking a fifth consecutive home win against a Top 25 opponent.

Despite a strong defensive effort and a dominant interior performance, the Nittany Lions fell to the Boilermakers in overtime, 74-70, at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Penn State jumped out to an 8-0 lead to start and was in control most of the first half, but the Boilermakers fought all the way back.

“It rarely happens when a team outplays another one, plays harder, and they lose the game,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “I think the only category that we won tonight was the only one that is important — the final score.”

Tony Carr, who had a game-high 25 points and seven assists, kept the Lions in the game after the team relinquished its halftime lead to the Boilermakers.

The freshman left every ounce of energy he had on the court to force overtime and to get within one possession of a second overtime, but it didn’t matter.

“The effort means nothing to me if you don’t win,” Carr said. “Winning is everything. You can play as hard as you want, but if you don’t win, nothing comes out of it.”

The Lions’ defense was enjoying its best performance of the year, collecting 12 steals (five from Josh Reaves) making 10 blocks and forcing 16 turnovers.

Near the midpoint of the first half, the teams entered a scrappy defensive battle. For four-plus minutes, the only points put on the board from either team was from the free-throw line.

The Lions missed their first seven 3-pointers and finished the night 2-for-16 from beyond the arc.

Even without perimeter shooting, the Lions were dominating the Boilermakers in the paint. It was highlighted when Mike Watkins, who finished with 13 rebounds, recovered three consecutive rebounds over Caleb Swanigan and extended the Lions’ lead to nine.

Swanigan, who leads the Boilermakers with 18.9 points per game and is a candidate for national player of the year, scored only two points in the first half. Even more surprising, the 6-foot-9 sophomore, who averages 13.0 rebounds, was outperformed by Watkins.

The Lions’ big men also did an excellent job of limiting Isaac Haas. The junior, who towers over opposing players with his 7-foot-2, 290-pound frame, was bombarded by the Lions’ interior defense.

Watkins and Julian Moore dominated the all-star pairing of Haas and Swanigan, leading the Lions to outscore the Boilermakers in the paint, 46-12.

“He’s exhausted in that locker room,” Chambers said of Watkins. “He went toe to toe with a potential lottery pick, and a potential first-rounder some day in Haas. I thought Mike and Julian did a great job on those guys.”

The Boilermakers strayed from their original game plan that brought them to the top of the Big Ten. Instead of relying on Haas and Swanigan to produce, the team looked to perimeter shooters.

P.J. Thompson and Vincent Edwards, who scored 18 of their combined 25 points from the 3-point line, strung together a series of deep shots to cut the Lions’ 10 point lead to one.

Carr recovered his own errant shot and collected an and-one to give the Lions a four-point lead heading into halftime, 33-29.

The Lions implemented one of their most dangerous weapons following the halftime break. Josh Reaves slammed down two aerial dunks, which was followed by one-handed slam from Lamar Stevens.

The Jordan Center, as spotty in attendance as ever, was electrified. But the Boilermakers did not cower, responding with a pair of jumpers and a 3-pointer from Edwards to cut the lead to one again.

For each run the Boilermakers made, the Lions had a response.

Shep Garner, who looked to be passing the torch to Carr after struggling to produce in the past few games, nailed a 3-pointer and made a tough layup to keep the lead with the Lions.

The teams traded leads with neither making notable separation until the Lions entered a three-minute scoring drought, missing 13 of their 15 attempts since the 11-minute mark. The drought came at the same time the Boilermakers found their offensive groove, converting on their next eight shot attempts to give them an eight-point lead with three minutes left.

A passionate defensive effort, which had trademarked the Lions’ performance on Tuesday night, brought them within two points with one minute left.

The Lions forced a shot clock violation on Purdue, giving them a chance to tie the game. Carr backed into the paint and scored with 20 seconds left, tying the contest 64-64 to force overtime.

“We had no answer for Tony Carr there at the end,” Painter said.

The overtime resembled the same themes as regulation. The Lions played defense with a tenacity they had sparingly revealed throughout the season, but were unable to score. Ryan Cline found a chink in the Lions’ armor along the arc. The sophomore, who finished with 11 points, nailed two 3-point shot attempts to give the Boilermakers the lead.

“Ryan saved us there at the end,” Painter said. “Thank the Lord that Cline knocked those two shots down.”

The Lions had an opportunity to stop the Boilermakers and force a second overtime, but a lost rebound that touched three different Lion defenders landed in the hands of the away team as time expired.

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