With two minutes and nine seconds remaining in the second half, graduate student guard Evan Gordon hit one of two free throws to give the IU men’s basketball team (14-10, 4-7) a 65-56 lead over the Penn State Nittany Lions (13-12, 4-8).
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Hoosiers committed four turnovers and two fouls — all while failing to record a single point as the Nittany Lions stormed back to win in front of a comatose Assembly Hall.
In his postgame press conference, IU Coach Tom Crean said his team’s mistakes allowed Penn State to remain competitive and ultimately win the game.
“Because we made too many mistakes along the way that allowed them to stay in it,” Crean said. “We lost this game defensively by allowing them to stay in it with mistakes, and then the pressure of the game got to us a little bit.”
After he made his free throw, Gordon checked out for freshman guard Stanford Robinson, who fouled Penn State’s Tim Frazier three seconds later and 40 feet from the basket.
With Penn State in the bonus, Frazier hit both free throws, trimming IU’s lead to seven.
The Hoosiers then turned the ball over on the inbounds play, which was just one of its 20 turnovers in the game. Seven seconds after the turnover, Brandon Taylor connected on a 3-pointer with one minute and 59 seconds to play to cut IU’s lead to 65-61.
On IU’s next possession, Gordon had an open look from beyond the arc, but his shot missed.
Geno Thorpe snatched the rebound, igniting a transition run for Penn State that led to a made jumper by Taylor. IU’s lead narrowed to 65-63 with one minute and seven seconds remaining.
Ferrell ran the shot clock down at the top of the key, but after trying to get IU’s offense going, he had to call timeout after getting trapped. Out of the timeout, Gordon drove to the lane but traveled.
Down two, Penn State had possession of the ball with 33 seconds to play.
Sophomore guard Austin Etherington, who hit a 3-pointer to give IU a two-point lead with just over a minute remaining against Penn State Jan. 11, saw himself once again playing meaningful minutes against the Nittany Lions.
With 16 seconds left, Etherington took a charge on a driving John Johnson, sending Assembly Hall into psychosis.
IU called a timeout. Penn State Coach Pat Chambers was livid on his team’s bench. It had appeared that, yet again, Etherington had sealed an IU victory against Penn State.
Yet on IU’s next possession, senior forward Will Sheehey’s inbounds pass was stolen by Frazier. Sheehey fouled Ross Travis, who would shoot two free throws to potentially tie the game.
Travis, a 68.6 percent free throw shooter entering the game, missed the first and made the second. IU led by one with 14 seconds to play. Another inbounds pass came along its baseline.
This time was no different from the other. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh’s inbounds pass was intercepted by D.J. Newbill. Penn State, down one, now had the ball with 12 seconds remaining.
Out of a Penn State timeout, Frazier, who was being defended by Ferrell, drove to his left and finished at the rim — a soft finger-roll that gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game with six seconds remaining.
IU called a timeout and drew up a play intended for either Ferrell or Sheehey, according to Crean. Ferrell received the inbounds pass and darted up the court, but with several Penn State defenders draped on him, he had to heave up a prayer that clunked off the rim.
As Penn State players ran towards each other in jubilation, having ended the game on 10-0 run to complete an improbable comeback, a chorus of boos rained down upon Branch McCracken court.
Sheehey, whose 12 points were one shy of getting him to 1,000 career points in an IU uniform, said afterwards the Hoosiers succumbed to the intricacies of the game.
“We panicked,” Sheehey said. “We didn’t stay true to our scouting report.”
Ferrell, asked how devastating Wednesday’s result was, said it’s not very fun to lose a game like that.
“It all comes down to execution at the end of the game,” Ferrell said. “It just has to get a lot better. We just can’t panic on the court.”
Crean said his team and the coaching staff need to continue to preach awareness.
“I keep going to the word awareness, and that’s the nicest word I can use and that’s what we’ve gotta continue to coach.”
Follow reporter John Bauernfeind on Twitter @JohnBauernfeind.