Austin Lederman (@AustinLederman)
ALBANY, N.Y.– The game was there for the taking.
After starting cold from the field offensively, like so many times this season, Penn State found a way to make it a game down the stretch.
Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, like so many times this season, it just simply wasn’t enough as Penn State couldn’t overcome a 28.6 percent shooting first half when they fell to Siena 54-52 Monday night in the Times Union Center.
With 9.3 seconds to play, Siena’s Evan Hymes got around Brandon Taylor to scoop a layup in off the backboard while getting fouled in the process. The layup gave Siena a 54-52 lead with 3.9 seconds to play.
Penn State’s D.J. Newbill caught the ball on the ensuing inbound by midcourt, dribbled into the frontcourt, but was forced out of bounds on the sideline with 1.7 seconds left. Siena’s Ryan Oliver missed two free throws, but Penn State was out of timeouts and Newbill’s last-second heave fell short, leaving Siena to advance to the semifinals on Wednesday night and Penn State heading back to Happy Valley with no more basketball to play this season.
“I thought we played hard and we played good D…” Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. “We just didn’t make any shots.”
Chambers was right. Penn State shot just 17-of-57 from the floor, good for 29.8 percent. The Nittany Lions weren’t much better from the charity stripe, where they connected on just 12-of-22 free throws.
Only Newbill reached double-figures. The Philly native scored 17 points but on just 5-of-18 shooting. Taylor was second on the team with eight points and eight rebounds. Tim Frazier, Ross Travis and John Johnson combined to shoot just 2-of-16.
“We only had one guy in double-figures,” Chambers said. “I said it to John Griffin and Scott Graham; if we only have one guy score it’s gonna be a tough night for us. If we have two or more, we’ll be okay. Obviously it’s disappointing.”
It’s especially disappointing for the fifth-year senior point guard. Frazier struggled in his final collegiate game, recording five points and three assists.
“I feel for him,” Chambers said. “He struggled tonight, but what a career he had. What an amazing five year – what a legacy he’s left at Penn State. I’m sure he’s disappointed on the entire season in general that we don’t have more wins, but I think he’s paved the way for us to be very successful in the very near future.”
It was a close game throughout, with five ties and lead changes over the course of the 40-minute contest.
Penn State trailed Siena 25-21 after the first half because of a 16-4 Siena run before entering the locker room. Newbill was saddled on the bench with two fouls and Penn State’s offense stalled.
Siena extended its lead to seven at the 13:57 mark of the second half by way of a Rob Poole layup. Penn State responded with an 11-3 run to take a 39-38 lead with 9:10 to play.
It was the 3-ball that kept Penn State in it. It was the only area of the court the Nittany Lions shot well from (6-of-17). Frazier, Newbill and freshman Geno Thorpe each hit a 3-pointer as part of the run.
The teams traded baskets over a six-minute stretch before Siena made it a 5-point game with back-to-back baskets off of turnovers with just under three minutes to play.
“Our younger guys need to step up, they need to make plays,” Chambers said. “We had some costly turnovers at pivotal points of the game – first half and second half.”
Penn State would cut the deficit to one point, but was unable to take the lead in the game’s final minutes.
“I thought we were the best team we could be under the circumstances of what was going on within our team,” Chambers said.
Lavon Long led Siena with 17 points and six rebounds. Brett Bisping chipped in a double-double of 12 points and 12 boards. Poole added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Siena advanced to the semifinals of the CBI and will play again Wednesday night. The opponent will be determined after re-seeding tonight.