Alabama led most of the way as a ten point underdog on the road, but injuries and foul trouble were just too much to overcome as the Tide ran out of gas in the final 8 minutes of the game.
This was arguably our best defensive effort of the season. We actually played a little zone in the first half and forced Penn State to settle for long jump shots. Over half of the Lions shots in the first half were from 3 point range where they went an abysmal 4 of 17. Coming into the game, it appeared we would be at a disadvantage in the front court, but Davis, Galin, and Herb all did more than hold their own. We ended up with 36 points in the paint to their 22, and kept the rebounding battle close to even, only losing it 50-47. We even cut the turnovers down to just 10. Unfortunately, we just didn't shoot well enough, going 9 of 34 from 3 point range and only 8 of 14 from the charity stripe.
An inability to finish around the rim was perhaps an even bigger contributing factor in the loss than our poor perimeter shooting. Herb missed at least 3 bunnies, and Kira missed quite a few from point blank range as well.
Beetle had a great game with 15 points, and Alex added 12 with four 3-pointers. JP fouled out in only 19 minutes and Davis only played 12 minutes due to foul trouble. The game turned in the Lions favor when both of those guys picked up their fourth fouls early in the second half. With Herbert Jones trying to play through an elbow injury, we were severely short-handed the final 12 minutes of the game.
After surrendering the lead, the team kept scrapping and clawed back within 2. Penn State missed some crucial free throws late that gave us a chance to win, but give credit to the Lions for playing great defense on our final 2 possessions. The last play was designed to go to Kira, but they fronted him and denied him the ball. We didn't have any timeouts left, and a hot Alex Reese in the corner was not a bad "plan B," but he tried to drive in and was denied by the PSU defender. I would have preferred he try to shoot over him from the corner and go for the win in that situation, but it would have been a tough shot regardless.
At 4-5, the reality is it's likely going to take an improbable run in SEC play or a miracle run through Nashville to make the NCAA tournament. While none of our losses are "bad," we've failed to collect any really "good" wins. I'm more concerned with seeing the team continue to give great effort every night and improve. Despite the loss and the issues noted above, I feel like they are doing that.
Up next, a home game for me but technically a road game for the team, as they travel next door to the BJCC Legacy Arena here in Birmingham for the Chick-Fil-A classic against Samford. Tip-off is set for 6:30 pm Wednesday night, and will be streamed on ESPN+.