Blackmon’s buzzer-beater earns Indiana 78-75 win over Penn State
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Shep Garner gathered his teammates along Penn State’s bench to remind them they needed one more stop to head to overtime.
Indiana’s James Blackmon was ready to head home, however.
Blackmon took an in-bounds pass with less than five seconds to go, sprinted down the court and drained a 3-pointer to lift the Hoosiers to a 78-75 win over Penn State on Wednesday night.
Blackmon, Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson all scored 17 points for the Hoosiers (13-6, 3-3 Big Ten) who survived a late Penn State rally.
“They definitely grew up,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “It wasn’t easy, but they definitely earned the victory. It would’ve been a shame if they hadn’t gotten this win because they earned it.”
Tony Carr scored a career-best 24 points and Garner added 15 for the Nittany Lions (11-8, 3-3) who trailed by 14 with 9:19 left. Garner brought Penn State within striking distance with a 3-pointer that cut it to 75-73 with 39 seconds to play.
It was the second straight win for the Hoosiers (13-6, 3-3 Big Ten) who took control by halftime and led the entire second half until a pair of Lamar Stevens free throws tied the game with less than five seconds left.
“I’m really proud of the kids, the way they fought back,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “I felt like Penn State really hurt Penn State tonight, missed layups, little things. If we shoot better from the free-throw line, maybe the outcome’s different.”
MEMORIES OF WATFORD
There’s a good reason Blackmon’s shot was strikingly similar to the one Christian Watford sank at the buzzer to beat then-No. 1 Kentucky in 2011.
“It was the same play-call,” Crean said. “But we got open differently. Usually we run off a screen but in this case we knew they’d switch it so James did a great job of setting it up.”
Penn State coaches and players knew they’d have to defend a similar play, Chambers made note of it in his scouting report, but Blackmon was able to slip past Josh Reaves at midcourt and pull up over Julian Moore to hit the winning basket.
Indiana didn’t have as big of a challenge on the glass with Penn State’s designated rim-protector Mike Watkins in early foul trouble. Penn State’s leading rebounder played just 13 minutes and finished with no rebounds.
The Hoosiers won the battle on the glass 37-33 and Penn State made just 21 of 31 free throws.
Indiana lost OG Anunoby on the final play of the first half to a right knee injury. The sophomore forward came down after battling for an offensive rebound and crumpled to the floor where he clutched at his right knee before trainers helped him slowly to the locker room. He did not return.
Anunoby started eight games and was tied for sixth in the Big Ten with 1.4 steals per game.
Crean said Anunoby would be evaluated when the team returned to Bloomington.
THE BIG PICTURE
Indiana: The Hoosiers entered Wednesday’s game having lost five of their last eight. They’ll have a chance to gain momentum with four of their next five against middle-of-the-pack Big Ten foes before a trip to Madison to take on No. 17 Wisconsin on Feb. 5.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions’ inability to put a full game together has to be grating on coach Patrick Chambers. Even in their last win against No. 24 Minnesota, the Nittany Lions were out of sorts early before a late rally paid off. They were competitive early and late in this one but sluggish and mistake-prone midway through when Indiana took over.
Indiana hosts Michigan State on Saturday.
Penn State plays at No. 22 Purdue on Saturday