UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State could have used the best backcourt in the country at the end of Wednesday night's 68-65 loss to Minnesota at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions also could have known who committed which foul.
But Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill both fouled out, and were left to watch the Nittany Lions miss 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute and Allen Roberts' game-tying 3-point attempt bounce away as the Nittany Lion men's basketball team fell to 9-7, 0-3 Big Ten.
"There are going to be situations where Tim and D.J. aren't on," said PSU forward Brandon Taylor. "As role players, we have to step up and take those shots."
There was some confusion as to whether Frazier actually fouled out, as PSU coach Pat Chambers protested before realizing he should have clarified the situation with the scoring table.
Frazier limped off after committing his fourth foul on Austin Hollins with 2:04 to play, but Chambers thought the call was against Allen Roberts. The scoreboard, which Chambers said he shouldn't have trusted anyhow, still showed Frazier with 3 fouls.
Frazier's fifth foul came with 58 seconds to go when he collided with Elliot Eliason.
"I've got to know, but it was not a smart foul (on Hollins) anyway," said Chambers. "It was 50 feet from the basket, he was trying to slow him down. We were in the half court, playing good defense, but we've got to be smarter."
Frazier finished with 20 points, while Ross Travis scored 18 with 13 rebounds. Newbill, the other half of the backcourt that Chambers' repeatedly hyped in 2012, did not score and spent the entire game in foul trouble before leaving with 4:33 to play and a 2-point Nittany Lion lead.
The Gophers (13-3, 2-1) rallied back, retaking the lead at 60-59 with 1:40 to go on a DeAndre Mathieu putback off a Hollins steal. Minnesota took its first 3-point lead of the second half at 63-60 right after Frazier fouled out, when John Johnson lost his dribble at midcourt and Mathieu ran home an uncontested layup.
Geno Thorpe then hit one of two free throws, and Ross Travis missed both ends with 35 seconds to go, costing the Nittany Lions a chance to tie the game until Johnson's 3-pointer missed. The game-tying shot was set up by Brandon Taylor, who ran toward the line and passed to Johnson after an offensive rebound, never considering a turnaround 3-point shot of his own.
"This was certainly not the prettiest game, you won't see it on ESPN Classic very soon," said Minnesota coach Richard Pitino. "That was a very good basketball team, but there was not a lot going right for us and we found a way to win."
Both teams combined for 53 fouls, which made Penn State's 43-percent free throw shooting in the second half extra costly as Minnesota was 15 for 19 after halftime.
The game also featured the first Nittany Lion starting lineup change all season, with Thorpe in for Taylor at the start. Thorpe finished with 8 points, though the lineup was noteworthy in that it took Penn State 7 minutes before making its first field goal. Minnesota led 14-4 at 8 minutes into the game before Penn State came back for a 5-point halftime lead.
Chambers said he installed Thorpe to instill a little toughness in the starting lineup, though he said the slow start was a combination of the adjustment and Minnesota's good defense. However, Chambers added the team was playing with too many distracted minds and worried that the players wouldn't recover in time for Saturday's game vs. Indiana.
When asked what those distractions were, Chambers shot back, "You name it. Minutes, shots, social media"