One possession. Two timeouts. Thirty-five wasted seconds.
Trailing Illinois by seven, Tim Frazier brought the ball upcourt only to get trapped in the far corner. After a timeout, Talor Battle took the inbounds and had to call another timeout, leaving 15 seconds on the shot clock to make a play.
A second inbounds pass finally granted the Nittany Lions some operating room, only to have Battle drive and kick out to Chris Babb with one second on the shot clock. Babb was forced to heave up an awkward, desperate 3-pointer that missed the rim and resulted in a shot clock violation.
"We didn't execute. They got a little excited and thought they were being trapped and called timeout," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "I'd rather do that than throw it away or kick it off your foot and lose possession totally."
The Penn State men's basketball team dropped its eighth-straight game Wednesday night, falling to Illinois, 76-66. In the loss, the Lions (8-12, 0-8 Big Ten) were unable to keep an early second-half lead by missing key shots.
"I thought we had pretty good shots and the assistants thought we had pretty good shots," DeChellis said. "We were running some stuff, the same stuff we were running to get that lead. We just had open shots and didn't make them."
Sophomore Chris Babb agreed with his coach's feelings. Babb scored a career-best 18 points but missed several open 3-pointers and said after the game he "just missed them."
Talor Battle led the Lions with 20 points, but did not score or attempt a shot until the 9:50 mark of the first half. Battle scored 11 points in the next five minutes but went cold for the rest of the half as Illinois hit a series of buzzer-beating jumpers to take a 40-33 halftime edge.
"Especially for being on the road, I thought we were pretty efficient offensively," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "I was kind of hoping we could stretch that lead out a little farther, but Battle and Babb really kept them hanging in there, making some big shots."
DeChellis talked about the bad bounces his team has suffered this season and pointed to a play midway through the second half. Babb forced a steal and tried to find Battle on a two-on-one break. But Battle fumbled the ball, and the Lions lost a prime chance to increase their four-point lead.
Illinois turned that momentum around and started an 11-2 run, giving it a lead it would not relinquish. Babb said he wasn't surprised when his coach didn't take a timeout to try and stop the run.
"We were trying to get ourselves out of it," Babb said.
"Coach can't always just get us out of it. They can't step over [the line] and play for us, so we just gotta get through it ourselves."
All season, Penn State has been plagued by the inability to capitalize on a second-half lead and hold it until the final horn. While junior forward D.J. Jackson felt the team came out with energy, he still thinks the Lions have one more step to climb before they can get a win.
Though the team came out hot to start the second half, going 5-for-7 from the floor, it was unable to carry that energy over. Penn State closed the second half shooting just 6-for-24 and couldn't come up with a defensive stop when it needed to.
"I think we did have the energy, we just had the ball bounce the wrong way," Jackson said. "We still need to find that next gear, that next level to just put us over the top. It seems to keep eluding us."