Traevon Jackson navigated through Penn State’s defensive press, pulled up from long range with Kevin Montminy’s outstretched arms in his face and watched the ball soar through the air as the buzzer sounded.
The left-handed Wisconsin guard swished the game-winning 3-pointer after reaching striking distance on the left side of the court in less than four seconds. After the shot, Jackson walked toward center court as teammates swarmed him, while some Nittany Lions were brought to their knees following the crushing 63-60 defeat Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Lions’ regular season finale saw 18 lead changes and six ties — one of which D.J. Newbill caused after draining a pull-up jumper with 5.6 seconds remaining to knot the score up at 60. However, Jackson’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer ruined the Lions’ hopes of earning their third win in their last four regular season games.
Coach Patrick Chambers credited Jackson on knocking down a well-contested shot after the game, saying he had no choice but to feel poorly for his players.
“I really felt like we earned the right to win this one,” Chambers said. “That’s why this one hurts, because they did everything to earn it.”
After getting off to a slow start on both sides of the court, the Lions went pound-for-pound with the No. 22 Badgers the rest of the way, and led 25-24 at the half. Excellent offensive performances from Jermaine Marshall and Newbill — who scored 23 and 22 points, respectively — allowed the home team to keep pace, though no other Lion scored more than six points.
Chambers said foul trouble prevented Sasa Borovnjak from getting in a groove early and this contributed to the senior scoring just four points in his final home game.
Marshall was whistled four times in the second half alone, which forced Chambers to sit his leading scorer at critical times, including on the game’s final possession when Montminy reentered the game.
Newbill said the goal after he tied the game was to make it to overtime and he thought this was going to be the likely result when Montminy prevented Jackson from getting an open look.
“I thought Kevin did a great job contesting him with a high hand,” Newbill said. “It’s just unlucky I guess. I didn’t think it was going to go in.”
The last-second dagger from Jackson gave the sophomore a team-high 15 points, including a perfect three-of-three performance from beyond the arc.
Jackson said the difficult part about the final play was simply getting himself in position to attempt the shot, saying it felt good as soon as it left his hands.
“I just knew if I could get to that spot, I could get a shot off,” Jackson said. “I just followed through and watched it go in.”
Meanwhile, despite his team almost pulling off its second upset against a ranked team in the past four games, Chambers said settling for moral victories would be a disservice to Penn State’s basketball program.
The second-year coach said unlike games like horseshoes, when “getting close” is the goal, basketball provides little benefit for losing closely — something he wishes fans remember when looking back at this game.
“In basketball, it’s a loss,” Chambers said bluntly. “It happens too much around here with the men’s basketball program. Everybody gets excited when we just get close. I’m tired of getting close. I want to win. And we all need to change our mentality, because we lost.”
Having completed their regular season schedule, the Lions will look to bounce back in the Big Ten tournament on Thursday against Michigan, which Penn State recently defeated at the BJC, 84-78.