STATE COLLEGE - Penn State nearly went from a distracted disappointment to a delightful diversion in the span of three days.
But playing again without fifth-year senior point guard Tim Frazier in the final minute, the Nittany Lions dropped a 79-76 men's basketball game to the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Frazier fouled out with 49 seconds to go, down 73-72, and the Nittany Lions never drew even again in a mostly back-and-forth game. Yogi Ferrell hit two free throws after the foul for a 75-72 Indiana lead.
Penn State (9-8, 0-4) used two deliberate drives by D.J. Newbill to keep pace in Frazier's absence, but he missed a 3-pointer at the end to tie, the Nittany Lions' only shot on their final possession that started with 9 seconds to play.
Both Frazier and Newbill fouled out of Wednesday's three-point loss to Minnesota, one in which coach Patrick Chambers said the team played "distracted."
Chambers reiterated much of that in a minute-long rant after the first question of Saturday's post-game press conference, which was about Frazier, saying "we're a whiny team now, and it's got to stop." Chambers said Frazier needs to know better on his fouls and that as a team, allowing 18 offensive rebounds and giving Indiana (11-5, 1-2) 35 free throws is too much.
"I'm not going to complain about the refs, they've got a tough enough job, but we have to play harder without fouling," said Chambers. "They drive, cause contact, and we do the same thing but don't get a call. And we can't complain, because it affects the next shot, rotation, pass. We've got to stop it."
The Hoosiers took the lead for good at 73-72 on an Allen Etherington 3-pointer with 1:22 to play. John Johnson and Frazier missed layups, and Brandon Taylor missed an open 3-pointer before Frazier fouled out.
Newbill finished with 24 points, leading all scorers. Noah Vonleh, who Chambers said he watched in high school while coaching at Boston University, led Indiana with 19.
Chambers opened his press conference by welcoming new football coach James Franklin to Penn State, news that dominated the day ahead of this basketball game. Indiana coach Tom Crean, who knows a thing or two about being a diversion from football (his in-laws Jim and John Harbaugh coached in last year's Super Bowl) gave a different take on Frazier from seeing him over five years and his impressions from Big Ten media day
"He has a tremendous mind for the game," said Crean, who also mentioned his team grew up a bit after rallying from an early 17-4 deficit. "He can see things, and he was doing things with the shot clock where we either had to coach against him or the clock. I'd imagine he has a long career at the next level."
But that all wasn't enough to avoid an 0-4 start in Big Ten play for the Nittany Lions, who visit Michigan on Tuesday. Finding focus will be important before then.
"This is a generational thing, not a basketball thing and it's a constant grind," said Chambers. "We've got to help them become men, but there are helicopter people around them, bulldozer people around t hem, and they don't know how to overcome adversity. The kids got to step up and face the challenge, and I've got to help them break through. They can't look up in the stands, text, weep, tweet, post I'm not saying it's all our issues, but we're close and I've got to take some responsibility."