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What PSU’s devastating loss to Huskers means for tourney hopes and Ferry’s future

Photo from Penn State Twitter: Myreon Jones

This is why Penn State basketball can’t have nice things.

Sure, the Nittany Lions will win some games they shouldn’t win and get people excited sometimes.

But then …


Just unacceptable.

Nebraska had lost 26 consecutive Big Ten games. The Huskers had not won a league game since Jan. 7, 2020.

Penn State, on the other hand, was very much on the bubble and with a chance to make the NCAA Tournament with a strong finish.

So, of course, the Lions blew it, against a bad team.

And of course, it was yet another close loss in the closing seconds, the kind of loss that has plagued PSU all season.

Nebraska led for most of the second half before PSU rallied late, and the Huskers scored with 12 seconds to go to steal a 62-61 victory Sunday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Nebraska had not scored in more than 8 minutes after taking a 60-49 lead with 8:43 to go. Penn State then went on a 12-0 run to take a 61-60 edge.

Myreon Jones buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie it at 60, and he was fouled on the shot. Jones then made the free throw for a four-point play and 61-60 lead with 1:58 to go.

But the Lions didn’t score again, and the Huskers got the late bucket in the closing seconds to win it.

What it means: This loss is devastating to Penn State (7-10, 4-9 Big Ten), and to interim coach Jim Ferry.

The Lions were among the first four teams out in ESPN’s bracketology, and needed to go 4-2 to finish 8-10 in the Big Ten. A loss to Nebraska is crushing to those hopes, especially with a very difficult schedule left that will make it extremely difficult for PSU to get to 8-10.

The Lions are now 4-9 in the Big Ten and will have to go 4-1 the rest of the way. The schedule:

**vs. No. 4 Ohio State

**at No. 15 Iowa

**vs. No. 24 Purdue

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**vs. Minnesota

**at Maryland

Yeah, good luck with that, when needing to go 4-1.

Ferry ride over?: What does this do to Ferry’s hopes of getting the full-time PSU coaching job? Well, it just may have ended those hopes.

If Ferry can get the Lions to the NCAA Tournament, he deserves the job. But if he doesn’t, and if the Lions are not even close, the school would have every justification to move on and find another coach.

Ferry has a hands-on audition for the job, as AD Sandy Barbour said, and he just may have blown that audition with this loss.

One argument for keeping Ferry is that this team is very competitive, and if he and all the players come back next year, the squad could contend for an NCAA Tournament berth. If Ferry is not retained, there’s a chance that a lot of players could transfer, and the team could be really bad next year.

But hey, the bottom line is Penn State is 4-9 in the Big Ten right now, with a home loss to a terrible Nebraska team coming on the heels of a tough road loss to a bad Michigan State team. If Ferry can’t win those kinds of games with a lot on the line now, what confidence can anyone have that he’ll win them next year, even if everyone is back?

PSU has brutal games coming up against No. 4 Ohio State and at No. 15 Iowa. If the Lions lose those, they’re 4-11, and with still even more tough games left.

There comes a point when the school probably will feel like it has to start over with a new coach, and deal with whatever consequences that may come if some standout players transfer.

If you’re going to go 4-9 and lose at home to the likes of Nebraska with these guys — and with things likely to get a lot worse — the argument must be made that it’s time to start over anyway and see what the next guy can build over the next few years.

Voice of the fans: I ran the following Twitter poll throughout the day Saturday and Sunday, just to try and get a feel for what the fan base would like to see PSU do with the head coaching job.

As you can see, a big majority of fans want to see a new coach, and they voted that even before the Lions lost to Nebraska. I think this says a lot about the mindset of the fan base — in that fans are ready to start completely over and see what a new guy can come in and do, and that Ferry hasn’t won them over even by doing a solid job under tough circumstances this season.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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