UNIVERSITY PARK - There are bad losses during rebuilding years, then there are historically bad losses that are tough to stomach during any season.
Penn State swallowed one of those bitter pills Wednesday night, losing to a Patriot League team for the first time ever. The Nittany Lions had been 25-0 all-time against Patriot teams before a humbling 61-57 defeat to Lafayette before 5,462 fans at Bryce Jordan Center.
Lafayette only beat St. Francis by three points three weeks ago but topped PSU by four. The Leopards came in with a 3-6 record, with all three previous wins coming against Northeast Conference teams.
"They made the plays at the end of the game when they had to, and we didn't," Lions coach Patrick Chambers said.
The one given for Penn State (6-4) all season has been strong play by point guard Tim Frazier, while getting others to step up was the big obstacle. It was just the opposite Wednesday as a few players did what they could to keep the game close, while Frazier, who came in averaging 19.2 points, endured forgettable night.
Frazier went 0-for-12 from the field and had five turnovers with just three points, although he did get others involved with nine assists. More troubling than his shooting struggles, however, was his body language and overall demeanor after getting off to a slow start.
"I'd like to see more leadership," Chambers said, speaking not just of Frazier but others, as well.
"You can't hang your head if you miss a shot," Chambers later added.
Frazier was as guilty of that as anyone, appearing visibly frustrated throughout the game after his missed shots and turnovers. He picked up his second foul eight minutes into the game and appeared to be mentally frustrated the remainder of the night.
"We just switched out on him," Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon said of his team's defensive approach. "I think he's used to coming off ball screens and then people helping and recovering, and I think our switches really bothered him."
No Penn State players were available for comment after the game, but Chambers agreed that Lafayette's defense got to Frazier.
"I think the 2-3 probably affected him a little bit, but once you start missing some shots it kind of gets in your head," Chambers said.
The Leopards went on a 10-0 run after Frazier's second foul, taking a 24-14 edge, and led 37-32 at the break. They led by as many as 10 (51-41) in the second half, but the Lions fought back behind some of their complementary players.
Jermaine Marshall had a game-high 20 points, Ross Travis 12 and Cammeron Woodyard 10 for PSU. Marshall pulled the Lions within 58-56 on a 3-pointer with 2:13 to go, and it was anyone's game at that point.
"I was just disappointed in the finish," Chambers said.
Marshall had a chance to tie it at 58 but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:41 left.
Frazier missed two shots in the final minute, and Nick Petkovich hit 1-of-2 free throws with 19 seconds left to make it 59-56. Frazier tried to force a pass to Woodyard on the next trip and had it stolen by Les Smith, and as PSU defenders swarmed the ball, Petkovich called timeout.
Lafayette had no more timeouts, however, so it was a technical foul.
Frazier went to the line and missed his first free throw, then made the second to cut the margin to 59-57 with 10.4 seconds to go.
Lafayette got the ball back, and PSU fouled Jim Mower, who made both free throws with 6.1 seconds left to seal it.
"It was one of the uglier finishes to the game," O'Hanlon said.
Mower and Seth Hinrichs had 14 points apiece to lead Lafayette, while Petkovich added 13. The Leopards shot the 3 well early before finishing 9-of-30, but that was significantly better than PSU's 3-of-23. The Lions dominated on the glass, 47-26, but couldn't overcome Frazier's struggles and 32.8 percent shooting.
The Lions also played without fourth-leading scorer Trey Lewis (6.6 points per game), who had an ankle injury.