Steve Manuel/Penn State Sports Information Sophomore guards Ashanti Cook (left) and Brandon Cameron struggle for control of the ball. As a result of the play, Cameron was called for the foul and Cook went to the line to sink the winning shots.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Sunday’s scene was anything but new for the Hoyas who remember last season. There were 2.2 seconds left and Penn State was at the free-throw line with a chance to go up by two.

But the 2003-04 Hoyas are a new team, playing in a new season, and their new ending, a 79-78 win at Penn State, helped to erase memories of old mistakes.

Penn State sophomore guard Brandon Cameron made only his second free throw, and Georgetown sophomore forward Brandon Bowman set up under the basket to inbound the ball. He rolled it to sophomore guard Ashanti Cook, not seeing Cameron coming from behind to dive for the bouncing ball. But instead of the buzzer sounding, it was the referee’s whistle that blew, calling a foul on Cameron that sent Cook to the line with 1.1 seconds remaining.

Cook iced the free throws, and the Hoyas sprinted off the court to spirited boos and jeers from a Bryce Jordan Center crowd of 8,874.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the way our guys came back in that ball game,” Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “I’m not certain that we would have won this ball game last year.”

Sophomore guard Cook, who made 16-of-23 free throws last year, and his teammates began celebrating as soon as the foul was called – but Cook still had to step to the line.

“I wasn’t nervous at all, because Ashanti, he’s a good free-throw shooter, and I have faith in him,” Riley said.

Esherick said the play he called for on the inbound pass was for Bowman to give it to either Cook or freshman guard Ray Reed as close to half court as possible. The chances of the Hoyas making a desperation shot in that situation only go to show how lucky they were that Penn State committed the foul – and how close the Nittany Lions came to walking away with a win in their first game.

“The ref just made a good call pretty much,” Cook said. “I really don’t want to say if it was a foul or not.”

Senior guard Riley, Bowman and Cook, who all figured prominently in the final plays, were each present for the misery and frustration caused by last season’s eight losses by five points or less, and didn’t like being reminded of it.

“I was like, `Oh, not again, not again,'” Riley said. “But of course it’s a new year. This is a new team, and we have new faces.”

Riley’s foul at the end of the game came after Cook had made a three-pointer to put Georgetown within one, and then Penn State’s Marlon Smith made just one of two free throws with 19 seconds left.

Junior swingman Darrell Owens had made a layup, and the Nittany Lions took the ball to their end, with Cameron driving straight at Riley. Riley fell down in an attempt to take a charge, but instead he was called for the blocking foul.

“Last year, we lost a lot of close games by one point,” Bowman said. “We probably would have given up when the man went to the free-throw line after Gerald tried to take that charge. But we didn’t.”

“We needed, for us, to win a game like this,” Esherick said. “I didn’t want the game to be like this, I’d prefer that every single game we win by 40. But I think for our team and for some of the close games that we lost last year, I think this is great, a great boost for us.”

Georgetown’s poise in the final seconds did not extend to the rest of the game, however. The Hoyas started out looking sluggish, shooting poorly and in a half-court set offense that lacked ball movement.

The Nittany Lions took advantage of the Hoyas’ slow start, going on a 13-0 run that included three three-pointers, to begin the game. They continued to lead throughout the first half, bolstered by 46 percent shooting, compared to the Hoyas’ 30 percent. Penn State led 42-33 at halftime.

“They were hot, and we could not have been colder,” Esherick said. “We were lucky to just be down nine at the half.”

In the second half, Esherick said he employed an offense that called for more ball movement, which took Georgetown on a 13-4 run and tied the score with 16:47 left.

But the Hoyas also had to contend with Penn State’s junior forward Jan Jagla, who scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half. Senior center Courtland Freeman and freshmen forwards Sead Dizdarevic and Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw were largely ineffective against the 7-foot Jagla.

The big men also fell short on the glass, as the Hoyas were outrebounded 39-30.

“They out-scrapped us on the boards,” Esherick said, “and that’s something that we have to work on.”

Bowman led the Georgetown scoring effort with 19 points, followed by Cook with 17.

The Hoyas face Coastal Carolina tonight at MCI Center. Tip-off is at 7:30.

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