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John Harrar’s Career Night Bodes Well For Undersized Penn State Hoops

Although it lost to Purdue Sunday afternoon, Penn State men’s basketball has many reasons for optimism as it dives deeper into a tough Big Ten schedule.

One problem facing the Nittany Lions this season is its lack of height, which particularly affects how they can go toe-to-toe with the conference’s elite big men. Penn State’s already been exposed by vertical talent, notably by Kofi Cockburn and the Fighting Illini.

Size was one of the biggest concerns against Purdue with 6′ 10″ Trevion Williams and 7′ 4″ Zach Edey on the opposing side of the court. Even though the Boilermakers got the best of Penn State, John Harrar’s performance gives the squad hope.

“I thought John Harrar was phenomenal,” head coach Jim Ferry said. “His will to compete, his will to win. But again, it’s stuff that we need to keep building on.”

Harrar ended the night with a career-high 14 points and 14 rebounds to complete his first-ever double-double in a Penn State jersey. The Delaware County native seemed to be everywhere at times, grabbing an incredible 10 offensive rebounds.

Purdue’s leading scorer Williams was held slightly below his average (15.5 points per game), finishing the contest with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Considering the opponents Williams has faced, it is impressive that Harrar was able to force a below-average game from him.

Harrar’s effort against bigger guys was not enough in the end, partly because the team shot just 27 for 82 (37.5%) from the field.

“I thought we had some really good shots to start the game but they weren’t going down,” Ferry said. “That obviously keeps putting pressure on your defense.”

The biggest demerit on Harrar’s game was foul trouble. Both Harrar and fellow big man Trent Buttrick finished the game with four, while third-string center Abdou Tsimbila earned two in just two minutes on the floor.

The number of fouls conceded can be directly attributed to Williams, Edey, and the fearlessness of Mason Gillis. Purdue was able to shoot 33 times from the foul line, a mile more than Penn State’s 13 attempts.

“We have to play better at the things we can control. Playing without fouling, blocking out, things like that. Shot-making is going to come,” Ferry said.

Penn State has a tough week ahead with matchups against Illinois, Rutgers, and Northwestern looming in the next six days. If Ferry and his team want to get off the mark in the Big Ten, they need to help out Harrar in the post and do their best to not let the likes of Cockburn get the ball in good positions.

“We made adjustments and will continue to make adjustments. Our personnel is our personnel,” Ferry said. “We have to keep working and getting better within our group. I thought we did some things better today that we hadn’t done prior, and that’s what we have to keep doing.”

Harrar and Penn State will travel to Champaign to face No. 14 Illinois on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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