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John Harrar ‘The Difference-Maker’ In Penn State Hoops’ Upset Over No. 19 Michigan State

As Penn State men’s basketball traded buckets with No. 19 Michigan State down the stretch at the Bryce Jordan Center Tuesday night, the team was in serious danger of falling into the basement of the Big Ten.

With a fourth-straight defeat in tow and a 4-10 record in conference play, the Nittany Lions would’ve been solidified as a bottom-four team among college basketball’s best. Thankfully for Micah Shrewsberry’s squad, senior big man John Harrar helped pace the effort on both ends of the floor that secured the upset victory.

The proclaimed “King of Delco” finished his night with 16 points and 16 rebounds, each one more important than the next. For everyone in the arena, there was no doubt how important Harrar’s effort truly was.

“There’s no question John Harrar was the difference in the game,” Spartans head coach Tom Izzo said. “He’s gotten better every year — doesn’t complain about what he’s doing. He just keeps getting stronger, better. Tonight, he was the hero.”

After a fairly quiet first half in terms of scoring, Harrar ripped off 11 points in the final 20 minutes. His six-point run helped keep the Nittany Lions afloat while Michigan State got hot on the offensive end, while his final and-one conversion was undoubtedly the loudest moment of the night.

As he took in the win alongside Seth Lundy, who led the Nittany Lions with 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting from three, Harrar couldn’t have been happier with the effort.

“It was awesome. I was talking to the guys, and I was saying I think every year I’ve been here we’ve beaten a ranked team at home,” Harrar said. “I can’t leave this program until I get one this year. It means the world.”

Along with clutch buckets down the stretch, Harrar’s rebounding was a clear sign of Penn State’s “gritty not pretty” attitude that Shrewsberry has preached all season. The 6’9″, 240-pound forward locked up 10 boards on the defensive end and, more importantly, collected six offensive rebounds that kept key possessions alive.

Even before that and-one, Harrar grabbed his missed shot off the backboard and ferociously went back up to keep the possession alive. Playing in 30 total minutes and serving as the centerpiece of Penn State’s effort down low, it’s safe to say this win was the epitome of Harrar’s style of play.

“John’s a warrior, man. He gives you everything he has,” Shrewsberry said. “There is no like, ‘Did John play hard tonight?’ Yes, John plays hard.”

“He was in there battling by himself,” Shrewsberry continued. ?We sent four guys back in transition, and John fought. We could do that because there wasn’t a fear of John not sprinting back on defense every single time. He was gonna go as hard as possible at the glass and run back as hard as he needs to.”

Shrewsberry continued to note that Harrar’s effort will be an example that the Nittany Lions watch on tape leading up to Thursday’s rematch with Minnesota.

“You could play this hard. If John can do it, anybody can do it, in terms of effort,” Shrewsberry said. “That’s all it is…pure effort, heart, determination, and a love for Penn State.”

It’s no secret that Harrar embodies Penn State’s tough, gritty mindset. The senior captain has been a fan favorite for many over the years, especially since Pat Chambers’ departure and some fairly tough times throughout the past few seasons. Tuesday night’s win clearly served as a reminder of his ability to will his long-time team to victory and his desire to do so in Happy Valley.

“We’re all following Coach Shrews. We’re showing up every day and just trying to fight with him,” Harrar said.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]nwardstate.com

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