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Penn State Hoops Upsets Ohio State 71-68, Moves On To Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals

Penn State men’s basketball (14-16, 9-13 Big Ten) pulled off a huge upset over No. 6-seeded Ohio State (19-11, 12-9 Big Ten) 71-68 in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Sam Sessoms led the Nittany Lions with 18 points, followed by Jalen Pickett with 16 points, and John Harrar with nine rebounds. The win propels Penn State to a date with Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals at 9 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, March 10.

How It Happened

Head coach Micah Shrewsberry revealed a new starting lineup against Ohio State featuring Greg Lee in place of Myles Dread. The Buckeyes earned the tipoff to get things started from Gainbridge Fieldhouse, followed by a three from E.J. Liddell.

Seth Lundy and Jalen Pickett each attempted to find the basket from deep, but both missed, allowing Ohio State to grab a five-point lead.

The Nittany Lions had a slow start from the field, but Pickett was the first to add to the scoreboard with a quick jumper from the paint.

Dread was the next Nittany Lion to add two points to make it 9-4 in favor of the Buckeyes. Ohio State immediately responded with back-to-back three-pointers, which forced Shrewsberry to call a timeout midway through the first half.

Sam Sessoms converted a much-needed three-pointer right out of the timeout to close the Buckeyes’ lead to eight. John Harrar was the next to head to the basket, but Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler blocked his former teammate under the basket to maintain a considerable Ohio State lead.

Despite a 10-point deficit throughout much of the first half, Lee and Pickett provided a consistent pace that was necessary for the trailing Nittany Lions. Lee picked up some big offensive rebounds and Pickett found his forwards in the paint for two crucial assists.

Pickett started to find his shooting rhythm at the tail end of the opening 20 minutes when he drained a slick three-pointer to close to Nittany Lions’ deficit to just five.

Liddell managed to cause some problems for the Penn State lineup, though, as he fiercely blocked a Sessoms shot and put up 10 points of his own in the first half. Wheeler also dropped a dramatic step-back three-pointer after he shook off Lundy to make space and add some big points to the Buckeyes’ scoreboard.

The Nittany Lions went into the locker room trailing 33-24, similarly to their matchup with Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Harrar opened up the second half from the charity stripe and sunk both of his shots. The Buckeyes were next on the foul line and also went 2-for-2.

Pickett added another assist to set up Dread for a clutch three to make it 37-29. Dallion Johnson added another two points for the Nittany Lions with a jump shot under pressure to close the Buckeyes’ lead to eight.

Harrar converted an and-one opportunity, followed by two points from Pickett, and suddenly, the Nittany Lions were trailing by just one possession.

Penn State’s run was cut short when Liddell earned an and-one of his own. The junior sunk his free throw and made it 42-36 Buckeyes.

Pickett continued to post important points to keep the Nittany Lions competitive, but Ohio State extended its lead back to nine with 12 minutes remaining in the game.

Jaheam Cornwall entered the game and grabbed an and-one, but he missed his free throw. The guard still added two points, though, making it 51-44.

Dread and Harrar combined for a huge defensive play to force an Ohio State turnover. Harrar then connected with Sessoms for a powerful jumper to complete a 6-0 run over the Buckeyes. Penn State found itself, once again, within one possession of the lead.

Dread knocked down a huge three-pointer to tie the game with six minutes left from. Lundy followed up with a three of his own to take Penn State’s first lead of the game, forcing the Buckeyes to transition into a two-three zone defense.

Sessoms drew a foul to earn another and-one and converted to create Penn State’s largest lead of the game at three points. Both teams began to trade baskets and the energy was high in Indianapolis. Sessoms kept things going and added another layup to make it 61-58 in favor of Penn State with three minutes remaining.

By this time, Penn State entered the bonus while Ohio State reached bonus-plus, which broke up much of the final minutes of the game by free throws. The Buckeyes’ free throw percentage was about 15% higher than that of Penn State, though, Nittany LIon free throws proved to be a game changer in the tight matchup.

Harrar picked up a big offensive rebound off a jump shot by Sessoms to add another two points for Penn State. The forward made it 66-62 with his 12th and final point of the night.

Penn State sent the Buckeyes to the line where Liddell went 1-for-2, followed by two converted free throws from Pickett.

Lundy closed out the Nittany Lions’ scoring with two converted shots from the free throw line to make the final score 71-68 to complete the upset over Ohio State.

Takeaways:

  • Sam Sessoms is a machine. The guard, donning the No. 12 jersey, posted 18 points, leading the Nittany Lions on Thursday night. Sessoms paced Penn State in back-to-back tournament games with big second halves to keep his team in contention. The higher-ranked Buckeyes proved to be a big challenge for Micah Shrewsberry’s team, but Sessoms never failed to cause problems for Ohio State from the field.
  • Ohio State was plagued with injuries, but managed to play a seriously competitive game. Kyle Young and Zed Key didn’t make appearances due to injuries and, freshman Malaki Branham rolled his ankle in the opening minutes of the game. Branham was able to play through the injury, however, Ohio State lost some big contributors in Young and Key. It would be interesting to see how this matchup would look with a healthy Buckeye lineup.
  • Second. Half. Team.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions are heading to the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals to take on No. 3-seeded Purdue. That matchup is scheduled for 9 p.m. tomorrow, March 11 and can be viewed on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a sophomore journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She also talks about random, fun stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese, naps, and Kevin Jonas. If you would like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @lammkeeley or send your best Spotify playlist to her email keeley@onwardstate.com.

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