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Penn State Hoops Can’t Complete Second-Half Comeback, Falls To Purdue 69-61

Penn State men’s basketball (14-17, 7-13 Big Ten) fell to No. 9 Purdue (26-6, 14-6 Big Ten) 69-61 Friday night in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals in Indianapolis.

Jalen Pickett led the way with 16 points and six assists, while John Harrar finished his final Penn State game with 15 points and 12 rebounds. He finished the season as one of two players to average a double-double in the Big Ten, alongside Kofi Cockburn of Illinois.

How It Happened

John Harrar got the scoring starting with the first two baskets of the game for the Nittany Lions. Myles Dread then followed up with two made threes, and the Nittany Lions were on fire to start the game. Purdue struggled on both sides of the ball, leading to Penn State having all of the momentum.

The Boilermakers were able to spark some momentum out of the first media timeout, but the Nittany Lions got to the free throw line to maintain their lead. Seth Lundy and Jalen Pickett both sunk two freebies.

Pickett followed that up with a midrange jumper, and Sam Sessoms easily scored a lay-up to extend the lead to nine points. Purdue cut into that lead, but Harrar made up for it by having his way in the paint. Pickett continued to be shifty with his scoring, hitting a really tough floater.

Despite all of that offense, the Boilermakers kept inching their way forward on the back of Jaden Ivey. As Ivey got hot, so did his teammates, and that led to the Nittany Lions losing any momentum they may have had earlier in the game.

Purdue kept extending its lead, and it felt like it could not miss a single shot. It wasn’t until Sessoms hit a contested three that Penn State finally broke Purdue’s spell. The Nittany Lions would go into halftime trailing 35-31.

The beginning of the second half was all Purdue. Pickett had a nice floater, and Dallion Johnson was able to get into the paint, but the Boilermakers were dominant through the first four minutes of the half.

Harrar and Pickett tried their hardest to keep the Nittany Lions in the game. Harrar fought hard to get a layup, and Pickett’s step back three was huge, yet Purdue seemed to have an answer for everything that was thrown at it.

Pickett sunk another basket, and Johnson hit a three, but it seemed to be too little too late. The Boilermakers were in total control, and there was very little Penn State could do about it.

Suddenly, the Nittany Lions got hot. Jaheam Cornwall sunk two threes, and Johnson had a beautiful layup in the paint, and the team was down by three and forced Purdue to take a timeout. They went on a 13-4 scoring run, which changed the game completely.

Harrar and Sessoms weren’t about to let this game slip away either, with both of them sinking layups. All of a sudden, it was a one-point game with less than three minutes left. Ivey was able to extend the Boilermakers lead to three, but the Nittany Lions were still fighting.

A couple of last second possessions did not go Penn State’s way, and it effectively ended the game. After a handful of free throws, Purdue escaped with the 69-61 victory.

Takeaways

  • Penn State needs Jalen Pickett to return next season. He has an extra year due to COVID-19 eligibility granted to all student athletes, and it’s important for the program that he takes that extra year with the Nittany Lions. His offense is extremely important to how this team runs, and will make an immediate difference with the young players that join the program next season. If this game shows anything, it is how important Pickett is to this team.
  • The Nittany Lions are streaky, but they also show that they can compete with everyone in the conference. The first ten minutes of the game proved that they were a competitive team, but basketball is a 40-minute game. They have to keep playing like they did in the first ten minutes for most of the game if they want to beat teams like Purdue.
  • Seth Lundy needs to spend his offseason to find his offensive game. He missed so many open shots, if he just made one or two of them, it would be a much closer contest. If he can find any offensive rhythm going into next season, Penn State will be set up for success.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions’ season is likely over, with an extremely slim chance that they make the NIT. The Cinderella postseason run has come to an end.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey is a junior from Annapolis, Maryland, majoring in secondary education and minoring in social justice in education. When he is not writing for the blog, he enjoys rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor", and yes mom, actually doing school work. If you would like to talk about sports or "Survivor", the best way to reach out is on Twitter @theowenabbey. All other compliments may be sent to [email protected]

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