Ayala, Russell Surge In Second Half To Defeat Penn State

Story posted February 22, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Jonathan Draeger

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.– Penn State feared the turtle in its trip to College Park.

The Nittany Lions failed to make the comeback falling to the Maryland Terrapins on the road 67-61.

Senior guard Sam Sessoms finished with a team-high 17 points on 50 percent shooting, but also committed four turnovers. Along with Sessoms’ contributions, senior forward John Harrar posted 14 points on 70 percent shooting and senior guard Jalen Pickett added 13 points and six assists.

For Maryland, graduate student guard Fats Russell led the team with 18 points, with all his points coming in the second half. Senior guard Eric Ayala boasted 13 points while shooting 3-6 from the perimeter.

Turnovers were a big problem for the Nittany Lions. The team finished the night with 13 turnovers, with Sessoms having the majority.

“We can’t turn the ball over 13 times,” coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “Those turnovers were costly.”

The first half started slow for the Nittany Lions only scoring five points in the first six minutes of play. Once the team settled into the game, they slowly found their rhythm shooting 40.7 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from downtown.

Maryland kept its momentum rolling from its big win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Feb. 18 after dropping five straight games. It outshot Penn State by one made basket, converting 44.4 percent of its field goals, but the Terrapins led in no other statistical category at halftime.

The second half proved to have a different tempo for Maryland early on, especially for Russell. After going scoreless in the first half, the guard opened the half with 10 quick points.

Along with Russell, guard Eric Ayala started to heat up from three early on, going 2-3 after seven minutes. Ayala and Russell combined for 28 points out of the Terrapins’ 39 points in the second half.

The defenses stepped up their pressure by utilizing the full-court press and a zone defense to make them shoot from the perimeter. The Nittany Lions also couldn’t get the ball into the post often, with a few turnovers coming off on entry passes to Harrar in the low block.

“We were standing with the ball above our head trying to force it into the post,” Shrewsberry said. “Everybody knows you’re passing.”

In the late stages of the second half, Maryland was held scoreless for almost five and a half minutes. Penn State could not make the comeback in that drought.

Penn State, down 12 points cut the lead to six points entering the under-four-minute timeout. Both teams were scoreless for a good majority of that stretch until a pair of free throws by Maryland ended the scoring drought.

From there, Maryland kept its distance and ended the game with multiple free throws made by Fats Russell. Russell scored Maryland’s last eight points; all coming from the charity stripe.

Penn State’s road woes continue as they drop to 1-8 in true road games. “We need to play with more poise on the road, and that starts with me,” Shrewsberry said.

The Nittany Lions come back home to Happy Valley where they will take on the Northwestern Wildcats on Senior Day. Tip is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25.

Jonathan Draeger is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at jrd6052@psu.edu.