Harrar’s Off Night, Lack of Rebounds Make Difference in Penn State’s Blowout Loss to Purdue

Story posted February 26, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Jack McCune

Penn State interim head coach Jim Ferry had five words to describe senior big John Harrar and his rebounding success in a press conference Thursday before the Purdue game on Friday night.

“Heart. Soul. Effort. Toughness. Aggressiveness,” Ferry said.

But in a rare circumstance, Harrar was not the aggressive hawk on both ends of the glass. As his Nittany Lions were blown out by the Boilermakers 73-52, Harrar had just three boards for his second-lowest total of the year. And for the first time this season, he did not grab a single offensive rebound.

The 21-point loss wasn’t the only largest Penn State deficit this year; the Nittany Lions also lost the rebound battle 41-28 for their worst margin on the boards all season long. The 28 grabs are tied for the team’s third-lowest total, and the 41 they gave up is tied for the second most.

Harrar could not repeat the same night he had against Purdue in the teams’ first meeting back in mid-January. In his team-leading 34 minutes, the senior recorded his second-ever double-double with 14 buckets and 14 boards, including 10 on the offensive glass. Since then, he’s totaled three double-doubles and four other games in which he put up double figures on the rebounding end.

The heart and soul of the team got involved in other ways Friday night by scoring nine points, but he played just 19 minutes. And his squad actually had four more possessions in the game than the Boilermakers did, but the height and shooting ability of head coach Matt Painter’s team was just too much.

However, a bounce-back performance could be on the horizon. When Harrar put up just one point and two rebounds against Illinois on Dec. 23, he came back a week later and recorded nine and 10, respectively.

Harrar still stands at fourth place in the Big Ten in rebounds per game at 8.8—just behind Purdue’s Trevion Williams at 9.1. The junior grabbed just five boards Friday night, but his teammates picked up the slack, including 6-foot-9-inch forward Aaron Wheeler, who snagged seven rebounds. 

Painter had other options to go to on the glass while Ferry didn’t. Sophomore Seth Lundy was expected to step in to the role as the secondary rebounder that Lamar Stevens filled, but he had just three in the loss, and he’s averaging fewer than four boards per game this year. Guards Jamari Wheeler and Izaiah Brockington are both averaging more than him.

Penn State’s next matchup will be no easy task; the Nittany Lions will face Minnesota and 7-foot Liam Robbins Wednesday night in the final home game of the season. Despite the height difference, Harrar actually averages more boards at 8.8 to Robbins’ 6.6.


Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jxm1237@psu.edu.