Penn State Basketball Weekly Preview: Two Ranked Opponents This Week as Season Nears End
It was a tough week for Penn State fans, as the Nittany Lions lost two close games against teams that rank toward the bottom of the Big Ten. This was a week that could tarnish any potential tournament hopes come March.
The week started on the road, as the Nittany Lions traveled to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. Although the Spartans were co-champions of the Big Ten last season, they are nowhere near that level this season.
Penn State found itself playing from behind all game. The Spartans got out to a 17-6 lead early in the first half and the Nittany Lions couldn’t tie the game until 11:53 remained in the second half. From there, the two teams exchanged baskets, and with three minutes left to play Penn State found itself up four points.
But from there, the Nittany Lions went cold—they couldn’t score the rest of the game, which would officially come to an end after a missed Myles Dread 3-pointer for the win.
John Harrar led the team with 17 points and 14 rebounds while Myreon Jones scored 15 points of his own. But it wouldn’t be enough. Final score: 60-58.
That wasn’t even the worst of it. A few days later, the Nittany Lions found themselves in the same spot against a Nebraska team that, to this point, hadn’t won a conference game all season. Despite being overwhelming favorites to win the game, the Nittany Lions were upset at home 62-61 after an Izaiah Brockington turnover in the final seconds ended it.
Jones led the team with 18 points on 20 shots while Myles Dread, who started in place of Seth Lundy, scored 14.
In both games, the Nittany Lions failed to hit their shots, as they shot just 34% against Michigan State and 32% against Nebraska.
Jones and his teammates will look to forget the upset loss when they take on No. 4 Ohio State Thursday night at 8 p.m. back at the BJC. Their first matchup with the Buckeyes back in late January was one of the Nittany Lions’ seven single-digit losses, an 83-79 defeat.
Jones had a final opportunity down two with a minute to go when he drove to the bucket, but his floater from the free-throw line wouldn’t go, as Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell secured the rebound, adding to his 22-point night with two more at the stripe to ice it.
Liddell’s squad has won nine of their its 10 and is looking to lock itself in as a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. An upset Penn State victory would be a tall order, but the Nittany Lions have won their three previous home games against the Buckeyes.
Next on the schedule comes No. 11 Iowa on Sunday at 5 p.m. in Iowa City. Senior center Luka Garza is still the favorite for the Wooden Award, but he hasn’t been the leading scorer for the Hawkeyes in their last four games, a stretch in which the team went 2-2.
This could be a good sign or a bad sign for Harrar. Garza will be playing with a chip on his shoulder, but Harrar will be looking to get his team second chances. Iowa averages the most points scored in the conference at 87, but they also allow the most points at 73. Offensive boards from Harrar and some extra steals by point guard Jamari Wheeler could be key for Penn State to pull off the upset.
Following the conclusion of the Iowa game, just four games remain for Penn State before the Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions are running out of time to salvage their season.
Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.