A Career Night From Sam Sessoms Powers Penn State Past St. Francis Brooklyn
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State responded from its loss to UMass on Monday with a strong win over St. Francis Brooklyn, 74-59, on Military Appreciation Night at the Bryce Jordan Center. With the win, the Nittany Lions improved to 2-1 on the season, while the Terriers fell to 0-3.
Head coach Micah Shrewsberry injected some more height into his lineup with Jalanni White starting alongside John Harrar. After a strong pair of practices, Shrewsberry rewarded the Canisius transfer by getting the nod at forward.
Both teams were cold out of the gate to start the first half, but it was St. Francis that found the early 4-2 lead, which prompted a Penn State timeout. The Terriers had more hustle than Penn State at the outset. The Nittany Lions went into the first media timeout on a 5-0 run to take a 7-6 lead.
Shrewsberry was not happy with his team’s overall effort, but he found a way to rally his troops coming out of the timeout. Some strong outside shooting courtesy of Seth Lundy and Myles Dread had the Nittany Lions up by seven.
Penn State ended the opening frame on a 6-0 scoring run and went into the halftime intermission with a 40-27 lead. Senior point guard Sam Sessoms was pacing the Nittany Lions with 16 first-half points.
Sessoms broke his previous Penn State career-high of 18 with an and-1 to start the second half. However, Trent Wilcox Jr. and the Terriers were able to catch fire from deep and began to cut into the Nittany Lion lead.
Wilcox came into tonight averaging under two points per game, but after sinking three-straight shots from beyond the arc he had St. Francis within 10, prompting another change by Penn State.
At the 15:31 mark of the second Shrewsberry opted to sub out four of the five players on the court. The first-year head coach has preached his high standard and wanted to find the lineup that was going to get it done.
“I don’t care who you’re playing or who’s in, the game needs to be played the right way,” Shrewsberry said. “Those guys weren’t doing that, so we found five guys who were going to play it the right way.”
St. Francis did ramp up their pressure by breaking out the full-court press and got within 10 again. Penn State did a good job and maintained its double-digit lead to get back in the win column.
While it was a bounce-back win for the Nittany Lions, coach Shrewsberry is still looking for more consistency out of his team and to reach that standard that he expects from them.
Penn State finished the game with 15 team turnovers to St. Francis’s 10.
“We didn’t value the basketball. Our goal is 10 turnovers or less,” Shrewsberry said. “Every single day it’s passing and catching, you would think you’re at an elementary school practice, but that’s the game right there.”
While there were some sour spots, it was a sweet night for Sessoms who finished with 26 points, his Penn State career-high, and shot 10-13 from the field. Harrar also chipped in his second double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Shrewsberry and the coaching staff are happy to get back to winning form and understand what it takes to win at this level.
“You learn that winning is hard and that you have to celebrate it every single time,” Shrewsberry said. “No matter what you feel, what it looks like, you learn to celebrate, and then you have to learn from it.”
The Nittany Lions will look back at the tape before returning to action on Monday night when they welcome Cornell to the Bryce Jordan Center. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.
Matthew Scalzo is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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