Ferry’s Clock Management Questionable in Nittany Lions’ Loss to Seton Hall

Story posted December 7, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack McCune

After an 11-point lead at halftime Sunday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, interim head coach Jim Ferry’s Nittany Lions looked to be in good shape to advance to 3-0 on the year with a win over Seton Hall.

But the advantage seemed too good to be true, and indeed it was, as Penn State fell 98-92 in overtime. Pirates’ senior forward Sandro Mamukelashvili didn’t look like himself in the first half when he only put up eight points for a man who averages 21 per game. But he had 17 in the second half and five in overtime to give him a perfect 30-burger. Seton Hall outscored the Nittany Lions 64-47 in the final two periods.

But even with the offensive onslaught of Mamukelashvili and company after an uncharacteristic first half, all crisis, and even overtime, could’ve been averted had Ferry considered different coaching tactics down the stretch.

With less than two minutes to go in the second half, Penn State led 82-76 and had just secured a turnover thanks to junior guard Myles Dread’s steal, as Mamukelashvili was careless with the ball. And rather than letting the clock roll down to decrease Seton Hall’s time for a comeback, junior guard Myreon Jones scored a second-chance layup with 18 seconds left on the possession.

And after a 3-point dagger on the next possession from Mamukelashvili to cut the lead to five, sophomore forward Seth Lundy drove inside and missed a contested layup attempt, also with more than 10 seconds left on the shot clock. The Pirates then had more than a minute to score five straight points and send the game to overtime locked at 84.

This wasn’t the first time the Nittany Lions faced late-game issues this season. In their buzzer-beating victory against VCU Wednesday night, a five-point advantage with less than three minutes to go vanished after ill-advised shots that didn’t use the full stretch of the clock, allowing the Rams to storm back. Had the Nittany Lions not received the last possession of the game, their season could potentially have had an entirely different outlook with a 1-2 record.

Despite the elephant in the room, Ferry didn’t want to discuss exactly what happened during the final few possessions.

“Really disappointing loss,” Ferry said. I thought we played a fantastic first 15 minutes, then we got away from what we were doing. Up eight with two minutes to go, that’s a game you have to win.”

Perfecting key possessions will be crucial in Penn State’s next matchup against No. 16 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Tuesday night at 9 p.m. before they face Michigan in Ann Arbor on Sunday.

 

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