Nittany Lions clawback in second half; advance to quarterfinals
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.– Rest over rhythm is always the unanswered question come tournament time, but it was answered on Thursday.
Penn State advanced to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament by defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 71-68. This marks the first win for Penn State in its last four meetings, with two of them coming earlier this season.
Ohio State junior forward EJ Liddell led all scorers with 25 points on 6-14 shooting, eight rebounds and two blocks. Following Liddell was Penn State senior guard Sam Sessoms with 18 points on over 50 percent shooting.
“Give Penn State credit,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “It was a really hard-fought game.”
Coming off its first-round win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Mar. 9, Penn State turned around the next day to be the nightcap of the tournament’s second day.
The blue and white faced a familiar foe not too far from its home in Happy Valley; only this time, it’s a neutral-site game in Indianapolis with a new look on the roster.
“They were a little banged up in terms of who they had available,” Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “They’ve gotten a little bit of rut because of that, but still a really good team.”
The Nittany Lions struggled offensively to start, committing five turnovers in the first 10 minutes of play. Ohio State capitalized on those opportunities by getting out to a 13-point lead.
The Nittany Lions slowly closed the gap heading into halftime, with the smallest deficit coming to five points. However, the Buckeyes locked down and kept their distance, bringing it to a three-score game.
Shooting struggles still plagued the team, as the team hit 32 percent of their shots in the first half, with a 25 percent clip from the three-point line. The second half was different, considering the team ended with a 46.3 percent clip from the field and 31.6 from beyond the arc.
The second half was an explosion of offense for Shrewsberry’s squad. The team hit 61.5 percent of their shots and nearly 43 percent from the perimeter.
“We just get a better feel as the game goes on,” Shrewsberry said. “I don’t think our physicality was very good offensively.”
The main contribution to their struggles in the shooting department came from junior forward Seth Lundy, who went 0-6 from the floor in the first half. His shooting struggles continued into the second half until two straight buckets in the second half gave the Nittany Lions the lead and his total to seven points.
Sessoms started to take over toward the end of the game, helping the Nittany Lions down the stretch get some key buckets. From there, he mainly acted as a facilitator and kept his foot on the gas.
“We made it to the second day last year; lost on a last-second decision made by me,” Sessoms said, referencing last year’s second-round exit to the Wisconsin Badgers. “I’m just happy to make it to Friday. We really deserve it.”
Ohio State, on the other hand, entered the locker rooms shooting 44 percent from the floor and 56 percent from downtown. Its second half saw them simmer down with an exact 44 percent field goal percentage and 22 percent from the three-point line.
Overall, the team finished with 44.2 percent from the floor and 38.9 percent from downtown. The Buckeyes failed to keep up with Penn State’s momentum toward the end of the game.
The turnovers were cleaned up for the Blue and White. After the initial five turnovers in the first 10 minutes, the Nittany Lions only had one turnover from that point on, ending with six compared to the Buckeye’s eight.
“We know what type of game this is going to be,” Liddell said. “They’re a gritty team, and they just played harder.”
The Nittany Lions continue their run in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday, Mar. 11, where they take on the No. 3 seed Purdue Boilermakers in the quarterfinal.
Jonathan Draeger is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Second Year / Broadcast Journalism