Nittany Lions Lose Close Big Ten Opener to Michigan

Story posted December 13, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack McCune

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Penn State took its second loss of the season, as the Nittany Lions fell to Michigan 62-58 in a game of runs Sunday afternoon at the Crisler Center. Penn State falls to 3-2 on the year, while the Wolverines stay perfect at 6-0. The Nittany Lions shot just 31% from the field but forced 16 turnovers.

For the third time this season, the Nittany Lions were in a one-possession contest at the final possession of regulation. This time, junior transfer Sam Sessoms had the ball in his hands down two with 24 seconds to go after a pair of missed Michigan free throws.

His teammates moved around on the perimeter, giving him a lane to drive on the left side. But his contested lefty layup with five seconds on the clock wouldn’t go, and he put the ball right into senior Wolverine Isaiah Livers’ hands. Livers then knocked down both of his free throws on the other end after a quick foul to seal the deal.

But all crises could’ve been averted had the Nittany Lions scored on previous possessions. They held a 58-56 lead with three minutes to go and didn’t score for the remainder of the game.

Interim head coach Jim Ferry was frustrated with his team’s performance down the stretch. He liked how his defense kept the game close, but it clearly wasn’t enough.

“That’s who we are, but we’ve got to finish those plays,” Ferry said. “We only took 15 (free throws), which is not good.”

Sessoms was one of three Nittany Lions to score in double digits alongside fellow juniors Izaiah Brockington with 14 and Myreon Jones with 10. But Jones was just 3 of 11 from the floor, as he often put up ill-advised jumpers. Meanwhile, Michigan freshman seven-footer Hunter Dickinson was efficient with 9-of-14 shooting for a career-high 20 points.

Dickinson’s squad led by 15 with two minutes to go in the opening half, but the Nittany Lions then went on an 18-2 run to end the first and begin the second. The momentum was clearly heavily on one side or the other throughout the game, as Michigan scored nine straight points early, while Penn State put up a 10-0 run later.

Penn State sophomore forward Seth Lundy struggled for a second-straight game after posting 33 points against VCU earlier in the month. He made just two of 10 shots and went 1 of 5 from 3-point range for five total points. His leadership role and ball presence has seemed to diminish as the season has moved along.

The Nittany Lions will have a 10-day break for finals before hosting No. 6 Illinois on Dec. 23. Ferry knows the schedule doesn't get any easier playing in a deep conference.

“It’s the Big Ten,” Ferry said. “There are going to be battles.”

 

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