Nittany Lions Lose to Indiana in Controversial Overtime Thriller

Story posted December 31, 2020 in CommRadio, Sports by Jack McCune

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Penn State (3-4) failed to earn its first conference victory of the season, as the Nittany Lions fell to the Indiana Hoosiers (6-4) 87-85 in overtime Wednesday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

A game of runs and disputed foul calls ended in desperation, as head coach Archie Miller’s Hoosiers held possession with 39 seconds left in the overtime period with the teams knotted up at 85.

The Nittany Lions defense stayed strong, as Indiana’s drawn-up play went awry with less than 10 seconds left to go on the shot clock, but the effort was to no avail, as junior guard Rob Phinisee knocked down a contested stepback jumper to the left of the free-throw line.

His squad never looked back with just 13 seconds on the clock after Penn State junior Sam Sessoms could not finish a heavily-defended layup on the other end.

But analysts argue that overtime could’ve been avoided entirely. Penn State took its first lead of the game at 80-79 with 28 seconds left in regulation after a second-chance pullup jumper by Sessoms.

Indiana then took a few seconds off the clock before feeding sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis inside. A pass to him on the block was denied by junior Myles Dread, who was called immediately for a foul.

But replay showed that Dread’s contest looked clean and the only contact he made was with the ball. Regardless, the Hoosiers were in the double penalty, and Jackson-Davis made one of two shots at the line to tie the game with seven seconds on the clock.

To make matters more controversial, Sessoms took the ball up quickly and missed a buzzer-beating jumper but was unable to land cleanly with Phinisee up in his grill. TV commentator Robbie Hummel said during the broadcast that Sessoms was not given enough room to come down.

Visibly angered by both calls, interim head coach Jim Ferry was frustrated that neither call went his way during critical moments of the game.

“The Big Ten has the best referees in the country,” Ferry said. “[They] work extremely hard, and every play is such a bang-bang play…[but] I didn’t think Sam was allowed his space to land. Just really disappointed.”

Ferry emphasized that all crises could’ve been averted had his team played cleaner basketball earlier. The Nittany Lions gave up 15 turnovers, tied for their most this season. And with 12:43 to go in the second half, they let a tie score at 53 apiece vanish as the Hoosiers went on a 13-1 scoring run.

Fifteen-plus points from Sessoms, Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington weren’t enough to give Penn State a win it desperately hoped for. Interior defense remains an issue. Despite senior big man John Harrar recording nine points and 10 rebounds, he had a rough night covering Jackson-Davis, who had a field day down low with 21 points and eight field goals, all in the paint.

Despite the loss, Ferry was encouraged by his team’s performance. The Nittany Lions shot 42% from downtown for their second-best 3-point shooting performance of the season. Jones had his best game of the year with 20 points and four 3’s on 6-of-9 shooting. The Nittany Lions also outrebounded the Hoosiers 34-26.

“Really proud of the effort the guys gave tonight,” Ferry said. “We really scrapped extremely hard....We trusted each other and made tough baskets to give ourselves a chance to win that basketball game.”

The road doesn’t get any easier for Ferry and company, as their next four matchups will be against opponents ranked in the AP Top 25. They’ll take on No. 6 Wisconsin at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday, Jan. 3, at noon in their next contest.


Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email