It’s a great name for an interim head coach, Ferry. A ship conveying passengers over a relatively short distance. Jim Ferry may be named the permanent coach sometime in the future for the Penn State basketball team but for now he is simply taking it from one place to the next. He is doing a very good job thus far and the seas have not been friendly.
His team lost 62-58 to a 6-0 Wolverine program that could make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. With the only other blemish on the season an overtime loss to Seton Hall, another quality team, it is hard to find fault in Ferry’s job to this point.
Penn State Basketball Stats Through 5 Games
Thus far the statistics look favorable for the Lions. Notice the 3-point percentages and just remember a few seasons ago when the team had trouble finding more than one player at a time that was able to hit from deep with regularity. Myreon Jones has had a few shots spin around the rim and then out, otherwise he would be shooting closer to 40% as we have come to expect from him. Jones is the only deep threat that is shooting beneath his ability and it’s doubtful that will continue.
Contrary to popular opinion leading up to the season, Penn State has not had trouble defending the low-post or keeping its big men out of foul trouble. With the addition of Abdou Tsimbila to the rotation at center, Jim Ferry has a shot-blocker at his disposal when opposing teams force the issue on the low-post.
Hunter Dickinson scored 20 points and had 7 rebounds, the 7-foot-1 Michigan center began to dominate the game early in the first half. Tsimbila was able to come into the game when Dickinson seemed unstoppable, cooling him off. By the end of the game Tsimbila had only played 6 minutes but they came at critical moments. Having only played 11 total minutes during the first 4 games, it was his largest contribution of the season.
Since the nickname ‘Buckets’ is already taken on the team, it wouldn’t be right to dub him Buckets Tsimbila, but he got his first two baskets at the collegiate level right before halftime. Notice 7-foot-1 Hunter Dickinson, No. 1 in the corn-colored shirt, watching helplessly as Abdou abdunks it and then hits a no-look bank shot off an offensive rebound a minute later.
The points helped the Lions stay in the game and gave coach Ferry much-needed production out of his backup center. Tsimbila finished with a block, 2 rebounds and 4 points, providing a stopper on defense as well.
Trent Buttrick led the Lions with 7 rebounds, playing 13 minutes against larger post players. Buttrick hesitated slightly on his 3-point attempts, which is understandable since he isn’t asked to score very often, but it was clear that his teammates wanted him to shoot when he was open. If he can get a little more comfortable shooting within the rhythm of the offense, Buttrick will be able to hit his three point shots at a rate closer to 35%, which would add an outside threat for teams to defend while John Harrar is resting on the bench.
It’s pretty amazing that a team that was supposed to be disadvantaged at the center position now has three unique options to deploy. Seton Hall, Virginia Tech and Michigan are all great measuring sticks and the Lions stood tall. Seth Lundy quietly leads the team with 5 blocked shots, not bad for a 6-foot-6 power forward.
Sam Sessoms continues to show that he is a special player. Sessoms hit an amazing shot to keep his team in the game, showing why his coach and teammates have faith that he can deliver in the clutch. He shed the initial man guarding him and drew a foul but then continued on to finish in the face of a 7-footer.
The team was trailing on the road, looking for an answer and they went to the Sessoms. The free throw that he hit was the final point that the Lions scored. Late in the game when the team needed a basket, they called upon both Izaiah Brockington and Sessoms. The final two chances to tie the game in the closing minute fell on layups by Brockington and Sessoms that did not go in.
In past years the team relied on one player in key moments and it wasn’t always a recipe for success. This squad has several players that can take a tough shot. I don’t think anyone would flinch if Seth Lundy had to hit a shot or Myles Dread or Myreon Jones. On Sunday the task fell to Brockington and Sessoms, who each got quality looks at the basket.
It is important to remember that these layups were to tie the game during the final minute of a Big Ten conference game on the road. There would be no uncontested shots, that was for certain. The question was which Penn State player would be best suited to take an off-balance shot with a hand in his face?
Had Jim Ferry chosen to go to Dread, Jones or Lundy, the team would have likely had to live or die with a three point shot. With Brockington and Sessoms, they had a chance to score on a drive or get to the foul line, or both. Unfortunately for Penn State, each shot in the lane came up short.
With 32 seconds to play, trailing by 2, you can hear the Penn State bench yell, ‘and one’ as Brockington throws the ball toward the basket. There was no foul called and the Lions were forced to foul Michigan. On the next trip, Sam Sessoms had a chance to tie the game and he suffered a similar fate. Jim Ferry got two players that were playing well shots that they had a good chance of making. The shots just didn’t go in and there wasn’t a foul call.
In conference play you can’t rely on getting a foul call late in the game, that is for sure. Penn State has no argument there. It’s a bitter pill to swallow that neither layup found the basket but that was just how it went. It was a great effort and the team showed that it has enough talent, size, fight, coaching, and Philly Swagger, to make a run this year.