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Penn State 74, St. Francis (Brooklyn) 59: Sam Sessoms Leads The Way

Sam just got another layup as I typed this.

NCAA Basketball: Youngstown State at Penn State
Unfortunately, we don’t have any photos from tonight’s game, so we’ll just have to resort to this photo of Sam Sessoms from last week’s game against Youngstown State.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a week after experiencing the joy of earning his first-ever win as Penn State’s head coach, Micah Shrewsberry experienced the brutality of an embarrassing beatdown at UMass for his first-ever loss as head honcho. Tonight’s game against St. Francis (Brooklyn) presented an opportunity to wash the bitter taste out of his and the rest of his team’s mouth and get back on the winning track.

It was a clunker early on as both teams struggled to hit shots from the floor, as the Terriers seemed to constantly hang around within 4-6 points for most of the half. However, the Lions began to heat up over the final several minutes of the half, with Seth Lundy and especially Sam Sessoms beginning to take over the game. Sessoms would push his scoring total to 16 points in the half by continually blowing by Brooklyn players for layup after layup, allowing PSU to push their halftime lead to double digits at 40-27.

The second half saw Sessoms pick up where he left off, as well as John Harrar rack up another double-double (14 points and 13 rebounds), thanks to his height advantage against the smaller Terriers. However, the Terriers did not allow things to get truly out of hand, as every time PSU seemed poised to blow the game wide open, they would answer back with some timely three-pointers or layups. At times, Brooklyn had PSU’s lead whittled down to ten points but could never manage to get back within single digits, especially with the Lions’ significant rebounding advantage. The end result was a double-digit PSU win that while a bit disjointed at times, was a welcome sight after earlier this week.

Four Factors

Considering how many layups and dunks PSU was garnering down low, that efficient field goal percentage seems about right. The free throw discrepancy is vast, thanks to PSU converting 17 of their 23 trips to the charity stripe, while Brooklyn was a dismal 2-for-6. The only stat in Brooklyn’s favor was turnovers, of which they only committed 10 to PSU’s 15.

Players of the Game - Sam Sessoms (26 points, 10-of-13 FG), John Harrar (14 points, 13 rebounds)

Sessoms reminded me of all the times I played pickup basketball at the IM Building or Rec Hall and there would usually be that one guy who was clearly the quickest person on the court and would continually blow by everybody for easy layups. He can get away with it against the Brooklyns of the college hoops world, but will have to pick and choose his spots against Big Ten competition. Harrar meanwhile, was an unstoppable force down low, especially once he corralled the pass in the paint. He was also clutch when it came to grabbing offensive rebounds, creating second-chance points for the Nittany Lions.

Random Observations

  • I don’t want to pick on the student broadcasters on the BTN+ call too much, but good lord, at least learn how to pronounce John Harrar’s last name properly (it’s hare-err, not hare-are). And when one team has the ball, it’s called a “possession,” not a “drive.”
  • Jalanni White got his first-ever start as a Nittany Lion and Micah Shrewsberry reached further into his bench tonight, giving several minutes of run to Caleb Dorsey and Dallion Johnson, while Sessoms, Lundy, and Harrar spent more time on the bench than you would imagine. I suppose if you’re going to see how deep you might be able to go later in the season, this was the ideal opponent to do it against.
  • Speaking of Jalanni White: Although he needs to watch the fouling going forward (White fouled out with 12 minutes to go in the game), he has been a pleasant surprise thus far, and another reliable source of rebounding next to Harrar. If Greg Lee can get healthy and Jevonnie Scott is cleared to play soon enough, there might be some actual depth in the front court, which could lead to some nice wins in conference play.
  • The 15 turnovers stat for Penn State is something Coach Shrews will harp on in practice, as that will absolutely need to be cleaned up before the two-game swing on Thanksgiving weekend at the Emerald Classic. LSU and Oregon State/Wake Forest won’t be quite as forgiving.

Up Next

Penn State (2-1) will remain in the friendly confines of the BJC when they host Cornell next Monday (Nov. 22nd). Tipoff will be at 6:30 PM ET on BTN.