Coming off a “get better” win over St. Francis Brooklyn, Penn State hosted an undefeated Cornell team looking for a major road scalp over a power conference team.
Things started well enough for the Nittany Lions, as they jumped out to a 14-6 lead early on, thanks to Seth Lundy getting some buckets, as well as John Harrar snagging rebound after rebound. The Big Red however, would strike back with a vengeance, as they caught fire from three-point range, going on a 21-3 run over a five-minute stretch to lead 27-17 with less than eight minutes to play in the half. Thankfully for PSU, Sam Sessoms decided to start joining the scoring party, nailing four treys as the Lions battled back and utilized an 8-0 run in the final minute or so to take a 41-38 lead and all the momentum to the locker room.
The second half began with the Lions picking up where they left off, increasing their run to 13-0 to push their lead to 46-38. Cornell however, would go on a 12-0 run of their own, thanks to a flurry of steals and three-pointers to reclaim the lead. From there, the game would begin to resemble a track meet with both teams seemingly trading baskets, but Cornell clinging to a one or two possession lead (which was fitting, considering Cornell ranks 34th in KenPom’s adjusted tempo rankings).
The tide truly turned in PSU’s favor however, when Jalen Pickett nailed a game-tying trey with under seven minutes to go, followed by Sam Sessoms nailing back-to-back treys himself to give PSU a lead they would never relinquish. Sessoms and Pickett would ultimately finish off the Big Red from the free throw down the stretch when PSU was in the bonus, and earn themselves a gritty, confidence-building win heading into a difficult matchup with LSU for Thanksgiving weekend.
Both teams were efficient shooting the rock according to the four factors, although PSU finished shooting nearly 50 percent, while Cornell finished at just 38 percent. Cornell attempted 66 shots to PSU’s 55, yet they held a slightly better PPP, which is truly baffling. Also, it’s rare to see a team with a higher turnover rate like PSU (14 to Cornell’s 9) win games by double digits, especially when they practically shot and converted the same number of free throws as their opponent (PSU was 16-for-21 from the line, while Cornell was 15-for-21), which in turn makes the significant difference in free throw rate between the two teams so head-scratching.
Players of the Game - Seth Lundy (23 points, 5-for-8 3 PT FG, 7 rebounds, one block, one steal) Sam Sessoms (22 points, 6-for-7 3 PT FG, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, one steal)
Lundy and Sessoms combined for an insane 11-of-15 from downtown, with Sessoms especially coming up with timely three-pointers when PSU absolutely needed them. This helped the Lions ultimately rally in the second half and finish off the Big Red.
- YOU Get a Three-Pointer, and YOU Get a Three-Pointer! - We had a combined 24 shots made from downtown tonight between PSU and Cornell, but it was the Nittany Lions who tied a single-game program record for treys by nailing 15 of them.
- Princeton Offense...with SPEED - Did you know that Cornell likes to run the Princeton offense but at a very fast pace? I believe the BTN announcers only stated that about 50 times during the course of the broadcast. Perhaps explaining in further detail how it’s a fast-paced Princeton offense would’ve been beneficial to the viewers.
- Plenty Of Work To Do - While it was nice to see PSU come from behind to get the win, there is still plenty of work to do. Especially glaring was the lack of perimeter defense for a good portion of the game, and even more glaring was the turnovers, as PSU had 14 of them. Perhaps the more this team plays together, the more in-sync they will look, but they will absolutely need to clean these issues up before Big Ten play (even though the Big Ten is not living up to all the hype).
Penn State (3-1) heads down to Florida for a two-game tournament at the Emerald Coast Classic. Their first game will be this Friday (Nov. 26th) against LSU. Tipoff will be at 7:00 PM ET on CBS Sports Network.