Coming into this game, the Nittany Lions looked completely overmatched against the LSU Tigers. The Tigers had been beating their opponents by 30 points a game, while the Lions had already lost at the hands of UMass, and struggled to put away other teams along the way. Anyone who would have envisioned this one turning into an LSU blowout would have been justified in thinking it.
As it happens, Penn State had other plans. The Lions played the kind of slow-paced, defensive slugfest they are well known for, forcing LSU to work for every possession. This led to the Lions holding the lead for most of the first half, with the exception of a few minutes where the Tigers took an 8-12 lead. LSU would go on to shoot 28.2 percent from the field in the half, and a not much better 34.8 percent overall.
They key, of course, is the Tigers made plays down the stretch when the Lions couldn't. As LSU started to get hot in the second half, the Lions were doing their best to hang on. On several occasions, the Tigers would go up as much as five points, only for Penn State to come roaring back. Sometimes they’d tie the game, and other times they’d take the lead, but, each time, LSU managed to find a way to take the advantage.
As the game kept this kind of flow and the minutes turned into seconds, Penn State had what will be one of the wildest sequences you’ll see this season. With about five seconds left on the clock, the Lions inbounded the ball to John Harrar, who couldn’t quite grip the ball. The ball would find its way to Myles Dread, who then threw it up somewhere in the vicinity of the rim, and both Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy —who had barely scored to that point, got a chance to tip it in. The latter of the two was successful, and to overtime they went!
Overtime was much of the same, with LSU taking a lead and Penn State fighting back. This time, the fouls that had stated to mount up in the second half (what effectively kept LSU in front for the latter part of the half) became a real problem for the Lions. In fact, the Tigers made one field goal in the entire overtime period. Their remaining eight points all came at the free throw line. Some of those fouls will come down as suspect, and in a game this close any given one could have been the difference, but ultimately, Penn State had some plays available to them and was unable to capitalize. One such play was a wide open Seth Lundy driving to the basket, effectively unimpeded, only to miss the dunk that would cut the deficit to one. Also: That was the second missed dunk of the game by the Lions.
Four Factors Analysis
This game was pretty simple. Penn State did everything they could to drag LSU down to their level, but the Tigers made them pay by going after every lose ball, turning the Lions over, a lot, and going to the line at a steady pace. The Lions shot a respectable 42.9% from the field (and have the 53.6% eFG to prove it), but they simply couldn’t keep up with the Tigers’ hustle, and made boneheaded plays at the most inopportune times.
That said, going up against a team everyone thought would win by double digits and showing fight gives hope that the Lions might yet be improved as the season goes on.
Player of the Game
Jalen Picket was all over the place tonight. His 14 points, 12 of which came from beyond the arc, helped keep Penn State in this game. He also had eight rebounds, three assists, a block, and a steal to go along with the points. Sam Sessoms also played a good game, and in fact led the team in rebounds with 10.
The fight is there - A team that was scoring nearly 90 points a game coming into this one barely managed 70, and it took an overtime period to get there. That was all on Penn State.
Turnovers are still a problem - Penn State is starting to play better, but the turnovers kill all momentum and give opponents too many opportunities to take control of games. It’s cost them dearly in both of their losses, and made their victories closer than they should have been.
Ball is moving - When they’re not turning the ball over, the team does move the ball well enough, and now are starting to find the open men. And, of course, those open men are now starting to make their shots, so if they keep improving in that department, the offense might be enjoyable to watch!
Holy threes batman - Of Penn State’s 56 shots in this game, 38 of them (thirty-eight!) came from the three point line. They made 12 of those.
Penn State will play the loser of Wake Forest and Oregon State on Saturday in the third place game. Game is at 4 PM Eastern on CBS Sports Network