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Michigan State 60, Penn State 58: Yet Another Gut Punch

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Penn State rallied all the way back from a horrible start, but still lost in heartbreaking fashion at the end.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

John Harrar has had quite a run as of late, racking up either double digits in scoring or rebounding in each of the last six games. That streak would end up extending into tonight’s big road showdown in East Lansing, as Harrar picked up the scoring slack to single-handedly keep Penn State within striking distance in a contest where seemingly every other PSU player struggled to shoot the ball.

The Nittany Lions’ shooting woes from the previous three halves of play continued, allowing Sparty to bust open a 12-0 run that pushed their lead into double figures at times. Despite a lousy shooting performance of around 30 percent, the Lions only trailed by eight points at halftime.

The second half saw Sparty once again push their lead into double digits, but PSU would continue to do just enough to hang around. Harrar finally got some scoring help, led Sam Sessoms nailing a pair of treys to help tie the game at 41. Sparty however, put together a 9-1 run and pushed the lead back up to eight, before PSU started to wake up even more from downtown, with Myles Dread and Myreon Jones knocking down back-to-back treys. The Lions would keep chipping away and ultimately took the lead.

The final five minutes would be a nail-biting affair where PSU would attempt to build upon their narrow two-point lead. They would get it up to four points at 58-54 before Sparty rattled off a painstaking 6-0 run to end the game, which featured multiple chances for PSU to either tie or take the lead with a trey in the game’s final minute.

On PSU’s second-to-last possession, Dread launched a trey that looked good just coming off his hand, only for it to go halfway down before rimming out with about ten seconds left. Sparty would miss the ensuing front end of a one-in-one free throw, giving PSU one more chance to win it as Harrar corraled the rebound and fed it to Dread, who instead of driving to the basket and trying to draw a foul, air-balled a desperation three as time expired (Harrar caught Dread’s air ball and put it in the basket, but was about a half-second too late). Yet another gut-punching loss in a season that’s been chock full of them.

Four Factors

Both teams were fairly even in the categories (including trips to the free throw line!), with the exception of efficient field goal shooting. In a game as tight as this one, Sparty’s 42 percent shooting was enough, especially since PSU only hit 35 percent from the floor.

Player of the Game

Did you really expect it to be anyone other than John Harrar? His double-double performance consisting of 17 points and 14 rebounds and never-say-die attitude were instrumental in keeping the game from getting completely out of hand in the early going when the rest of the team was laying enough bricks to build a bank. For that, he’s your POTG.

Random Observations

  • Your Tweet of the Night
  • Let’s Talk More About Myles’ Almost-Game Winner - Did anyone else jump out of their chair for joy when they saw the ball go through the cylinder? I sure did. The rim fairy being so unkind at the worst possible time is peak Penn State basketball.
  • On To The Next One - Yes, this was another painful “what if” type of loss, but the team needs to shake it off and make sure they take care of business at home against basement-dwelling Nebraska this weekend in order to remain in the NCAA bubble talk. Losing to a Huskers squad that is currently ranked 166th in the NET would mark the team’s first truly bad loss, as it would be a loss against a Quadrant 4 opponent.

Despite being two games under .500 overall, Penn State by virtue of playing the most difficult schedule ever according to KenPom (KenPom has been doing ratings since the 2001-02 season) still has a chance to earn an at-large bid, with opportunities for big wins looming on the schedule including home dates with Ohio State, Purdue, and Minnesota. The last thing this team needs though, is a huge blemish for the selection committee to point at when the committee will be facing scrutiny from the media for even considering selecting a sub-.500 team for an at-large bid.

Up Next

Penn State (7-9, 4-8) returns to the BJC this Valentine’s Day Sunday to take on Nebraska. Tip off is at 3:00 PM ET on BTN.