It had been three weeks since Penn State had a chance to play in front of their beloved Legion of Blue student section. The end to this home game drought could not have come at a better time, since a rematch with Iowa loomed, the same Iowa team that lit up PSU by 17 points in Iowa City just nine days earlier.
The Lions brought the energy from the opening tip, as they rode a hot shooting effort from Seth Lundy and took advantage of a slow shooting start for Iowa to lead by as many as 11 points in the first half. True to form for the Hawkeyes however, they started draining threes, especially Connor McCaffrey, who looked like your neighbor who would come over to your house and nail shots from the end of the driveway. It was good enough for Iowa to reclaim the lead before halftime to take a two-point lead to the locker room.
The second half resembled a heavyweight boxing match where both fighters exchanged haymakers. Lundy and John Harrar, along with Greg Lee, led the scoring charge, with each of them finishing in double-digits, (Lundy and Harrar with double-doubles). The largest lead any team held in the second half was PSU up six with 1:11 to go. With PSU one more Iowa miss and defensive rebound away from perhaps icing the game up, Iowa’s Keegan Murray stepped up with a big-time trey to cut the lead in half. Jalen Pickett would then get blocked going for a shot to put PSU back up two scores, and Iowa’s Patrick McCaffrey answered with a layup to cut the lead to one with 13 seconds left. Sam Sessoms was then fouled with nine seconds left and split his pair of one-in-one free throws, giving Iowa one last chance, in which Keegan Murray did his best Lorenzo Charles impersonation, tipping in an air-balled trey right at the buzzer to force overtime.
At this point, if you’re a fellow die-hard Penn State hoops fan, you probably felt like you’ve seen this movie a bazillion times before, and were bracing yourself accordingly for another gut-wrenching loss. In fact, I had already titled this post “Iowa xx, Penn State xx (OT): Pain.” Myles Dread had other plans though, as with ten seconds left in the first OT period and PSU trailing by three, he pump-faked his defender at the top of the key, leaned forward and swished a contested trey. Iowa somehow missed their game-winning shot attempt, and off to the second overtime we went.
The second OT period saw Pickett take over with scoring PSU’s first five points, which included an old-fashioned three-point play, followed by a clutch jumper to get PSU up by three. The Lions would hang on to their lead throughout the remainder of the second OT period, with Myles Dread and Greg Lee nailing some critical free throws down the stretch to ultimately keep the Hawkeyes at bay, earning themselves a huge, confidence-boosting upset win to end a three-game losing skid, and give the fans who attended tonight’s game at the Bryce Jordan Center their money’s worth.
The Lions were slightly more efficient shooting the rock than the Hawkeyes, but the offensive rebounding percentage stat is more telling. PSU held a 53-43 total and 15-14 offensive rebounding advantage, which was enough on a night like tonight.
Players of the Game
Trying to pick a single player of tonight’s game reminds me of that scene in Office Space where Michael Bolton is being interviewed by the consultants and is asked what his favorite Michael Bolton song is. Harrar (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Lundy (17 points, 11 rebounds) are the first two that come to mind, both came into this game showing a huge amount of resolve and scrapped for every loose ball and bucket. Greg Lee had his best performance in a Penn State uniform, getting damn near a double-double with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Dread also came quite close himself with 12 points and nine boards. Pickett also nailed several big-time shots to finish with 13 points and also did his share of work on the glass with seven rebounds. I don’t know, I guess I just sort of like them all...
- Welcome to the starting line up, Dallion - Dallion Johnson got his first career start tonight and certainly made a good impression with a couple of early buckets. Perhaps Sam Sessoms will replace him in the lineup next game, but it had to have been a confidence boost for Dallion, who appears to be getting more comfortable with the pace of Big Ten play and should factor in as a key part of the roster going forward.
- Kudos to Coach Shrews - Whatever Micah Shrewsberry said and did in the practices following that dreadful performance at Indiana, it clearly worked. If there’s one thing that’s become a pattern thus far with Shrews in charge, it’s that he’s not afraid to shake things up significantly if the team is stuck in a slump.
- Kudos to the Fans - Particularly the Legion of Blue, who brought the noise and sounded like a group that couldn’t have been happier to once again have a chance to watch their beloved team at the BJC. The players clearly seemed to respond well, too. It just goes to show how much it initially hurt momentum to have the home game against Minnesota postponed. Hopefully, this gives the team a second wind going into February.
Penn State (9-9, 4-6) hits the road this upcoming Saturday to take on #11 Wisconsin (17-3, 8-2). No doubt, they will be heavy underdogs, but if they can bring an effort similar to tonight, they certainly can make things interesting. Tip-off will be at 6:00 PM ET on B1G Network.