Penn State, looking to improve on its 5-1 record on the year, went on the road to face a similar team in Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC challenge. The Nittany Lions were slight underdogs coming in, which really was mostly a measure of Vegas not really knowing what to expect in the game, thus giving the benefit to the home team. Both of these teams will likely find themselves flirting with the bubble as the season plays out, so winning this game could very well make the difference between who makes the tournament between the two.
Clemson opened up the scoring, but the Nittany Lions basically took off from there, scoring the next 10 points to take an early 10-point lead. The Tigers would of course fight back, nearly erasing the deficit at 14-11. The pace picked as the game went along, and the back and forth continued. Penn State would extend the lead, Clemson would shrink it, and so we went as we closed out the first half with Penn State opening up a 10-point lead, then Clemson shrinking it to six as the half closed out.
The second half couldn’t have started worse for the Lions. A slew of fouls, cold shooting, and Clemson picking up the pace flipped the game in the opposite direction, as it was the Tigers who would go on to not only erase their six point deficit, but they’d build an eight point lead of their own. Penn State put Clemson in the bonus by the under-12 media timeout, which made things more pressing as the game went on. The string of fouls completely took the team out of rhythm, and they would struggle to find it the rest of the way.
With the roles reversed, it was Penn State who needed to shrink the deficit. They would eventually tie the game at 58 with with 4:36 left to play, but Clemson would quickly retake the lead on the next possession. Like Penn State in the first half, the Tigers simply found ways to retake and extend their lead every time the Lions threatened.
As the second half wound down, the Tigers started missing free throws, which allowed the Lions to chip away at the lead, making free throws of their own. An Andrew Funk three would actually do so, and to overtime they went!
Penn State kept the strategy going in the overtime, and as the refs kept calling the fouls on Clemson (Chase Hunter would foul out as a result, as would Myles Dread), the Lions stayed in the game at the line. Clemson would tie the game once more, and to double overtime we went!
You could start to see the Lions lose steam as the second overtime went on. More missed shots by Penn State, coupled by made buckets from the Tigers effectively put it away, as Clemson built up a six point lead with 59 second left in the contest. Clemson would also make their free throws this time around, so the Lions couldn’t make up the difference this time.
Four Factors Analysis
This is by far the highest free throw rate the Lions have seen in a game, and part of it was due to how whistle happy the refs were. Part of it was the two overtimes. The Lions shot well enough, as the numbers show, but on a night where Myles Dread went 0-fer, you needed just a few more shots to fall.
Players of the Game
Jalen Pickett - 23 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal
Cameron Wynter - 26 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Seth Lundy - 23 points, 12 rebounds
Pickett was all over the place for the Lions, doing what he does best. He distributed the ball well and was a big reason why Penn State stayed in the game in the second half. Lundy and Wynter also had good outings for the Lions, the latter’s free throws who made all the difference down the stretch. Honorable mention goes to Andrew Funk, whose three made the overtime possible.
Clock issues are universal - For as much fun as we make of Bryce Jordan for its clock issues, we had a big one in this game. At some point in the first half, the clock simply stopped running, and it led to Penn State needing to rush a shot with a second left once the refs figure out the issue. The clock issues would continue throughout the game, forcing the officials to manually wind down the clock several times.
Bad day for the bigs - Michael Henn had to come in early due to the day Kebba Njie and Caleb Dorsey were having. Midway through the second half, Micah Shrewsberry switched to small ball and basically stuck with it throughout.
The other Hunter - Going into the game, Chase Hunter was the guy everyone had circled as the potential threat. It would turn out to be Hunter Tyson who hurt the Lions most, as his big second half was instrumental in finishing the job for the Tigers.
Penn State starts Big Ten play with a home game against Michigan State. The Lions will hope to repeat the magic of last season and win another one against the Spartans in the warm confines of Bryce Jordan. Game will tip off at 6:30 PM on December 7, on the B1G Network.