Penn State Basketball surges to second-half win over Northwestern

Penn State Nittany Lions forward John Harrar (Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State Nittany Lions forward John Harrar (Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports) /

Penn State Basketball broke out in the second half, toppling Northwestern on Senior Night inside the Bryce Jordan Center 

A rare second-half comeback gave Penn State Basketball a win on Senior Night over Northwestern 67-60.

The victory moved Penn State Basketball to 12-13 (7-10) on the year with a realistic chance to get eight confefence wins with last place Nebraska coming to town Sunday (before heading to No. 17 Illinois and to Rutgers).

This was an impressive win as the Nittany Lions trailed by as many as seven after an incredibly flat first half.  The shooting came alive in the second half, particularly from sophomore Dallion Johnson who finished with a career-high 15 points.

The King of Delco John Harrar appropriately added 11 points and 20 (!) rebounds. Penn State had a massive advantage downtown, out-rebounding Northwestern by 16.

All Penn State Basketball players who played four-plus years were honored in Senior Night festivities before the game. Jaheam Cornwall, Jalanni White, Greg Lee, and John Harrar will not return next year but also honored were Myles Dread, Sam Sessoms and Jalen Pickett, who could return next year.

Neither Coach Micah Shrewsberry nor any senior took the microphone to talk to the fans and the BJC lower bowl was probably 30% full…safe to say John Harrar deserved better.

Four sections in the upper bowl were ‘de-curtained’ as about 9 fans sat there despite numerous open seats in the lower bowl, likely due to the massive amount of student tickets sold pre-season but only a portion showing up for game day.

The Nittany Lions opened with the same starting 5 (Pickett, Dallion Johnson, Dread,  Seth Lundy, and Harrar) since Lee went down with an injury.  Sessoms was the first guard off the bench and immediately hit two threes to give Penn State a 13-11 lead but a combination of turnovers (3) and averaging almost one three-point attempt per minute (yikes), allowed the Wildcats to tie the game at 15 with 10:55 to go in the first half.

The margin oscillated between a Nittany Lion two-point lead and a Wildcat six-point lead as these two teams are relatively similar with both giving max effort but someone void of upper echelon B1G talent.  Northwestern continued to pound the post, especially while Harrar sat and Penn State continues to jack three-pointers, an interesting strategy for a team not known for their shooting prowess.  The Nittany Lions finished the HALF attempting 17 threes, making four (on top of seven first-half turnovers, yuck).

Head Coach Micah Shrewsberry used his ‘use it or lose it’ with 32.5 seconds left and drew up, well, nothing as PSU settled for another end-of-shot clock heave from three.  An actual well drawn up yet still missed Wildcat three at the buzzer meant PSU trailed by just six, 28-22.

Starting the second half has been an issue all year but a deep Johnson three and Harrar working the offensive and defensive glass cut the lead to three at the under 16-minute media timeout.

An honest to goodness fastbreak layup (Pickett looked like he didn’t even know what to do) combined with another Johnson three (why. did. Cornwall. ever. play.) and Dread three gave the Nittany Lions their largest lead of the game at 38-35 and PSU was another rimmed out Johnson three from blowing the roof off the particularly impressive Friday night crowd.

Wildcat Coach Chris Collins gave the refs an earful at the under 12 media timeout, likely due to a six to two foul discrepancy thus far and after a particularly tough foul on Northwestern after Pickett swiped a Wildcat defender’s arm that went uncalled.

A Lundy three (PSU’s FOURTH of the half out of five at the 11-minute mark after just making four in the entire first half) gave PSU their largest lead of the game (4) but was answered with an immediate 4-0 Wildcat run (running a 3-2 zone on defense) to tie the game. It appeared unlikely either team was going to run away with the game at this point.

Another typical end of shot clock three was saved with an unbelievable effort from Harrar, giving PSU another shot…that they promptly wasted by air balling another end of shot clock three.  Sigh…

The typically great free throw shooting Nittany Lions missed two front ends of one-and-one’s, wasting their effort collecting numerous Northwestern turnovers.

A third Johnson three cut the lead back to 2 and his fourth gave PSU a 1 point lead, forcing Chris Collins to call timeout. Seriously…can anyone explain why Cornwall started over Johnson for MONTHS?

Another Johnson three followed by a Dread three opened up a seven-point Penn State lead, forcing another Northwestern timeout with 2:22 to go.

An end-of-shot clock three of Sessoms iced the game, giving PSU a 60-50 lead with 1:15 remaining.  Penn State made NINE second-half threes, finishing with 13 total and an 18-point margin from behind the arc over Northwestern.

Some sloppy end-of-game play (Sessoms missed free throw then fouling 80 feet from the basket giving the Wildcats two free throws then committing an offensive foul on the ensuing inbounds) inexplicably gave the Wildcats a chance. Leading by 10 just 35 seconds earlier, Penn State was inbounding up just 4 with 39.0 seconds to go.

Sessoms somehow turned it over again after receiving the inbounds pass but graciously Northwestern missed an open three and fouled Lundy on the rebound. A BIG, and I mean B1G, sigh of relief reverberated through the Jordan Center as Lundy calmly sunk both to finally ice the game.  All that was left was for Harrar to get a well-earned ovation, pulled with 10 seconds to go.

Penn State Basketball hosts last-place Northwestern on Sunday at 7:00 pm on the Big Ten Network.