Sports Journalism Blog

By Michael Hemmerle

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State lost both games against Ohio State this season. But in the last game of the second round of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, the 11th-seeded Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes, 71-68.

Penn State (14-16) advanced to a quarterfinal game against Purdue on Friday night. The Lions became the third 11th-seeded team to win two games in the tournament and the first since Nebraska in 2016.

The quarterfinal appearance will be the third in four tournaments for the Nittany Lions.

Sam Sessoms, a senior guard, led Penn State with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Senior guard Jalen Pickett scored 16 points, and senior forward John Harrar scored 12 points with nine rebounds.

Ohio State (19-11) was led by junior forward E.J. Liddell, who scored 25 points.

Penn State overcame a deficit of 13 points, marking the fourth time this season that the Lions have won after trailing by 10 or more points. The deficit was the second-largest the Lions overcame in a victory, one point less than a comeback against Michigan State.

The Lions held Ohio State to 44.2% shooting, including just 2-of-9 shooting, or 22.2%, from beyond the 3-point line in the second half.

Penn State’s consistent defensive effort has allowed the Lions to overcome the inconsistencies at the offensive end. “We’ve had games where we really struggled,” said first-year coach Micah Shrewsberry, “but these guys just found different ways to get their strengths and we were just trying to play to our strengths.”

Ohio State went without a field goal for over four minutes in the second half. In that time Penn State was able to close the gap and make it a single-digit contest.

Penn State cut the lead to five points early in the second after a Harrar and-one made the score 39-34, Buckeyes. Penn State worked it to a three point game until Liddell was fouled on a fadeaway shot, followed by a free throw pushing the lead to 42-36. The Buckeyes again built a lead, but the Nittany Lions would not go away, forcing a couple of turnovers, cutting the lead to 51-48 after a 6-0 run.

A couple of Liddell free throws pushed the lead back to five, but a rally from Penn State tied the game at 53-53. Penn State eventually took the lead after Seth Lundy’s only 3-point shot of the night. Ohio State’s Joey Brunk quickly followed it up with a bucket to tie the game at 56-56. Penn State would hit clutch shots down the stretch as Ohio State battled to stay close as Penn State led 64-62 with 1:55 left.