Furious Comeback by Men’s Basketball Falls Just Short in Big Ten Tournament Second Round
Nittany Lions outscored Badgers 24-7 in final 7:48
Credit Source: Penn State University Athletics
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Penn State men’s basketball team (11-14, 7-12) was just seconds away from erasing an 18-point, second-half deficit in second-round Big Ten Tournament action Thursday night. Over the last 7:48, the Nittany Lions outscored Wisconsin 24-7, and kept the Badgers (17-10, 10-10) scoreless in the final 2:36, but ultimately fell 75-74.
Penn State had a chance to retake the lead on the final possession of the game after forcing a turnover on the ensuing Wisconsin possession. On the Nittany Lions’ drive to the basket, a pass was deflected by the Badger defense. Wisconsin scrambled to the ball and gained possession on a timeout with under a second to play, then successfully inbounded the ball and ran out the remaining time on the clock.
The run was fueled by junior guard Sam Sessoms who finished with a game-high and his Penn State-best 18 points as he scored 13 of the teams’ 24 points in the stretch. Penn State made nine of its final 12 shots from the field and scored the final eight points of the game and combined an efficient offense with stingy defense to turn the momentum. Penn State outscored Wisconsin 43-34 in the second half after falling behind by 10 at halftime, 41-31.
“Just really, really proud of our guys, just fought all the way to the end this whole season,” said Penn State interim head coach Jim Ferry. “What these guys have been through, the adversity that they had to deal with, we were down big late and to show the love for each other and the connectiveness, and the true character, to come all the way back to give yourself a chance win the game. It’s just phenomenal. There’s a lot of emotions in that locker room right now. I wish I could have did a little bit more to help these guys and to help win this one and to keep going because we’re playing good basketball. It’s really hard for those seniors. You have to give Wisconsin credit too. Some guys who have been struggling to shoot the basketball shot it really well tonight. I thought we played really good basketball early and then we got into foul trouble and that turned the whole tide for us at that point. Then the second half, we got down, but these guys, they don’t ever stop, they don’t ever stop. Hopefully we get to continue to keep playing a little bit more, when you look at our metrics and who we are as a team and who is playing well, hopefully we’ll have an opportunity for postseason play.”
The Nittany Lions finished with three players in double figures with Sessoms’ 18 points, junior guard Myreon Jones had 11 and senior guard Jamari Wheeler scored his 10 in the first half. Senior forward John Harrar collected a game-high 10 rebounds and surpassed the 500-career-point mark with his six points, all in the second half.
Down by 18, 68-50, with 7:48 to play, the Nittany Lion offense started to click. Three-straight baskets, beginning with a second-chance layup by Harrar followed by two aggressive driving layups by Izaiah Brockington and Sessoms dropped the Badger lead to 12. Wisconsin came back with five points for a 73-57 advantage, but Sessoms’ four points and field goals by senior forward Trent Buttrick and Harrar sliced the lead to seven, 73-66 at the 3:08 mark
Wisconsin made one last basket, at 2:36, for a 75-66 score and then Penn State took advantage of missed shots, two blocked shots by junior guard Myles Dread and fouls and turnovers by the Badgers. Sessoms sliced into the paint for two field goals and Sessoms and Brockington each added two free throws to bring the Nittany Lions within one, 75-74.
Both teams were 2-7 from the field to start the game with ties at 5 and 11 before Seth Lundy’s driving layup and then Wheeler’s first trey put Penn State up by four, 16-12. Wheeler hit another for a 19-14 lead and baskets by Jones and a triple by Buttrick gave Penn State an eight-point lead with 7:50 remaining in the half.
Penn State fought off the barrage of baskets by the Badgers as Wisconsin also capitalized on Nittany Lion foul trouble to add 11 points from the free throw line in the first half. The Badgers had a 19-6 run and made five-straight shots and seven of their last eight to close the half. After making just one 3-pointer in the first 15 minutes of action, Wisconsin hit five in the final five minutes to go up by 10 at the break.
Aleem Ford went 6-7 from the field with five 3-point baskets for a Badger-best 17 points.
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