Penn State hoops defeats Cornell, hands Big Red first loss of the season
Penn State grabbed an early lead against Cornell at the Bryce Jordan Center on Monday night, but it was a rocky, back-and-forth affair for the rest of the night.
After going up 11-4 in the first five minutes of the game, Penn State got caught on its heels by the Big Red. Cornell was scoring at will, while the Nittany Lion offense was stagnant for a 22-6 Cornell run.
Penn State was getting beat at its own game with Cornell out-rebounding it and winning with points in the paint, but John Harrar took over inside to key a nice response for the Nittany Lions. He grabbed two and-1s to get Penn State back in the groove.
Then, leading scorer Sam Sessoms took over. Sessoms had been quieted for a while, but he made four 3-pointers in the last two minutes to drive a 14-4 Penn State run to close the half up 41-38.
The Nittany Lions came out of the half with a couple of nice possessions on both ends of the floor, but then a few ugly turnovers and some hot Cornell shooting keyed another big 12-0 run for the Big Red.
After some more back-and-forth action, Penn State’s defense tightened up and forced a long scoring drought for almost four minutes to get the Nittany Lions back in the game.
Sessoms took over again late in the second half. On two straight possessions, he nailed huge 3-pointers with the shot clock winding down.
Cornell got cold from the floor late, while Penn State was swarming with hustle plays to close it out.
It wasn’t easy, but the Nittany Lions completed Micah Shrewsberry’s “gritty not pretty” mantra with a 85-74 win on Monday night.
RETURNERS STEP UP.....
As has been the case this season, the returners have been the most important players for Penn State this season.
Seth Lundy led the charge, scoring 23 points and was on fire from deep with five 3-pointers.
Sessoms was key in keeping Penn State in it with his scoring outburst at the end of the half. Then, he hit the big shots again late in the second half, finishing with another really solid performance with 22 points.
Harrar, despite a largely underwhelming performance overall on the inside for Penn State, was strong on the glass and grabbed some very important second-chance points. He finished with
Myles Dread still didn’t add much on the offensive end and hasn’t this season, but he drew the start for Penn State tonight and it was clear why. He’s had an important impact on the defensive side of the ball and has brought high energy all year while hitting an important late three in the second half, too.
The Happy Valley veterans were vital to a win over a solid Cornell team, and transfers like Jalen Pickett and Jalanni White had some strong minutes that were just a bit overshadowed.
TURNOVERS A PROBLEM FOR BOTH TEAMS.....
Penn State has struggled to control the ball, especially against the press, this entire season. After 15 turnovers against UMass and St. Francis Brooklyn, it was another weak point against Cornell.
The Nittany Lions coughed it up 14 times, and three in the early going of the second half led to the biggest buckets on Cornell’s 12-0 run.
Luckily for Penn State, Cornell had 9 turnovers of its own, which was a large reason why the Nittany Lions could get their groove on offense in the second half.
Shrewsberry said he had a goal for his team to have 10 or less turnovers each game, and his group missed that mark once again.
NITTANY LIONS GO INSIDE - OUT.....
It’s somewhat shocking, but Penn State was out-rebounded by Cornell for nearly the entire night despite having a size advantage almost across the board.
The Big Red pulled down 13 offensive rebounds, too, to expose a lackluster rebounding night for the Nittany Lions. Cornell won the points in the paint battle 26-20.
The difference this time around, though, is Penn State’s perimeter attack was the best it has been all season.
The Nittany Lions tied a program record with 15 makes from deep on the night, led by six and five from Sessoms and Lundy, respectively. They couldn’t miss from deep, going 15-for-34 for a lights-out 44% mark from the arc.
On the defensive side, Penn State held Cornell to a poor shooting night with just a 28% mark from deep.