Penn State men’s basketball went on the road without one of its best players Sunday afternoon and was unable to earn a victory. The Nittany Lions fell to the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, 61-56.
Penn State was put in a tough spot before the opening tip when junior forward Seth Lundy — the team’s leading scorer entering the game — was declared out for the game after not traveling with the team. The Nittany Lions did not disclose a reason for his absence.
Without Lundy, senior guard Sam Sessoms was placed back into the starting lineup and immediately rewarded Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry for the decision by scoring the first points of the game.
Sessoms and the Nittany Lions went to work early with the senior guard as the primary ball handler. He was able to get to the rim early and help Penn State get to a 10-4 lead in the early action. He and senior forward Greg Lee scored nine of the team’s first 10 points.
Ohio State responded by going on a 13-1 run to take a 17-11 lead over the Lions, who didn’t make a field goal from the 15:17 mark of the first half until Lee made a layup with 8:27 left in the half. His layup gave the Penn State offense enough life the rest of the half and helped the Lions stay relatively close to the Buckeyes.
They went into the half down 27-22 to Ohio State with an opportunity to earn the important road conference win. The Nittany Lions were led in scoring at the half by Sessoms and Lee with seven points each, while the Buckeyes were led by junior forward E.J. Liddell, with nine points.
The two teams traded blows to begin the second half, with Ohio State pulling ahead further before the Nittany Lions climbed back into the game and made it 36-31 with 11:44 left in the game. They remained on the see-saw, going back and forth with the Buckeyes’ lead remaining a constant.
The Lions’ cut the lead down to four with 3:50 left after a Myles Dread made 3-pointer made Ohio State call timeout.
Penn State was unable to close the gap from there, dropping the game and falling to 8-7 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten. Sessoms led the Nittany Lions with 15 points, while Liddell led the Buckeyes with 19.
Player of the game
Ohio State junior forward E.J. Liddell: Penn State playing without Lundy took away the team’s best defender for Liddell in the game and it cost the Lions. He scored 19 points in the game and was difficult for any one Nittany Lion defender to handle. Liddell bullied Penn State around the rim, drawing fouls left and right to find his way to the free throw line. He only scored 14 points in the team’s first matchup, making only four of his nine field goal attempts in the game. This game he was more efficient from the floor, making six of his 11 field goal attempts, while continuing to get to the free throw line. Lundy’s absence put the Lions in a position where they had to focus on Liddell more rather than trusting their best defensive player to handle him. In turn, it led to him scoring a large chunk his team’s points to earn the win for the Buckeyes.
Stat of the game
40: That was Penn State’s field goal percentage in the game. The Lions did a good job of defending every non-Liddell player but didn’t have the offense to back up what they did on that end of the court. Lundy’s absence once again impacted the team, this time because it sorely missed his ability to hit shots from beyond the arc and his ability to hit contested looks. He was ostensibly replaced by Jalen Pickett, Dallion Johnson and Sessoms — all three of whom had to take on larger offensive roles. Sessoms did his part, but Pickett and Johnson’s shots weren’t falling. Sometimes the shots just don’t fall, even when they’re open, and that was the case for the Nittany Lions Sunday afternoon in Columbus.
vs. Minnesota: Penn State heads home for its next matchup on Wednesday night. The Nittany lions will take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers at the Bruce Jordan Center. The Golden Gophers, like the Lions, are coached by a first-year head coach in Ben Johnson.
They entered Sunday at the No. 84 team in the country, according to the KenPom rankings, with a 10-4 record overall and a 1-4 record in the Big Ten. The Gophers are led by sophomore forward Jamison Battle., who is averaging 17.9 points per game after transferring in from George Washington.