Blue White Illustrated

January 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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4 0 J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 2 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M THREE BEST PLAYERS 1. John Harrar | F | Sr. John Harrar isn't just Penn State's best player, he's among the best for- wards in the Big Ten. As of Dec. 22, Harrar was leading the conference in rebounding, averaging 10.6 per game, and field goal percentage. Harrar was shooting 71.4 percent from the field on his way to 11.4 points per game through 10 games. He had three double-doubles in the six games leading up to a pair of canceled dates (against VCU Dec. 18 and Quinnipiac Dec. 22) and was averaging a double-double for the season heading into a Dec. 29 nonconference matchup against Delaware State. 2. Jalen Pickett | G | Sr. An offseason transfer from Siena, Pickett has been the standout among Penn State's newcomers. He directs traffic for coach Micah Shrewsberry's slower, more methodical offense, and has shown he can score the ball, too, averaging 11.9 points per game, 4.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He almost singlehandedly kept Penn State competitive in a Dec. 5 game against a very good Ohio State team, posting 23 points in the Lions' 76-64 loss to the Buckeyes. 3. Sam Sessoms | G | Sr. Sessoms is capable of taking over any game at any time, and often does his scoring in bunches. There are few in college basketball who can finish like him around the rim, which helps him score efficiently. Through 10 contests, he was averaging 13.3 points per game on 52 percent shooting from the field. KEY PLAY It's been an occasionally frustrating start to the season for Penn State, which took LSU to overtime, lost a close game to Miami (Fla.) at the Bryce Jordan Center and wasn't able to complete its comeback against Ohio State at home. No sequence was more indicative of those disappointments than one against the Buckeyes. Trailing by as much as 18 at one point, Penn State cut the deficit to seven with 3 minutes, 53 seconds left before the Buckeyes nailed a contested three-pointer. The Nittany Lions again rallied, trimming the Buckeyes' lead to six, but yet another contested triple by Ohio State ultimately put them away. BEST HIGHLIGHT A close game against Wagner on Dec. 8 turned into a rout in favor of the Nittany Lions in the second half, affording Penn State a nice op- portunity to inject a little style into the victory. Sessoms did exactly that, leading a fast break up the floor and lobbing a perfect pass to senior forward Jalanni White, who flushed it down for an emphatic alley-oop. PREDICTION Penn State's outlook doesn't look rosy at the moment, and few thought that it would in Year 1 of Shrewsberry's tenure. However, in recent games, improvement has been evident. Penn State's offense has shown itself ca- pable of scoring points against Big Ten opposition. The Nittany Lions recently got key transfer forward Greg Lee back from injury, and they should add another athletic forward in junior Jevonnie Scott relatively soon as well. The latest COVID resurgence, which cost the Nittany Lions three games in December, has added another element of uncertainty to a season that was already full of unknowns. But this team should prove competitive in the Big Ten, which is all you can ask for if you're a Penn State fan. — David Eckert Senior guard Sam Sessoms was shooting 52 percent from the floor through 10 games and averaging 13.3 points to rank second on the team. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL son. This might be the beginning for Shrewsberry, but it's the end for Harrar, and for several other players on the Nit- tany Lions' roster. Penn State has the fifth-most-experienced group in the country, according to KenPom met- rics. That means, for many, there is no second chance. Harrar is desperate to lead the team to the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Li- ons were almost certainly headed there in 2020, before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the tourney. But the bot- tom line is that Harrar has yet to play in an NCAA tournament game, and he hasn't been to the NIT since he was a freshman in 2018. This season, he is de- termined to do whatever he can to make sure that the Lions are still playing bas- ketball after the Big Ten tourney ends. "I don't care what it takes to win," he said. "I want to win. I want to see the NCAA Tournament. I'm 0-for-4. That's not a good percentage." ■ PENN STATE BASKETBALL SUPERLATIVES NOV. 18-DEC. 11

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