By Andre Monroe
In a game that shaped up to be intense, both teams delivered.
Michigan State began to set the tone early with the intense defense that won them their last game against Indiana. They were attached to Penn State players, and it showed as Penn State started the game shooting 1-7. The presence of Michigan State’s frontcourt was felt. Penn State struggled to make shots and had trouble getting to their spots on offense.
The dominant start to the first half for Michigan State didn’t last long. Penn State has proved to be a resilient team this season. Led by their leading scorer Seth Lundy, Penn State closed the gap to two with three minutes to go in the first half. However, the defensive intensity remained as both teams were suffering scoring droughts with the half winding down.
The first half ended as a low-scoring affair, as both teams were tied at 24. Penn State’s offensive rebounding kept them in the game after an inefficient scoring half, shooting 28% from the field to Michigan State’s 46%. Michigan State’s attempts to maintain a significant lead were halted by Penn State’s pure desire not to back down against a superior opponent.
After a first half like that, I’d assume Michigan State HC Tom Izzo ripped into his player; and it worked. Michigan State came out of halftime with energy and urgency. They offered no space on defense and got to their spots quickly on the other end. Michigan State opened the quarter on an 8-0 scoring run, led by two threes by Gabe Brown. But again, Penn State would not back down. They proceeded to answer with a 15-2 scoring run of their own, forcing a timeout with seven minutes to go in the game. Once up by as much as 14, Michigan State had no answer for Penn State’s resurgence. They were led by a backcourt of Sam Sessoms and Jalen Pickett, who both made the right play on offense time and time again.
A game that seemed as if it were going in Michigan State’s corner found itself close with a few minutes on the clock. The game seemed to shift when Penn State HC Micah Shrewsberry received a technical foul late in the game. The home crowd reacted with purpose, and so did the whole team. John Harrar and Seth Lundy both made it a point to put the team on their backs late in the game. With 1:30 to go, Seth Lundy scored a contested midrange off the dribble to give Penn State their first lead of the half, 55-54. Penn State responded on defense, too, making it hard for Michigan State to establish an inside presence as they’ve been accustomed to all season. A minute later, John Harrar would will himself to the paint and score a tough bucket with bodies all around him, getting the foul call as well. The late-game aggression by Penn State is why they pulled this out against a ranked Michigan State team.
John Harrar finished with a game-high 16REB to go along with 16PTS. After making timely shots throughout the game, Seth Lundy finished with a game-high 17PTS.
I asked Seth Lundy about his resurgence after returning from injury.