STATE UNIVERSITYPa. –When Micah Shrewsberry took on the head coaching job last spring, one of his priority list items was convincing John Harrar to stay after briefly flirting with the NCAA transfer portal.
While Harrar’s efforts on the court during his first four seasons at Penn State did more than enough to cheer him on with the fan base, his leadership and locker room presence made him even more valuable. as Shrewsberry tried to build his program.
After losing its last three games, Penn State returned to the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday looking for momentum and excitement in the last full month of the regular season.
Harrar provided both, as he scored 16 points and pulled out 16 rebounds to lead Penn State to a 62-58 win over No. 19 Michigan State.
“I was talking to the guys. I was saying, I think, every year I’ve been here we’ve beaten a ranked team,” Harrar said after the win. “So I was like, ‘Let’s go get one tonight. I can’t leave this program until I get one this year. We all follow Coach Shrews. We show up every day and try to fight him.
Harrar scored nine of his 16 points in the final six minutes as Penn State (10-12, 5-9 Big Ten) erased a 14-point second-half deficit. His 16 rebounds set a new career high.
“There’s no doubt that John Harrar was the difference in the game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
For every basket the Spartans made in the first half, the Nittany Lions made just enough to stick around. Jalen Pickett provided the bulk of Penn State’s offense, shooting 3 of 8 from the field — including two of his four attempts from behind the arc — and paced the Nittany Lions in the first half with 10 points. He finished with 10 points.
Harrar had nine rebounds in the first 20 minutes, four of them on the offensive side.
Michigan State (18-7, 9-5 Big Ten) was 11 of 24 (45.8%) from the field in the first half, and the Spartans received a 15-point effort from its bench in the first period. Eight turnovers, however, plagued the Spartans.
They average a Big Ten-high 14 entering the contest.
Jalen Pickett gave the Nittany Lions their first lead since the 18:23 mark in the first half when he connected on a pair of free throws to push Penn State ahead, 24-22, with 1:30 remaining in the first half.
The two teams entered the break with the score tied at 24, but Michigan State opened the second half with an 8-0 run that prompted Shrewsberry to call a timeout in an attempt to slow the momentum of the Spartans.
Seth Lundy — who scored a game-high 17 points — scored 3 points with just under 18 minutes left in the second half to end Penn State’s drought.
Myles Dread added his own 3-pointer midway through the second half to send Penn State on an 8-0 run that saw the Nittany Lions cut their deficit to five points as Michigan State led 43-37 with 11 :09 to do in the second period. Sam Sessoms contributed five points on the run, making a 3-pointer and a layup.
Sessoms added a jumper as the shot clock expired, and Jalanni White scored on a layup to extend Penn State’s run to 15-2, bringing the Nittany Lions one point to tie the game. score at 45 with 8:28 left in the second half. .
“We were a little slow coming out,” Shrewsberry said. “Once we got down, we were already down, and we came back and nibbled. We’re talking about doing it one possession at a time. There is no 14-point shot.
Michigan State called a timeout after Lundy made a 3-pointer that again brought the Nittany Lions within a point of evening the score with 2:53 left in the second half.
Lundy drained a jumper to give Penn State a 55-54 lead with just over a minute left in the second half, and the Nittany Lions received the ball following a timer violation from the Michigan State on the ensuing possession.
Harrar pushed Penn State’s lead to 58-54 after converting a 3-point play that gave the Nittany Lions enough cushion to secure the win.
Lundy finished with 17 points and five rebounds to go with a block.
The victory gave Shrewsberry his first against a ranked opponent.
“Our guys really competed,” Shrewsberry said. “I’m happy for our guys. They deserve it in terms of how they played and what they did. It’s an honor for me to coach against Tom Izzo. He provides a model for how we build our programs and what we do, and how his teams improve as the year progresses. This is what we want to be, and I hope we build this way for the future.
Penn State returns to hardwood Thursday for a 16-hour game against Minnesota. The contest is a line-up of a game scheduled for Jan. 19 that was postponed following a coronavirus outbreak as part of the Golden Gophers program.
Elton Hayes is a veteran sportswriter who covers Penn State for CNHI LLC publications. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.