Purdue 69, Penn State: 61 Nittany Lions exit Big Ten Tournament with narrow loss

Facing a 7-foot-4 Zach Edey and a highly skilled big man Trevion Williams all night, John Harrar found himself on the floor several times on the defense side on Friday night.

Each time, Harrar puffed out his cheeks, got to his feet, and slowly backed the other way to fight off another possession.

That sums up John Harrar and that sums up this 2021-22 Penn State team.

The Nittany Lions have used a “Gritty, Not Pretty” mantra all season. Winning games where they probably weren’t the most talented team on the field. Staying in games when they were trailing by big margins.

The No. 11-seeded Nittany Lions fell short of the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers at Indianapolis, 69-61, but set the stage for the kind of meaningful games in March that Penn fans State should get used to seeing under Micah Shrewsberry.

The Shrewsberry team, playing their third game in three days, raced out of the gates full of energy. The Nittany Lions led by 10 just after the Under-16 timeout, clearly pumped with extra adrenaline.

Purdue steadily fought back and took their first lead of the night at 2:43 into the first half on a Brandon Newman triple. Newman — who hadn’t scored in a game since Jan. 17 provided a surprising spark for the Boilermakers, scoring a season-high 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting.

Leading by four at halftime, Purdue extended their lead to 12. Down in double digits with 8:15 to go, the Nittany Lions still had a point in them.

Three straight possessions with a 3-pointer scored, two from Jaheam Cornwall and one from Dallion Johnson made it a three-point game with five minutes remaining. The two teams then traded a few buckets before a Harrar dunk and Sam Sessoms swerved away from the glass cut the deficit to one. Suddenly, the Purdue majority crowd got a little nervous.

The difference turned out to be Jaden Ivey, who is a surefire NBA lottery pick later this summer. The sophomore goaltender was fouled on a layup attempt on Purdue’s first possession off a timeout and coolly strode to the line to knock down the pair of free throws.

Moments later, he made the play of the night, slipping a steal into the defensive end, then sprinting the length of the field through the Nittany Lion defenders on his way for two more. The Boilermakers’ lead was restored to five, and Penn State eventually ran out of gas.

Purdue takes on Michigan State (7) tomorrow, the Spartans upset tournament second seed Wisconsin earlier in the evening. Penn State’s season is likely coming to an end, barring a completely unexpected NIT offer or a decision to play in the CBI.

“Our guys man, they’re just warriors,” Shrewsberry said after the game. “I love our fight. I love the way we compete. Guys who are seniors have blindly trusted me when they didn’t have to. They’ve trusted me all year. .. what they’ve been doing not just for the week, but for the whole season. I love these two guys. I’d go to war for these guys any day of the week.”

Sitting next to Harrar and Jalen Pickett on the post-game podium, Shrewsberry didn’t say whether or not the Nittany Lions would accept a big jab from the CBI if that happened.

“I just want to go back to the hotel, open a Dr. Pepper, take off my shoes and relax a bit,” he said. “When we get home tomorrow, I’ll put my pajamas on with my feet in, and I’ll watch those games… it’s going to be tough because we’re not there, but I’m going to watch.”

As they have been for most of the season, Pickett and Harrar have been central to much of what Penn State has done.

Pickett was phenomenal, scoring a team-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while adding 6 assists and 4 rebounds. Everything Matt Painter and the Purdue defense threw at him never seemed to phase him.

Harrar deservedly collected a double-double in what could be his last game in a Penn State uniform, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Shrewsberry concluded his opening statement by praising Harrar.

“I will miss you. I love you, my big”

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