Penn State Basketball: Key Improvements Powering 2-0 Nittany Lions
Penn State Basketball barnstormed to a 2-0 start, riding improved shooting and key contributions from key players in a pair of Nittany Lions victories.
Penn State Basketball has started fast, in the first two games of Micah Shrewsberry’s second season as Nittany Lions head coach, as improvement in key areas and an infusion of instant impact players are leading the way.
After failing to eclipse 90 points in any game last season, Penn State Basketball toppled Winthrop 93-68, and a shooting barrage led the Lions past Loyola 90-65 last week.
Here are three key areas that are powering Penn State Basketball’s fast start:
3-Point shot continues to fall
The Nittany Lions’ victory over Loyola seemed to solidify the fact that Penn State Basketball has indeed fixed the 3-point problem.
After hitting a school record 18 three’s in game one against Winthrop, the Nittany Lions responded by going 16-30 (53.3%) from beyond on Thursday. Penn State had 14 3’s by the 13:26 mark of the 2nd half and it was looking like they were going to smash their own record.
Part of this emergence is the ability to have multiple players who can shoot the 3 rather than just Myles Dread in years past.
Dread did shoot 4-7 from beyond the arc, but contributions from Camren Wynter (3-4), Seth Lundy (2-4), and Dallion Johnson (2-4). Nine different Nittany Lions tallied a three pointer in this game and that is great news for the upcoming schedule because it gives flexibility if your top guys like Pickett and Funk are a combined 3-13 from the field.
Penn State Basketball will need to continue shooting well as they will have their first real test of the season against Butler on Monday.
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Ability to score without Top players
This is the reason Penn State fans should feel optimistic about this season.
Jalen Pickett and Andrew Funk scored 23 and 22 respectively in game one. This game saw the pair score 5 and 3 on a combined 3-13 shooting.
The ability of this team to get 18 from Camren Winter and 12 from freshman Kebba Njie should give hope that this team can compete in Big Ten play. It certainly won’t be normal for Jalen Pickett and Andrew Funk to be held out of double figures but that is why having other players that can pick up the slack will make them a tough out.
There were 6 players that scored at least 8 points in this game and none of them were Pickett or Funk. The Nittany Lions had 10 players reach double digit minutes and 13 play in the game total last night. These types of games are perfect to get the young freshman playing time and develop them for next season.
It is looking like the team will have at minimum a 8 man rotation with the possibility of getting that number to 9 or 10 if Kanye Clary and Jameel Brown continue to progress.
Freshmen continue to improve
Penn State Basketball’s win over Loyola was the first game that we saw more contribution from the heralded 2022 freshmen class.
Kebba Njie was the highest recruit of the class and has gotten the most playing time so far through 2 games. He had his best offensive output of the season against Loyola scoring 12 points on 4-5 shooting as well as tallying 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
Njie looked more comfortable on the offensive end with better passes and being more aggressive at the rim. It will be crucial that he continues to develop at the center position to better prepare this lineup for Big Ten play. Later in the game point guard Kanye Clary put on a show for Nittany Lion fans scoring 7 points on 3-4 shooting including some great ball handling that got the Bryce Jordan Center excited.
While Clary is a bit undersized, he uses his quickness and ball skills to beat defenders to the rim. His ability to hit the 3 could give him the opportunity to get some minutes even during conference play.
Evan Mahaffey scored 4 points in this game, seeming to be more up well for next season. Currently there is a possibility Seth Lundy comes back to use his covid year but outside of him only Caleb Dorsey and Dallion Johnson will be the only non-freshmen from this team to return for 2023-24.
With the top-5 scorers on this team all being seniors it will be crucial for these freshmen to get valuable experience and continue to improve to set
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