Penn State Basketball started fast, and set the tone for the season, in a 93-68 win over Winthrop on Monday night, Nov. 7 inside the Bryce Jordan Center.
While the Eagles didn’t necessarily have the size to match up with the Nittany Lions, the opener did offer a glimpse into what could be in the offing for head coach Micah Shrewsberry’s team during the upcoming campaign.
Here’s a look at key takeaways from Penn State Basketball’s win over Winthrop:
School Record made 3-Pointers
Shooting behind the arc was a struggle last season and ultimately cost the Nittany Lions a few games. That seems to be corrected, at least through one game.
Penn State Basketball smashed its previous record of 15 made three-point attempts in a game by hitting 18 on Monday night.
The more shocking aspect was that Penn State Basketball took 38 three-point shots.
Monday’s style of play was reminiscent of a typical Villanova team with the lineup going small the entire game and relying on good passing and long-distance shots. There were 7 different players to tally a three, but the headliner was Andrew Funk. The Graduate Transfer from Bucknell shot 6-of-10 from three, and tallied a total of 22 points.
It was clear that Shrewsberry made an effort to go into the portal during the offseason and find a shooter and he got it in Funk. It also appeared that having another consistent 3-point shooter took some pressure off Myles Dread who returned to his old form shooting 4-6 from three.
The Nittany Lions shot 47.7% from three as a team and while this doesn’t seem sustainable, it certainly shows what the potential of this team is.
Lack of Interior presence will be an issue
It was evident from the opening tip that Penn State BASKETBALL simply does not have a big man this year.
The decision to start 6 foot 7 Caleb Dorsey who averaged 5.8 mins per game last season was alarming. There is a chance that Dorsey is their best option at the Center position, but it also means that Penn State will probably have to play small all season.
Dorsey played 22 minutes finishing with 5 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. He was spelled by 6 foot 10 center Kebba Njie, the prized 4-star recruit and 2nd highest in Penn State history.
Njie looked overwhelmed on defense, and he will need to add more muscle to his 237-pound frame to compete in the Big 10. While the Nittany Lion lineup is small in the frontcourt, they have some decent size throughout the starting lineup.
Jalen Pickett is 6’4”, Andrew Funk is 6’5”, and Seth Lundy is 6’6” so they certainly aren’t small by any stretch. The way the team played against Winthrop was by using the speed of a smaller lineup and having quick passes and shooting a high percentage from the field. If they can do this in conference play, they will certainly be able to score, but it is frightening to think about what will happen defensively if they go up against the likes of Purdue.
Winthrop big man Kelton Talford is only 6’7” but shot 8-10 for 18 points and collected 7 rebounds. Out of all of the lineups Dorsey played the best defensively in holding his ground against the big man and Njie often looked overwhelmed. It will be interesting to see what Shrewsberry changes defensively going into their next game against Loyola (MD).
Jalen Pickett is the Engine
It became quite clear early that this team goes as Jalen Pickett goes.
Pickett started the night shooting 6-6 from the field including 3-3 from behind the arc.
The hot start gave Penn State a double-digit lead and ultimately helped them pull away. When Pickett was pulled off the floor the offense seemed to go through the biggest dry spells from the floor. Even just having him out there facilitated the offense and not shoot allowed for the game to open even more.
There were a few times that Winthrop attempted to double Pickett in which case he would find a cutting Dread or Funk to the 3-point line resulting in a wide-open shot. Pickett played the most minutes out of anybody on the team, staying on the floor for 32 minutes. He finished 9-13 and 3-6 from the 3-point line for a total of 23 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. If Pickett can continue to play this well consistently there isn’t a reason to believe that Penn State can shock some people when conference play rolls around in a month or two.
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