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Gritty And Pretty: Penn State Hoops Flaunts Glossy Offense In Opening Week

183 total points. 102 points from threes. 15 players. 11 offensive rebounds. Two wins. One week.

Those are the statistics that Penn State men’s basketball posted through two games in its opening week of the season. The Nittany Lions closed out two dominant games with 25-point leads at the final buzzer, already finding an offensive rhythm amongst a talented group of starters and contributors off the bench.

To no surprise, fifth-year captain Jalen Pickett knocked down 23 points in the season-opener against Winthrop, followed closely by newcomer Andrew Funk, who tallied 22 points in his debut for the blue and white. But, the duo combined for just eight points against Loyola Maryland, emphasizing the shooting strength off the bench and throughout the lineup.

A fully healthy Myles Dread is a shiny new toy the Nittany Lions are still experimenting with. Camren Wynter tallied his 1,500th point, 500th assist, and 500th rebound against Loyola Maryland, joining Pickett in the club. Freshman Kebba Njie posted 16 points through his first two collegiate games. Folks in every corner of the roster saw playing time and posted quality numbers.

“It’s a lot of people out there causing issues,” head coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “We share the ball like it’s contagious. We got a bunch of guys that can make plays off the dribble and shoot open threes, so it opens up a lot of [offense] for us.”

Twice in the first half, Shrewsberry rolled out a lineup featuring five guards including Pickett, Funk, Wynter, Dread, and Seth Lundy. The guard club moved the ball around the arc at a sharp clip to free up three-point opportunities and knock them down.

“That’s just one of the lineups we enjoy as a group when we see five guards out there,” said Wynter. “Our eyes just light up because once we get on offense, it’s just our time to go. Whoever gets the open shot is going to step up and knock it down and we just have trust and confidence in each other.”

Shrewsberry commented that he doesn’t spend a lot of time curating that offensive strategy, but it sure did work to rack up some three-point scores and extend leads throughout the team’s opening week of play. It was not only gritty but also pretty.

Despite some slick offensive plays and large margins, the Nittany Lions missed several open nets en route to their victories. Shrewsberry acknowledged those fruitless conversions but focused more on the teamwork that led to unmarked players on the flanks and clear shots.

“I’m OK with that,” Shrewsberry said of the missed shots. “That means we’re connected. That means we’re locked in offensively. That means we’re playing the right way. We’re sharing it.”

A newfound offensive energy rolled through the Bryce Jordan Center in Penn State men’s basketball’s opening week that fans can only hope will continue to develop throughout the remainder of the season. While opponent strength will increase throughout non-conference play, the synergy of this Nittany Lion offense will, too.

“If people are going to leave us open we’re going to shoot as many as possible,” Shrewsberry said.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a sophomore journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She also talks about random, fun stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese, naps, and Kevin Jonas. If you would like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @lammkeeley or send your best Spotify playlist to her email [email protected]

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