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Front Court Deficiencies, Execution Woes Haunt Penn State Hoops In Double-Overtime Clemson Loss

When Penn State men’s basketball took the floor on the road against Clemson for Tuesday night’s Big Ten / ACC Challenge bout, Micah Shrewsberry’s unit appeared to be the quicker and more efficient bunch from the jump. 

Within the opening five minutes of play, the Nittany Lions burst out to a commanding nine-point lead, spearheaded by the two-way scoring combination of Jalen Pickett and Cam Wynter in the backcourt. 

The perimeter prowess of both guards helped Penn State establish a solid two-possession advantage heading into the locker room. More impressively, the Nittany Lions ended the first half shooting exactly 50% from the field, including a conversation rate of over 46% from beyond the arc. 

However, similar to how Virginia Tech willed its way to a late-game, 61-59 victory in Charleston less than two weeks ago, Shrewsberry’s lack of a steady frontcourt presence hurt the Nittany Lions on the low block down in crunch time. 

“I thought they got a little more physical in the second half,” Shrewsberry said. “We didn’t handle it very well. We didn’t get our normal shots, but they also tried to deny a little bit more where we had to get to the basket.”

On its way to an exciting, 101-94 double-overtime victory, Clemson held Penn State to a season-low 2-for-15 conversion mark from the three-point line throughout the second half. Without the Nittany Lions’ main and most reliable form of offense intact, the road warriors surrendered a pair of 5-0, a 6-0, and a gut-wrenching 8-0 run all during the final 20 minutes. 

“Credit to [Clemson] for coming out in the second half with a lot of fire and taking away what we wanted to do and forcing us to try to win in a different way,” Shrewsberry said. 

If Penn State were to pull out the victory in Death Valley, the way in which it could’ve completed the come-from-behind effort would have been nothing short of improbable. 

With just 51 seconds remaining in regulation, the Nittany Lions faced a stout, seven-point deficit. Across the span, Shrewsberry put on a clock management masterclass by utilizing both of his two saved timeouts en route to a final, nine-second possession, resulting in a game-tying Andrew Funk three-pointer. 

But, even after defying the odds by extending the matchup beyond the buzzer, Shewsberry’s team failed to keep pace with the Tigers’ talented array of veteran scorers. 

During the 10-minute double overtime stretch, former South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year PJ Hall grilled the Nittany Lions underneath. The lengthy, 6’10” center netted 12 points over the span. For reference, Penn State scored 23 total points in overtime, showing just how effective Hall’s skillset proved to be. 

“They took advantage of some things in overtime,” Shrewsberry said. “They made some big shots. Hunter Tyson, PJ Hall, [and] Hemenway. That’s what older guys do. They make tough shots in clutch moments, and that’s what [Clemson] got from those [guys].”

Standing with a serviceable 6-2 non-conference record nearly a month into his second campaign in Happy Valley, Shrewsberry and his veteran-laden group have shown consistent signs of improvement and fight from game to game. 

However, with No. 20 Michigan State on the docket for his squad’s next go-around on December 7, the head coach knows his team needs to improve on executing the “little things” well enough to defeat other hard-nosed Power Five opponents. 

For example, Clemson’s ability to strike first in both overtime periods helped put the Tigers on cruise control offensively to effectively ice the game.  If the Nittany Lions want to knab a marquee, signature win to open Big Ten play next week, Shrewsberry knows the small details can be the difference between a regulation victory and double-overtime loss — just as the Nittany Lions found out in Death Valley Tuesday night. 

“You win the game in the first possession, a lot of the times, in overtime,” Shrewsberry said. “Who wins the tip, who scores first, and they scored every single time. They [secured] the tip every single time and they scored every single time.”

“[It was] just a hard-fought college basketball game,” he added. “There were two teams that are physical, that play hard, [and] try to be disciplined.”

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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