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Penn State Hoops Playing Its ‘Best Basketball’ Ahead Of Big Ten Tournament

Penn State men’s basketball’s seven seniors closed out their final regular-season minutes for the Nittany Lions in an emotional upset win over No. 21 Maryland Sunday afternoon.

Seniors Jalen Pickett, Andrew Funk, Mikey Henn, Seth Lundy, Camren Wynter, Myles Dread, and Ishaan Jagiasi experienced the sentimental senior day celebration after recording four-plus years of college basketball. Still, each knew there was a more important task at hand.

The Nittany Lions’ final home game against the ranked Maryland squad was critical for any hopes of a strong entrance into postseason play, and while fans probably didn’t predict a Penn State comeback after the first 20 minutes of play, that’s exactly what it did.

“We were on edge a little bit, which can sometimes be good for us and sometimes be bad for us,” Micah Shrewsberry said of Penn State’s first-half play against Maryland. “We were the bad ‘on edge’ in the first half, and we channeled that the right way in the second half. How we won was huge and big.”

By way of Wynter, Penn State managed to pull off a second-half shooting clinic to cut its deficit and overcome Maryland in the final minute of play with a second-chance putback from the paint.

“[Wynter’s] very confident in his shot and shooting open threes,” Shrewsberry said. “He’s been as big a factor in us playing well as anybody.”

While Wynter didn’t register an open three to lift the Nittany Lions over the Terrapins, he sunk the game-winning triple against Northwestern. As a second-option shooter, Wynter has stepped up in a huge way to back Pickett and Funk from beyond the arc.

“It was nothing but joy knowing that I could bring a win home for all of us, for the seniors,” Wynter said.

Over 10,600 fans packed into the Bryce Jordan Center the first weekend of spring break to cheer the Nittany Lions into the postseason and celebrate the seniors that paved the way for a historical season.

“It was like a storybook ending. You can’t picture it any other way. It was like a movie,” Dread said.

With another win under its belt and the Big Ten Tournament ahead, Shrewsberry and Penn State hoops are managing expectations, momentum, and the possibility of a spot in the Big Dance. However, Shrewsberry continues to celebrate little victories while remaining focused on what’s right in front of his team.

“We’re just going to go to Chicago and keep playing,” Shrewsberry said. “We’re playing our best basketball. We want to be playing our best basketball in March… We’re playing our best ball right now, and this is what we’ve been aiming for all season. Let’s go have fun.”

The Nittany Lions are slated to face No. 7-seeded Illinois in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, March 9, in Chicago. In what will likely feel like a home game for the Illini, Shrewsberry’s 2-0 season record against Illinois perhaps eases worries about knockout postseason play.

“Our guys feel good about themselves,” Shrewsberry said. “They feel good about how they’re playing. I’ll take it.”

Looking beyond the conference tournament, according to several bracketologists, Penn State is widely predicted to snag one of the last four spots in the NCAA Tournament. Should the Nittany Lions win their battle with Illinois Thursday, the chances of securing a bid increase by just under 40%, according to TeamRankings. If Penn State moves on to beat No. 2-seeded Northwestern for the second time in as many weeks, it will just about ensure a tournament appearance.

For now, though, the Nittany Lions will try to continue playing their best basketball and keep writing the “storybook ending” to the 2022-23 season.

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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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