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Penn State Hoops’ Seniors Lead The Way In First NCAA Tournament Win Since 2001

After a dominant 76-59 win over Texas A&M for Penn State’s first NCAA Tournament win since 2001, head coach Micah Shrewsberry tipped his cap to the SEC runner-ups.

“First of all, we really prepared for a few days in a row just because I knew how good this team was in Texas A&M,” he said. “Their guards are fantastic. They rebound like crazy, so we knew how good they were.”

After starting the game down 9-5 through the first four-and-a-half minutes, Shrewsberry’s squad closed out the first half on a commanding 33-13 run. Despite a heavy push from Texas A&M to start the second half, Penn State kept responding and continued to add to its final 17-point victory.

The Nittany Lions’ three-point identity was on full display, as more than half of their points came from beyond the arc, and nearly 60% of the attempts fell through the cylinder. Part of what helps a highly efficient night from beyond the arc is having a player like Andrew Funk, who missed just two on 10 attempts, as he wrapped up the night with 27 points. Having Jalen Pickett, who nearly dropped his second triple-double this season with 19 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists, on your team also helps lead to efficiency.

Equally as impressive as Penn State’s offense was its defense. The Nittany Lions kept the Aggies, a team that averages nearly 73 points per game, below 60 points. Penn State locked up Wade Taylor IV, who is a top-five scorer in the SEC in terms of points per game, as he finished with just 10 points on 2-for-15 shooting from the field. Even with a quiet night offensively, Camren Wynter came away with three steals, and Evan Mahaffey even collected both a block and steal in just his short nine minutes on the court.

Needless to say, Shrewsberry was satisfied with how his team performed on both sides of the court.

“I thought our attention to detail on defense and offense was really good,” Shrewsberry said. “And that’s the benefit of having an older group of guys that can execute a scouting report on offense and defense, and we did that.”

Although this was an all-around team effort win, there were four players who clocked in 30+ minutes — Funk, Pickett, Wynter, and Seth Lundy. With a collective 19 seasons and more than 550 colligate games played, the second-year coach has built one of the oldest and most experienced squads in the country.

Whether it was Funk at Bucknell, Pickett at Siena, Wynter at Drexel, or Lundy from the pre-Shrewsberry era, each player had a critical role in their respective teams’ success. All four seniors have gone through years of taking the extra time of dissecting film, putting in the extra reps after practice, and understanding what role they have to play in order to win games.

“You know, that’s the fun part of coaching these guys,” he said. “I got [Pickett, Lundy, Funk] sitting here. There’s a lot more in the locker room, but [Pickett, Lundy, Funk] can play off of each other and understand what each other’s doing at any point in time and break something off and go to something else.”

Simply put, the experience of his seniors has made Shrewsberry’s job as coach exponentially easier.

“It makes people think I’m a really good coach because I got really good players sitting next to me,” he said.

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About the Author

Tobey Prime

Tobey is a senior studying broadcast journalism from Lancaster, PA. He is a major Pittsburgh sports fan and Miami Heat fanatic. When Tobey isn't writing for Onward State, you can catch him looking at photos of his pugs. Send your best insults to [email protected] or sports takes to @tobey_prime on Twitter.

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