Here are five takeaways from Penn State’s 93-68 win over Winthrop.
JALEN PICKETT IS THE MAN
Coach Micah Shrewsberry was right: Jalen Pickett is Penn State’s best player.
Micah Shrewsberry also tells me that Jalen Pickett has clearly been Penn State's best player.
Pickett averaged 13.4 PPG, 4.4 APG, and 4.3 RPG last season. https://t.co/EQFUpzincM
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 20, 2022
Not that it’s a surprise. Pickett, a team captain, was Penn State’s leading scorer last season and was a three-time first-team all-conference selection at Siena before transferring. But, man, was he good Monday night? The fifth-year senior was on from the get-go, making his first six shots and finishing with 15 points in the first half. He ended the night with a game-high 23 on 9-14 shooting, adding five rebounds and five assists.
Pickett did a little bit of everything for Penn State, and for this team to make noise, he’ll need to keep it up.
WE ARE… GOOD OFFENSIVELY?
Penn State was last in the Big Ten in scoring last season, averaging 64.6 points per game. It scored 44 in the first half and ended with 93, 54 coming on a program-record 18 made 3-pointers. The 93 points were the most in 32 games Shrewsberry has led the program for and Penn State’s highest total since it scored 98 against Bucknell in November 2019. Not bad, eh? Sure, part of the reason Penn State didn’t score so much last season was by design. Shrewsberry ran a slow-tempo offense and focused on making his team a hard-nosed, lunch-pail type. Nonetheless, Penn State will have to score more to be a player in the Big Ten, and although scoring 93 against Winthrop isn’t the same as doing it against Purdue, it’s a good sign.
KEEPING FOOT ON GAS
Penn State’s 44-32 halftime lead was comfortable but hardly insurmountable. A good minute by Winthrop early in the second half could have put it back in the game. Instead, Penn State went on an 8-0 run to start the last 20 minutes, stretching the lead to 20 points and putting the game to bed early.
By starting the second half strong, Penn State showed the strength not to get complacent, and that’s an asset that will need to carry over.
WE WANT THE FUNK
Andrew Funk was named a team captain before playing a game at Penn State, and the veteran transfer from Bucknell proved himself worthy in his debut. Funk finished the night with 22 points, just one behind Pickett for the game-high, and went 6-10 from 3. One of those triples was the first points of the second half and ignited that 8-0 run that buried Winthrop.
So far, Funk has shown the ability to give Penn State two things it needs; leadership and scoring.
NOT TOO SHABBY
It’s hard for many Penn State sports fans to get excited about basketball in general, and many people who invest in the program don’t start to pay attention until football season ends. Beating Winthrop isn’t going to make those people care. Nonetheless, it was an excellent first step. Penn State showed life offensively that often wasn’t there last year. Its best player was on his A-game, and although there was shakiness at times in the second half– a 23-point lead became a 13-point lead– Penn State never let Winthrop back in the game.
So, overall, Game 1 was a step forward for Penn State men’s basketball in a season that many expect to be a giant leap.