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PSU Basketball

Pickett, Funk Lead Penn State to Season-Opening win Over Winthrop

Penn State Athletics

STATE COLLEGE, PA– Coming into the season-opener, Penn State knew it had an experienced backcourt and, of course, Jalen Pickett. Neither disappointed in the 93-68 win over Winthrop Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Pickett exploded for 15 points in the first 15 minutes of the game en route to a 23-point night, going 9-for-13 from the field.

“It’s just finding the right spot, find the right shot for our team,” Pickett said following the game.

Finding the right shot is an understatement, but the senior forward wasn’t the only star of the night as senior guard and Bucknell transfer Andrew Funk added 23 points while knocking down six threes in his debut for the Nittany Lions.

“It felt really good coming in, getting the win like that and kind of shooting the ball the way I did, but I don’t even know if I was in a zone,” Funk said. “I think a lot of them were just really open as a result of playing with really good players alongside me.”

The game itself couldn’t have been scripted much better for Micah Shrewsberry’s squad, which featured four players scoring double figures for Penn State. Shrewsberry could go to his bench early and often during the rout leading to a balanced offensive attack with 10 Nittany Lions finding the scoreboard.

“I really wanted us to play well because I’ve seen us play well in practice. I’ve seen what we’ve been able to do in practice,” Shrewsberry said. “I wanted them to show up tonight, and for the most part, I’m happy with how we played.”

THREE PARTY

It was an excellent night of shooting from downtown as Penn State nailed a school-record 18 threes. The Nittany Lions shot 48.4 percent from beyond the arc on the evening.

Funk led the way with six treys while Myles Dread chipped in four of his own. Pickett, Seth Lundy, Caleb Dorsey, Jameel Brown and Michael Henn all took part in the three-party and lots of threes look to be expected this year, Shrewsberry said. 

“The one thing I tell these guys is I never want them looking over their shoulders wondering what shot it is,” Shrewsberry said. “We want to spread the court, we want to get threes and have people running at us, and we can attack the rim.”

This Penn State team is deep, athletic and without height and, unlike last year’s team, can run the floor and use that athleticism to their advantage. It’s game one, but the possibilities offensively are strong with this group.

SHARING THE WEALTH

For as well as the Nittany Lions shot the ball, they distributed it even better. Penn State recorded 24 assists against Winthrop and probably played a little too unselfishly at times in the game.

“We had 24 assists, which is ridiculous,” Funk said. “Playing with that many skill guys, if we’re going to share the ball like that, I think we’re going to be really hard to guard. I think it’s kind of a testament to the way our offense runs and [our] unselfishness, overall.”

There are multiple layers and much depth to the offense the Nittany Lions are looking to run this season, and it’s not nearly as one-dimensional as last year, with the offense running solely through set plays and nothing happening in transition.

The more options a team has to be aware of and defend, the more problems they will have leaving guys open, and Penn State will be able to take advantage of that in a big way as the season progresses.

EXPERIENCE PAYS OFF

Three of Penn State’s five starters have four or more years of experience, with Pickett having five and Funk and Camren Wynter having four. Lundy and Dorsey both have three years under their belt as well.

That type of experience will help both on and off the court with a roster that boasts five freshmen who are expected to contribute heavily this season.

Those starters combined for 69 of the 93 points scored by the Nittany Lions Monday night. They’re not only getting leadership, but they’re putting points up in droves, and it will only get better as the season progresses.

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