Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

College Basketball

Penn State Basketball: Pickett’s Sharp Decision Making Befuddles Texas A&M

Penn State star Jalen Pickett
Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) January 21, 2023 David Hague/NSN

DES MOINES, Iowa — Buzz Williams knew that much of what Penn State basketball did would flow through Jalen Pickett.

Stopping Penn State’s star proved another matter for his Texas A&M defense.

Pickett finished second to Andrew Funk with 19 points. But it was his decision-making really impressed Williams. Time after time, Penn State got open looks against A&M — because Pickett saw a favorable matchup and got the ball there.

“As talented as 22 is, his best talent is he makes a decision immediately relative to how you’re going to defend him,” Williams said. “That makes the other four players that are on the floor with him even better.

“Because he’s an elite level passer, when your rotation happens, whatever you’re going to do the decision is happening now. No matter what you’re doing, they’re going to get the matchup they want on 22. If you don’t help, then he’s going to play in the middle of the floor with the ball. If you do help, the ball is immediately going toward where you have one less guy.”

Penn State used that defensive weakness against A&M all night. Penn State shot 59% from 3-point range and consistently found open looks at the net. Out of 13 made 3-pointers, Penn State assisted on nine of them.

Funk said distribution is a point of emphasis for Penn State’s offense.

“Our focus is on sharing the ball,” Funk, who hit seven of his eight 3-point baskets off a pass from a teammate, said. “With a guy like Pickett, he commands a lot of attention. With the way we were able to play off of him, what we have been doing all year came to fruition.”

In the process, Penn State destroyed what entered the game as a good defensive team. Texas A&M ranked 16th nationally in opposing shooting percentage. But Penn State shot 48.2% for the game.

Belief was key.

“We were very confident,” Penn State guard Camren Wynter said. “We figured out how we were going to attack them and were confident in our ability to keep this thing rolling. We moved the ball and executed on offense, and we found shots, stepped up and knocked them down.”

Pickett created many of those opportunities by opening up the offense. Much like he did against Illinois last week, he regularly penetrated the lane and let A&M’s defense open up options.

When it did, he didn’t give them a chance to fix what they’d left uncovered.

“I have the ball in my hands a lot and I definitely ask my teammates what they see and where they’re open,” Pickett said. “When Coach (Micah Shrewsberry) draws up a play, I see the reads immediately as soon as they come off. I know what I’m looking at and what should happen. I just try to find people and get the ball out quick so it’s on target and easy for them to shoot it or for Evan (Mahfaffey) to get a dunk.”

While Pickett knew exactly where the ball was going, the Aggies never figured it out. Even though A&M attempted to adjust at halftime, Penn State put up the same 38 points in the second half that it did in the first. Once Penn State got its noses in front on a Pickett jumper with 11:39 left in the first half, A&M never got even again.

“They’re pretty comfortable with what they do, and I think that showed (Thursday),” A&M guard Dexter Dennis said. “I think they just took advantage of us in a lot of situations and had us rotating a lot. It was pretty much the whole game.”

And Penn State basketball now has a chance to try to befuddle another foe, who’s got even less time to prepare. Unlike the teams who saw Penn State in Chicago, Texas hasn’t faced Penn State and gets just 48 hours to try to figure them out.

As Williams and the Aggies know firsthand, that’s a tall task.

“We’re just unique in how we play,” Penn State basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “We’re unique in how we attack. You could see us do some stuff in a game, and then you might not see it for two or three weeks. That’s just having guys who are really good on the fly at changing some things and adjusting.”

Click to comment

Sound Off!

More from Nittany Sports Now

PSU Basketball

0 In the days since coach Micah Shrewsberry left Penn State basketball for Notre Dame, Penn State fans have had varying opinions on the matter....

PSU Basketball

0 Now-former Penn State basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry released his farewell statement to the program Friday morning. Thank You Penn State! 🔵⚪️🦁 — Micah Shrewsberry...

PSU Basketball

1 Two coaches with Penn State ties are reportedly candidates for the head basketball coaching job that’s vacant after Micah Shrewsberry’s departure to Notre Dame....


0 Penn State basketball is part of a big school with a big-time athletic program. On Wednesday, Penn State and its fans felt the...