Through three games this season Micah Shrewsberry’s team has impressed in multiple ways. The one area where they have arguably been the most impressive is in shooting threes.
After draining a school record 18 threes in their season opening victory over Winthrop and dropping 16 against Loyola (MD), the Nittany Lions hit 10 more against Butler on Monday night. As part of the Gavitt Tip Off Games, the Nittany Lions defeated the Bulldogs 68-62 to improve to 3-0 on the season.
It was a historic night at the Bryce Jordan Center as point guard Jalen Pickett would record just the second triple-double in program history. Pickett scored 15 points to go with 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Pickett joins current Colorado Nuggets GM Calvin Booth as the only other player in program history to record a triple-double.
A strong start from the Nittany Lions set the tone for much of the first half. Penn State raced out to a 10-4 lead at the under 16 timeout in the first half. This lead had grown to 17-6 at the under 12 timeout. This fast start set the table for a 33-26 halftime lead in favor of the Nittany Lions.
Butler started the second half on a 16-7 run to regain the lead for the first time since holding an early 4-3 lead. This lead would be short lived, however, as Andrew Funk would hit two big threes to give the Nittany Lions a 48-44 lead at the under 12 timeout of the second half.
Following Funk’s sparking of the offense, the Nittany Lions would once again hot from behind the arc. This allowed the Nittany Lions to build up a lead that got as high as 16, a big lead that would prove to be important.
In the game’s closing minutes the Nittany Lions got sloppy on offense and started to fall asleep at the wheel. Due to this, Butler was able to rally to pull within 5 with less than :50 seconds to go. After Cam Wynter missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Nittany Lions were able to get a steal that led to a Seth Lundy dunk that extended the lead back to 7.
Having an offense that lives and dies by the three-point shot the way the Nittany Lions do can be problematic. If you get cold from three-point land then the offense will struggle to score. We saw that at times on Monday night. That said, few things in basketball can be more difficult to defend than an offense that can shoot the three-point shot the way Penn State can. This will give the Nittany Lions a legitimate chance to win most nights.
Four Factors Analysis
Players of the Game
Jalen Pickett - 15 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, 1 steal
While Jalen Pickett struggled from the floor early in the game, he starts 2/14 from the field, he was still the straw that stirred the drink for Penn State’s offense. He was a general at point guard and played tough inside. He finished the game hot offensively on his way to the second triple-double in program history.
Manny Bates - 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists
It would be wrong to not mention the night Manny Bates had for Butler. His 16 points led all scorers, and he was a tough matchup for the Nittany Lions throughout the night. If not for the play of Bates, Butler likely would have lost by 10+ points.
Penn State fell into some poor, old habits - While it has not been nearly as big of an issue since Coach Shrewsberry has arrived in Happy Valley, for a long time Penn State seemed to routinely fall into the same bad habits on offense. Sloppiness, poor shot selection, waiting around for someone else to make a play, trying to rush when there was no need to do so. Well, early in the second half on Monday night Penn State fell back into a lot of these habits. These habits once again reared their ugly heads in the game’s closing minutes which caused the Nittany Lions to have to sweat things out more than it appeared they’d have to.
Andrew Funk sparks the second half offense - With the Nittany Lion offense struggling in the second half Funk sunk two huge threes. Funk also made another field goal during this stretch, as he helped spark a 24-7 run. Funk scored 8 of the first 10 points of this run, a run that saw the Nittany Lions go from trailing for the first time since early in the game to leading by 16.
Potential red flag - While the Nittany Lions have played some great basketball thus far there is still concern over how the Nittany Lions will handle quality big men. Monday night Manny Bates was Butler’s best player and gave Penn State problems. This will be something that Coach Shrewsberry and the Nittany Lions will need to look to figure out ahead of Big Ten play.
Next up for the Nittany Lions is a matchup with Furman in the first round of the Charleston Classic. Tipoff from Charleston is scheduled for 11:30 AM on Thursday, the game will be televised on ESPNU.