It was truly a tale of two halves for Micah Shrewsberry’s Penn State squad, as the Nittany Lions stormed out to take a commanding lead in the first half, leading by 17 points going into the locker room at halftime. The second half however, saw the quintessential Penn State basketball experience of the opposing team storming back to turn the game into an absolute nail-biter. In the end however, a win is a win, and the Nittany Lions remain a perfect 4-0 on the season.
The game started off a tad slow for the Lions, as Furman scored the first five points. Shortly after that though, PSU’s offense kicked into high gear, whether it was driving for layups, or especially knocking down three-pointers (which has been the teams’ M.O.). Before you knew it, the Lions had built a ten-point lead halfway through the first half, thanks to Myles Dread coming off the bench to drain three attempts from downtown. PSU would continue to push its lead to as high as 21, with Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy leading the way in scoring, as they had 13 and 10 points respectively at halftime. A combination of hot shooting from the Lions and ice-cold shooting from the Paladins led to a 46-29 lead at the half for PSU.
The second half was the quintessential Penn State basketball experience, as the Lions had stretches of cold shooting followed by Furman not only heating up from long distance, but also realizing PSU’s lack of a strong post presence and utilizing that to drive for some easy layups, dunks, and snag offensive rebounds for second-chance scoring opportunities. It was hard not to feel helpless as the Paladins methodically chipped away at what was once a comfortable lead for PSU, getting to as close as within a single point, but unable to completely close the gap. With the Lions clinging to a three-point lead in the final minute, Furman saw a couple of game-tying treys go halfway down before coming back out, as Lundy ultimately iced the game at the free-throw line by nailing both shots on a one-in-one with six seconds to go.
As Coach Shrews himself would say: It was gritty, not pretty (well, for at least one half).
Four Factors Analysis
Both teams were pretty efficient overall at shooting the rock, which is something you would expect when both teams came into this game averaging over 80 points per game. The offensive rebounding percentage sticks out like a sore thumb, and is a friendly reminder of how the lack of an established big man is going to be exploited by a lot of teams once the schedule heads into Big Ten play.
Players of the Game
Jalen Pickett - 20 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds
Seth Lundy - 20 points, 7 rebounds
Pickett and Lundy were PSU’s most consistent scorers today, which was especially important down the stretch when Furman made this game an absolute nail-biter. Seth nailed perhaps the most important shots of the game with PSU up one in the final minute by hitting a jumper from the left corner, followed by the free throws with six seconds left.
- Mad Props to the Paladins - Folks, this is a good Furman team that PSU just beat, and the line on this game was PSU -2.5 for a reason. If not for being on the wrong end of a buzzer-beating prayer in the Southern Conference Championship Game, the Paladins would’ve been playing in the NCAA Tournament last season. Shout-out to Paladins guard Mike Bothwell, who led all scorers with 26 points and also brought down six rebounds, he was a big part of their near-comeback today and if Furman does get over the hump this year and make it to March Madness, he will be the main reason why.
- Heads-Up Coaching Move From Shrews - With a foul to give and up five with six seconds left, Cam Wynter fouled Furman with two more seconds having run off the clock. Even though Furman was able to inbound from mid-court, it was a very heads-up coaching move by Shrews to make sure the Paladins would have as little time as possible to make it a one-possession game again.
- That Being Said... This team sure could use some quality interior play, especially on the defensive end. I realize three-point shooting is going to be this team’s bread-and-butter and it’s worked like a charm so far, as they have nailed no fewer than ten threes in a game (with today’s game seeing the Lions knock down 11 from beyond the arc), but they will need to be reliable scoring inside in ways other than Pickett driving and pivoting his way to the basket whenever the threes stop falling.
Penn State awaits the winner of Old Dominion and Virginia Tech, who are currently playing each other as of the time this post is being written. Regardless of opponent, the game will air tomorrow at Noon EST on ESPN2.