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Penn State 93, Winthrop 68: Lions Fly Early

Penn State went deep into its bench early, and the Lions came away with the victory in its opening night.

Purdue Boilermakers guard Jaden Ivey (23) guards Penn State Nittany Lions forward Seth Lundy (1) during the Big Ten tournament on Friday, March. 11, 2022, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Purdue Boilermakers defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions, 69-61.  Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

The long anticipated second season under head coach Micah Shrewsberry is finally here, and it’s off to a great start! The Nittany Lions welcomed Winthrop, a team that went 23-9 last season, but certainly had holes to fill given all of their departures in the offseason. Such is the era of the portal.

The Lions themselves had a bit of a new-look feel in this game, as grad transfers Cam Wynter and Andrew Funk were part of the starting lineup, and, to everyone’s surprise, seldom-used Caleb Dorsey rounded out the starting five in the game, with Seth Lundy and Jalen Pickett being the only projected starters to actually start.

Onto the game, Penn State started a little slow, but it wouldn’t take long to see what kind of offense Shrewsberry plans to run with this cast. The threes were raining and, once they started to fall, a Winthrop team that did its absolute best to stay with the Lions (with the help of their own three point offense), simply couldn’t keep up. Pickett had 15 points in the first half alone, while Myles Dread pitched in another nine on three made threes. Before you knew it, the Nittany Lions had opened up a 17-point lead that would settle at 12 at halftime.

Penn State kept going in the second half, with the exception of a short period in the middle where Winthrop made an attempt at closing the game. The Lions went up 23, the Eagles cut the deficit down to 13, then Penn State ballooned it right back, and as the fouls mounted for Winthrop, and as the shots kept falling for the Lions, the visitors ran out of gas.

Four Factors Analysis

Yeah, it was that kind of night for the Nittany Lions. Everything that could go right went right, and the hot fire you see on the effective field goal percentage, as well as the points per possession tell the tale.

Penn State did commit a few more turnovers in the second half than they did the first, but overall, they were well below what they were averaging a year ago.

Players of the Game

Jalen Pickett: 23 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal

Pickett was all over the place all game long, and the overstuffed stat sheet tells the tale. There isn’t much more to say than “this is why Pickett was a preseason All-Big Ten nominee.”

Andrew Funk: 22 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals

The Bucknell transfer had himself a debut game in blue and white. Trailing only Pickett in scoring, Funk made six threes to lead all Lions in makes for the game. His shot looks pure, and if this game can translate to the rest of the season, Penn State got themselves a good one.

Random Observations

Record setting night - Penn State made 18 three-pointers int his contest, that’s three more than the previous record of 15. Seven different players made a three pointer, with the aforementioned Funk, and Myles Dread right behind him, contributing 10 of those 18.

Unusual starting lineup - Most expected the returning players to make up the starting lineup (read: Dread, Dallion Johnson), but instead, both grad transfers, as well as Caleb Dorsey, made up the starting five. Shrewsberry has gone on record to say he’s not as concerned about who starts the game, but rather who finishes it, but it was surprising to see nonetheless.

Holy rotation batman - Penn State rotated so heavily that, by the time the Lions cleared the benches, the only scholarship players that hadn’t seen the floor yet were Mikey Henn and Jameel Brown. They both proceeded to shoot threes to add to the tally.

Looking Ahead

Penn State is back on the court on Thursday, as it hosts Loyola (MD) at 7:00 PM Eastern. Game will be behind a paywall, as B1G+ has the call.