Dispatching Texas A&M wasn’t a surprise on its own, but rather how Penn State managed to do so in a rather dominating fashion. Now, it was on to the Aggies’ bitter rivals, the Texas Longhorns, a dark horse national champion squad...
Things seemed rather out-of-sync offensively for the Nittany Lions, as shots that were easily dropping against A&M were hitting front iron or going in-and-out. Andrew Funk and Seth Lundy were a combined 0-for-7 from downtown, with Funk being in such a slump that he hesitated and passed up on an open three. To make matters worse, Jalen Pickett uncharacteristically turned it over five times in the first half, as Texas’ length and athleticism clogged the passing lanes and were able to strip the ball away from Pickett as he attempted to “booty ball” his way to the hoop. Had it not been for a pretty decent effort defensively on PSU’s end, as well as Cam Wynter re-discovering his smooth mid-range jumper, and Myles Dread nailing a couple of treys Texas could have easily ran away with it before halftime.
Unfortunately, as good as PSU looked defensively most of the half, Texas was still able to knock down some clutch shots in the paint, as Dylan Disu and Timmy Allen led the way in scoring for the ‘Horns. A long fadeaway two by Marcus Carr right before the buzzer gave Texas an eight-point lead at the half, their largest of the game, and put the Shrews Crew in a hole that seemed much deeper than that.
The second half opened with Texas continuing to get points inside, pushing their lead to as high as eleven. PSU however, started to pick things up offensively, as Funk nailed a couple of treys and also added a layup, while Lundy and Pickett knocked down some timely shots to put the Lions on a mini-run that cut the deficit to four. However, it seemed that every time PSU would cut the deficit to something manageable, Texas would strike back with some timely shots, namely from Disu, who finished the game with a double-double of 28 points and ten rebounds...
That all changed beginning with about eight-and-a-half minutes to go, as the Lions went on a 10-0 run over two-and-a-half minutes to reclaim the lead at 58-55, their largest of the night, thanks to a pair of Dread treys, a pair of Cam Wynter free throws, and Lundy getting a steal and layup, forcing Texas head coach Rodney Terry to call timeout with a little under five minutes remaining the game.
That timeout from Texas helped them realize that in order to avoid being yet another upset victim in what has been a wild March Madness so far, the answer was to just feed the damn rock to Disu, who went on to score six straight to put Texas back up three. Meanwhile, Funk misfired on a pair of excellent looks from downtown from the top of the key and Dread also missed one from downtown, all shots that could’ve tied the game back up. Still, with a little under tow minutes to go and trailing by only three, PSU had a chance to either tie it up or cut further into the deficit and keep it interesting to the very end.
Instead, Wynter suffered an absolute brain fart of a backcourt violation, crossing into the backcourt to receive the pass from Dread, who had already received the in-bounds pass from the backcourt. Texas took full advantage on the ensuing possession with a Marcus Carr layup. Funk misfired once again from three-point range, Lundy grabbed the offensive board, and fed it to Dread, who also misfired, before Texas corraled the rebound and fed Disu one more time to really put the Lions on the ropes.
PSU had one final gasp, with Lundy drawing a foul after nailing a trey with five seconds left. Lundy hit the ensuing free throw to make it a one-possession game again, but PSU was unable to force a five-second call on Texas and fouled Carr, who went on to make both free throws to put this game on ice.
Player of the Game - Cam Wynter (16 points, four rebounds, one assist)
After a rather quiet first round game where he only scored two points against A&M, Cam stepped up big-time, as he almost single-handedly (along with Dread) kept PSU within striking distance of Texas before others got more involved in the scoring party. For that, he’s your Player of the Game.
- This Was March - And what an incredible March it was for us long-suffering PSU hoops fans! When the calendar rolled to March 1st, the NCAA Tournament was looking more and more like a pipe dream, but thanks to some last-second heroics from Cam, as well as everyone on the team stepping up their game along with some solid coaching, we were treated to one what will go down as the best season in over 20 years. On that note...
- PAY SHREWS- I’m sure Pat Kraft is deep in negotiations with Shrews’ agent, especially if Jon Rothstein is reporting on PSU being ready to commit long-term. Hopefully, he is giving Shrews the blank check he very much deserves that will help get the program what it needs in terms of assistant salary pool, recruiting budget, facilities, NIL, etc. You get my drift...JUST PAY THE MAN, ALREADY.
- Thank, You Seniors - At least if PSU was going to go down tonight, they did it with all of their senior contributors scoring in double digits. In addition to Cam’s 16 points, Funk and Dread added 12, and Lundy and Pickett had 11 each. While Shrews has brought in a couple solid recruiting classes, he will have to hit the portal hard again this offseason to fill in the gaps that will be left behind by these guys’ departures*.
* Seth Lundy does have his extra COVID year of eligibility available, should he choose to use it
With the team’s season officially over, hopefully we get some news soon regarding an extension for Micah Shrewsberry. What he has accomplished in his two short years here in Happy Valley has been nothing short of incredible, as he took over a roster that was in disarray after Jamari Wheeler, Myreon Jones, Isiah Brockington, Seth Lundy, and John Harrar had hit the transfer portal, leaving Shrews in danger of not being able to field a competitive roster in his first year.
Shrews went right to work, convincing Harrar and Lundy to both pull out of the portal and finish their careers at PSU, while also grabbing Pickett from the portal and securing the highest-rating recruiting class in program history with the current crop of freshmen, as well as this past year’s portal additions of Wynter, Funk, and Mikey Henn. While Harrar sadly ran out of eligibility, Lundy and Dread (who never entered the portal to begin with) were rewarded for taking a leap of faith in Shrews with an NCAA Tournament appearance, which he was robbed of three years ago by the COVID-19 pandemic.
tl; dr - PAY SHREWS YESTERDAY