Penn State men’s basketball soars past Winthrop in season opener
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State got the ball rolling early on its 2022-23 season.
The Nittany Lions took down Winthrop 93-68 in the Bryce Jordan Center Monday night. This gives the blue and white its first victory over the Eagles, as it improves to 7-0 against Big South teams.
The stars were shining for Penn State as veteran guards Jalen Pickett and Andrew Funk led the offensive charge. Pickett had 23 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Funk contributed 22 points, shooting 60% from three-point land and four assists.
The offense proved to show two different teams, depending on if the two leading scorers stepped onto the court or not. The Bucknell transfer, Funk, had a plus-minus of +35, only trailing the preseason All-Big Ten Team member, Pickett, with +36 in the 25-point victory.
“We try to keep one or the other on the court,” coach Micah Shrewsberry said. But if all else goes downhill, the plan is to “not take them out at the same time,” according to Shrewsberry.
The offense put together a record-setting night. The team converted 18 three-pointers, setting a program record for most three-pointers in a single game.
Alongside the shooting beyond the arc, the team racked up 24 assists, with the starting five each having at least three. Funk believes the team will be hard to guard when everyone is utilized.
“I think a lot of them were just really open as a result of playing with really good players,” Funk said. “Playing with that many skill guys and sharing the ball like that, I think will be really hard to guard.”
The defense helped produce offensive scores. The Nittany Lions managed to score 28 points off 17 Winthrop turnovers.
Pickett thinks the Nittany Lions’ small stature will have to step up in the steals category. “We’re small inside this year,” Pickett said. “We’re going to have to try and create opportunities for our defense with our offense.”
Alongside the duo of Pickett and Funk, Shrewsberry credits Drexel-transfer Camren Wynter for Monday’s success. His plus-minus finished third on the team with +17, along with nine points, three assists and three steals.
The second-year head coach was pleased with the fifth-year guard, but expects more to come.
“I thought Cam did a good job attacking when he was in,” Shrewsberry said. “I thought he did good things in different stretches, but I think he still has a little more to him.”
The summer was entirely spent on the offensive structure of the team, which gave away time to work on defense. The work paid immediate dividends offensively, but the defense was more sluggish.
Winthrop shot at a 44.9% clip from the field and 44% from downtown. Shrewsberry wants to tweak things defensively as the season goes on.
“11 threes are too much,” Shrewsberry said. “We have got to clean that up in terms of the threes.”
Penn State managed to win its sixth-straight home opener. The Nittany Lions look to flex their muscles again on Thursday as Loyola Maryland comes to town.
Jonathan Draeger is a third year broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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