The World Was Different – Really Different – The Last Time Penn State Had a 40-Point Scorer

Story posted February 16, 2023 in CommRadio, Sports by Kasey Kreider

December 27, 1961. This was the date where Gene Harris joined Jesse Arnelle as the only 40-point scorers in the history of Penn State men’s basketball, dropping 46 in a 79-66 loss to Holy Cross inside the confines of Penn State’s Rec Hall.

For 22,329 days, Harris’ mark stood as the most recent 40-point game for the Nittany Lions.

Then came February 14, 2023. In a crucial, late-season matchup against the Illinois Fighting Illini inside the Bryce Jordan Center, Jalen Pickett hit two free throws with 1:15 remaining in the game. Those shots gave him his 40th and 41st points of the contest and broke Penn State’s 40-point scorer drought in the midst of a 93-81 victory.

Pickett’s masterclass left fans and experts alike dazzled and in awe. 40-point performances don’t come often in a 40-minute game, after all.

But just how long had it been since Penn State’s last 40-point performance prior to Tuesday night?

Well, consider this: in 1961, John F. Kennedy was in the first year of his term as United States President. Including Kennedy, there have been 12 people to hold the U. S. presidency since then.

If you’re into cinema, travel back in time and you’ll find that some of the highest-grossing films from 1961 include movies such as 101 Dalmatians, The Parent Trap (the original – not the newer, Lindsay Lohan-version) and Gone With the Wind.

How about music? A look at the Billboard Top 100 list will see hits such as “Tossin’ and Turnin’” by Bobby Lewis and “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline at the top of the charts.

The average price of gas in 1961 was a mere 31 cents, and for you gearheads reading this, 1961 was also the launch year for the beautiful Jaguar E-Type.

1961 also gave birth to some future figures of American history, as actors Eddie Murphy and George Clooney – oh, and some guy named Barack Obama – were all born during the year.

But if you’re reading this article, odds are you’re probably a sports fan. So let’s dive into what the sports landscape looked like 62 years ago.

That same 1961-62 season that saw Harris have his 46-point display against Holy Cross also saw Cincinnati topple Ohio State 71-59 in the title game to claim its second national championship.

On the gridiron, a dynasty was born, as Bear Bryant claimed the first of his six national championships with the Alabama Crimson Tide at the conclusion of the 1961 season.

Moving to the pros, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris led the 1961 New York Yankees to a World Series triumph over the Cincinnati Reds. Oh, and speaking of Maris, 1961 was the year he broke Babe Ruth’s record for the most home runs in American League history – a record that stood until just last year when Aaron Judge surpassed it.

The 1961-62 NBA season saw Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics win their fourth-straight championship. And since we’re on the topic of great individual performances, don’t forget that Wilt Chamberlain’s famous 100-point game also took place during this season, albeit in the 1962 calendar year.

And as far as who won the Super Bowl? Well… it didn’t exist yet, and wouldn’t for another half-decade. The Green Bay Packers shut out the New York Giants to win the NFL championship, while the AFL title went to the Houston Oilers following their defeat of the San Diego Chargers.

So it’s clear: the world has changed a lot in between Penn State’s two most-recent 40-point scoring efforts. The Nittany Lions will surely be hoping that the wait for the next one won’t be nearly as long.

Kasey Kreider is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email