Penn State Men’s Basketball vs. Wagner Game Preview

Story posted December 8, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Matt Scalzo

After a perfect start at home to the 2021 season, Penn State has dropped the last two to Power 5 opponents. Now, the Nittany Lions look to get back to winning ways in its final contest of their homestand as they face a tough Wagner team on Wednesday night, tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

On Wednesday night, Penn State fell at the hands of Miami (FL) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, 63-58. Then in its Big Ten opener, the comeback attempt came up short in the waning minutes versus Ohio State, 76-64, dropping Penn State to 4-4 on the season.

Coach Micah Shrewsberry has seen growth in his team but is stressing the importance of building longer stretches of strong play, while also being prepared, as the frequencies of games begin to ramp up.

“You want to continue to get better and continue to grow while you also prepare to win,” Shrewsberry said. “You need to have a short memory in terms of we have to turn right around and get our confidence back.”

The Nittany Lions were paced by the strong play of Sam Sessoms to start the year but as of late it has been Jalen Pickett who has caught fire.

Pickett finished with a team-high 23 points and shot 53 percent from the floor against the Buckeyes. The senior guard credited his budding confidence to making eight free throws against St. Francis a few weeks ago.

The Siena transfer has caught fire since his strong performance at the charity stripe, scoring 14 or more points in four of the last five, and has him nabbing 11.3 points per game.

Another player that has been playing well is forward John Harrar. The super senior has been averaging 10.8 points per game and 11 rebounds per game, which is second in the Big Ten. 

“[Harrar] wants everybody to be the best that they can be, so we could be the best that we can be,” senior Seth Lundy said. “When you see someone like that working hard, it just makes you want to go as hard as him.”

Harrar’s teammates are not the only ones that see his importance. Shrewsberry noted how vital Harrar is when the ball is in his hand, and when he is out the offense begins to sputter.

Shrewsberry hopes that generating more ball movement earlier in the game will alleviate some offensive struggles when one of their best players is on the bench.

The blue and white now turn its focus towards the visiting Seahawks, who sit at 3-1 on the season. Looking to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003, Wagner was pegged as the preseason No. 1 in the Northeast Conference.

“We don’t have an off day tomorrow, [Shrewsberry] was telling us how hard Wagner is going to play,” Harrar said. “[Wagner is] going to punch us in the just like any Big Ten team.”

This past week, Wagner returned to action after a slew of positive Covid-19 tests postponed three games. On Wednesday, the Seahawks fell to No. 25 Seton Hall, 85-63, but bounced back Saturday with a dominating win over Stony Brook, 78-49.

Wagner boasts four players that average double-digits points per game the main two being Alex Morales and Raekwon Rogers.

Morales, the reigning NEC Player of the Year, returned to the program after withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft. The graduate student stands at 6-foot-6 and is notching 18 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest, both of which lead the team.

The 6-foot-8 Rogers is one of the newest pieces at Wagner. After a career at the D-II level with Henderson State, the forward has made his presence felt in Staten Island. The Little Rock, Arkansas, native is currently averaging 10.5 points and 4.5 boards per game.

Shrewsberry had nothing but good things to say about the Seahawks, noting how this team is one of the hardest working teams and should not be overlooked.

“People will look at the name and assume this should be a 20-point win, well you’re not following college basketball then,” Shrewsberry said. “It’s a big contest and if we’re not ready for it, we’ll be sitting here feeling sorry for ourselves.”

Right now the Nittany Lions are reeling, while the Seahawks are soaring. However, a late push by Shrewsberry’s squad will prove to be the difference-maker.

Prediction: Penn State 65, Wagner 59

Matthew Scalzo is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email mms7477@psu.edu.

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Matt Scalzo

Second Year / Broadcast Journalism

Matthew “Matt” Scalzo is a second-year from Ridgefield, Connecticut majoring in broadcast journalism. Matt is a Basketball Insider, broadcaster and writer for the sports department. With CommRadio he has called football, volleyball, basketball and hockey games. Matt is also the Penn State Women’s Volleyball play-by-play broadcaster calling games on both TV and radio. He has written countless articles and appeared on podcasts, live shows and is a part of The Extra Point, a talk show centered around the NFL. If you want to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).