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Penn State men’s basketball dominates second half to earn 74-54 victory over Wagner

·4 min read
Abby Drey/adrey@centredaily.com

Penn State men’s basketball improved to 5-4 on the season with a 74-54 victory over the Wagner Seahawks Wednesday night in the Bryce Jordan Center.

The Nittany Lions made enough shots in the early portion of the game to earn the lead over the Seahawks. Senior guard Sam Sessoms’ two made 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes helped Penn State earn a 16-10, which led Wagner to applying more pressure.

The Seahawks put on a full-court press early in the game but switched to a trap about halfway through the first quarter, causing the Nittany Lions some issues. They turned the ball over twice and Wagner caused a jump ball in the ensuing three Penn State possessions.

Despite their success with the pressure, the Seahawks backed off for most of the remainder of the first half, allowing Penn State to get into its offense in the half court. By the time they went back to the press, the Nittany Lions were able to handle it, making the correct pass and getting the ball past midcourt, going into the half with a 32-27 lead.

The Nittany Lions came out of the half with a renewed sense of purpose, generating open shots and making life difficult for the Seahawks on both ends of the court.

With the Lions up 40-35, they began a push that would close the game out. They scored 22 of the next 26 points between the two teams to take a 62-39 lead. The 22-4 run was led by scoring from the three most efficient areas of the court, the 3-point line, the free throw line and around the rim.

They made four shots at the rim, four 3-pointers and four free throws to account for all of their scoring on the run that ultimately helped them close out the win at home, 74-54.

Player of the game

Senior guard Jalen Pickett: The Nittany Lions found scoring all over the court but it was Pickett that once again led the way. He finished with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists, leading the Penn State offense to its 74-point performance. Pickett navigated the Seahawks’ trap well more often than not, opening up the Lions’ big run. He was frequently the team’s lead ball handler in pick and roll situations, using his size to navigate into the paint and putting up open short mid-range shots. The senior guard has picked up his performance of late and continues to be the steady veteran presence the team needed when it picked him up from Siena in the transfer portal.

Stat of the game

22: That’s how many of Penn State’s points came from the most efficient areas of the court during its 22-4 run. The Lions were able to push the pace and get in transition to earn four looks around the rim, including some from lobs to earn open dunks. In the half court, they moved the ball well, getting it inside to big men Jalanni White and John Harrar and forcing the defense to collapse on them. From there they were able to kick the ball out to open teammates, who hit their open 3-pointers. The Nittany Lions have had positive spurts offensively, but few, if any, have been efficient as the team’s 22-4 stretch against the Seahawks.

Quotable

Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry on the team’s offensive performance during the 22-4 run:

“We took really long segments in practice Monday an Tuesday, and a long segment in shootaround today, to strictly focus on our offense. Just simplifying what we do, getting everyone on the same page, cutting at a high rate and a high pace. I thought there was a lot of carryover.”

Up next

at Michigan State: Penn State heads back on the road Saturday afternoon for its second Big Ten game of the season. The team will take on the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing. The Nittany Lions lost their conference opener Sunday night to Ohio State, 76-64.

The Spartans are the No. 22 in the KenPom rankings and were 7-2 entering Wednesday night’s action. The game will be Penn State’s final Big Ten game until Jan. 2 when the Lions will take on the Indiana Hoosiers at the Bryce Jordan Center.

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