Four games into the season and Penn State’s toughest challenge is upon it.
The Nittany Lions are hitting the road to take on LSU as coach Micah Shrewsberry’s first matchup with an SEC team at the helm.
The blue and white is coming off a win over Cornell, 85-74, where Penn State tied the program 3-point record with 15 triples Monday.
Shrewsberry said his team is going to have to play the same way offensively to take down a team that fell 80-79 in the SEC Championship game to Alabama just last season.
“In our film session, it was continuing to move the ball, continuing to swing the ball from side to side and keep people off balance with our movement,” Shrewsberry said. “That’s what we are going to continue to do.”
Monday, against undefeated Cornell, Penn State scored the most points it has accumulated in a game all season with senior guard Sam Sessoms and junior forward Seth Lundy leading the way in terms of offensive production.
Lundy led the way with 23 points, shooting 5-8 from 3-point range, and Sessoms was just behind him at 6-7 from the 3-point line with 22 points.
For LSU, senior forward Darius Days and sophomore forward Tari Eason lead its solid offense to form a two-headed monster in the paint.
Days comes in at 6-foot-7, with Eason at 6-foot-8, and the Tigers have 7-foot freshman Efton Reid, who is bigger than any player on Penn State’s roster
Shrewsberry isn’t worried about how Penn State matches up physically with LSU and some of the other tougher teams down the road.
“I think everybody will tower over us,” Shrewsberry said. “It’s a matter of sheer force and will more than size.”
The first-year head coach went on to bring up the saying, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” when talking about how the Nittany Lions will deal with the teams that outsize them.
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For this weekend, Shrewsberry doesn’t think size will be too much of an issue.
“It doesn’t matter how tall somebody is,” Shrewsberry said. “Chop them down bit-by-bit, and that is what we need to do. If there’s a 7-foot guy out there and we have a 5-foot-9 guy guarding him — we have to get it done.”
Just a few games into the 2021-22 campaign, the Tigers are one of the best teams in the SEC defensively.
LSU is third in the SEC in defensive rebounds per game with 29.4 and leads the conference in steals per game with 13.8, over three more than Mississippi State, who sits in second.
The Tigers know how to force turnovers and turn it into offense, and sophomore forward Mwani Wilkinson is one of the standout players on the defense, pacing the SEC with 3.4 steals per game.
From scouting, Shrewsberry knows the Tigers are going to switch on every screen Penn State throws at them.
He said LSU wants the Nittany Lions to be stangnet offensively, so his team falls right where the Tigers want.
“They're a really good defensive team,” Shrewsberry said. “They're a really active team. They turn people over. They block shots at the rim, and if we play into their hands, it's not gonna be good for the Nittany Lions. So we need to move the ball.
“We need to create shots for ourselves, knock on wood and make those shots.”
The blue and white’s tilt with LSU comes a day after Thanksgiving and is set to take place in Niceville, Florida, as part of the Emerald Coast Classic.
Shrewsberry and his new band of players are going away on their first big trip as a team and will be together during Thanksgiving.
Although the team will be together during the holiday, Shrewsberry said he thinks the team would be better off without him.
“I think if they get more time away from me it's probably better,” Shrewsberry said. “They're around each other a lot. They enjoy being around each other.”
However, Shrewsberry’s sights are set on taking down another undefeated team in LSU, who is 5-0 on the season.
“LSU is a good basketball team,” Shrewsberry said. “We need to be really locked in mentally and physically to give ourselves a chance to win the game down there.”
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