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Penn State men's basketball drops 1st contest under Micah Shrewsberry, falls to UMass on road

Penn State men's basketball vs. Youngstown State, Sam Sessoms (3)

Guard Sam Sessoms (3) dribbles the ball past a defender in Penn State men's basketball game against Youngstown State on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. Penn State defeated Youngstown State 75-59.

It started competitively, with Penn State’s John Harrar and Trent Buttrick, his former Nittany Lion backup-turned UMass starter, going head to head in-game for the first time in each of their college careers.

Behind Buttrick’s 19 points, nine rebounds and seven forced turnovers, UMASS dominated the blue and white in nearly every facet of the game, defeating Penn State 76-56 in game two of 2021.

Penn State may have won its season-opener last week, but the potential holes in the Nittany Lions game became clear in a shaky performance against the Minute Men.

Here are some key takeaways from Penn State’s first loss of the Micah Shrewsberry era.

Offensive rebounding may be greatest strength

Harrar’s been recognized for his grit and hustle throughout his five seasons in Happy Valley, but through two games this season, Harrar’s ability to grab boards seems to have skyrocketed.

After breaking a career-high in rebounds against Youngstown State last week, Harrar traveled to UMass and didn’t skip a beat.

On Monday, Harrar came up big once again on the boards, tallying 12.

Harrar wasn’t the only one, however.

Penn State outrebounded the Minute Men 35-29, with 10 of its total coming on the offensive end.

When your team’s short on offensive star power, it must ease some of Shrewsberry’s frustration when his offense has what seems like at least one extra opportunity every time it takes the ball down the floor.

The second chances didn’t seem to fall at any consistent rate either, though.

Turnovers, streaky shooting plague Nittany Lions

As Shrewsberry told the media before the season, the offense would develop more over the course of the season.

In game two, growing pains became apparent for Penn State on the offensive end, looking slow against a UMass defense that ranked No. 253 out of 347 nationally in points allowed per game last season.

Penn State’s offensive performance was nowhere close to outstanding in its season opener, being held to just 75 points against Youngstown State.

On Monday, though, the blue and white seemed to hit a new low in terms of offensive efficiency this season, scoring 56 points at a rate of just 37% from the field.

Out of the Nittany Lions’ 51 attempts, 15 were taken from beyond the 3-point marker, and only four of Penn State’s 3-point attempts hit.

On top of its inconsistent shooting, the Nittany Lions’ 15 turnovers — that out-tallied UMass’s eight — didn’t seem to help them at any rate either.

Despite the streaky offensive play by much of Penn State’s roster, point guard Sam Sessoms looks to be finding his bread and butter as a starter at a rapid pace, scoring 12 points on 50% shooting — his second straight double-digit turnout.

Trouble defending along the perimeter

While Penn State struggled to get much of anything going from deep, UMass looked like its polar opposite.

Shrewsberry stated last week that his goal on the defensive end is keep opponents under 60 points.

However on Monday, his group struggled mightily to come anywhere close to this mark, as 81 points marked the total for UMass, shooting at a rate of 48.1%.

Over half of its attempts — 29 of 54 — came from beyond the arc.

All too often UMass was either left wide open from 3 or covered too tightly up top that it became easy for the Minute Men to outpace a Nittany Lion defender for a quick two points down low.

One of the major storylines ahead of Monday’s contest was former Penn State big man Buttrick’s reunion with the Nittany Lions, having transferred after four seasons in Happy Valley.

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