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Poor defensive effort the culprit in Penn State men's basketball road loss at UMass

Penn State men's basketball vs. Youngstown State, Micah Shrewberry

Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry walks the sidelines during their game against Youngstown State on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. Coach Shrewsberry got his first win as the head coach as Penn State won 75-59.

The opening half of Penn State’s first away game of the 2021-22 season showed promise.

The Nittany Lions went into halftime against UMass down three points, despite shooting 37% from the field and 20% from 3-point range.

However, the Minutemen turned up the heat in the final 20 minutes as they started the second half on a 20-4 run, putting Penn State in hole it couldn’t dig out of.

“We didn’t start it the way we needed to,” coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “That’s something where we’ve got to grow as a team.”

Despite out-rebounding UMass by six, the Nittany Lions couldn’t handle the hot hands of a familiar foe in Trent Buttrick.

The former Penn Stater led all scorers in Monday’s contest with a career-high 19 points and was one rebound shy of a double-double as he knocked down three triples and eight foul shots.

The blue and white allowed UMass to shoot 53.8% from the field in the first half, but it was the 46.7% effort from beyond the arc in the second half that carried the Minutemen to victory.

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Heading into Monday's contest, the Minutemen averaged seven 3-pointers per game through their first contests of the season, but they finished with 13 triples against the Nittany Lions.

Monday’s loss is the first of Shrewsberry’s tenure at Penn State and he took responsibility for the lack of preparation heading into the contest.

“It’s on me,” Shrewsberry said. “They did some things tonight that were different from how they played. I thought they set the tone of the game… with how quickly they moved the ball. I thought we were a step behind all night.”

Alongside Buttrick, C.J. Kelly and Rich Kelly turned in efficient shooting performances against the Nittany Lions as each shot 55.6% and 60%, respectively, from the floor as well as 60% and 57.1% from 3-point range.

UMass finished the game with five players in double-digits; With multiple scoring threats on the floor, Penn State needed to bring the energy on defense and according to Shrewsberry, it failed to do so.

The first-year head coach noted that the Minutemen lost to Yale by 20 points in their last matchup and his team didn’t put enough effort out on the defensive end of the court.

“I don’t think we brought it at the energy level we needed to guard these guys,” Shrewsberry said. “Our defense has to be our backbone and it gives you a chance to win. We have to get stronger defensively.”

However, Shrewsberry believes the Nittany Lions will learn from their first loss of the season and come out stronger in their Thursday matchup at home against St. Francis Brooklyn.

“Games like this are going to make us better,” Shrewsberry said. “We’ll be ready to play this next game — I’ll guarantee you that.”

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