Penn State vs. Youngstown State Preview: Lions Get Shrewsberry Era Underway

By Vincent Lungaro on November 10, 2021 at 10:48 am
Feb 26, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Myles Dread (2) holds the ball as Purdue Boilermakers forward Mason Gillis (0) defends during the first half at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
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Youngstown State Penguins
0-0 (0-0 Horizon)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
8:30 p.m. EST – Wednesday, Nov. 10
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, PA
Watch Info: BTN | GAMETRACKER
KenPom Rank: 290

It's finally here. Micah Shrewsberry gets his Penn State coaching career underway tonight as the Nittany Lions host Youngstown State at the Bryce Jordan Center. The game is the season opener for both squads.

Fans make their return to the most electric atmosphere in college basketball after last season saw games played behind closed doors so to speak. 

Several familiar names are back: John Harrar, Seth Lundy, Myles Dread and Sam Sessoms. While there are also plenty of fresh faces looking to replace some important players from a season ago who transferred elsewhere. 

PROJECTED STARTERS
 
PENN STATE YOUNGSTOWN STATE
G Sam Sessoms - 6'0 - Sr. G Garrett Covington - 6'5 - Sr.
G Jalen Pickett - 6'4 - Sr. G Shemar Rathan-Mayes - 5'11 - So.
G Myles Dread - 6'4 - Sr. G Dwayne Cohill - 6'2 - Jr. 
F Seth Lundy - 6'6 - Jr. G Tevin Olison - 6'4 - Sr. 
F John Harrar - 6'9 - Sr.  F Michael Akuchie - 6'8 - Sr. 

SCOUTING REPORT

Much like Penn State, Youngstown State hit the transfer portal pretty hard this offseason, bringing in five transfers to the program. They include Tevin Olison (two-time NAIA second-team All-American) and Dwayne Cohill (three seasons at Dayton), who figure to slot into the Penguins' starting lineup on opening night.

Senior guard Garrett Covington is the team's leading returning scorer after averaging 12.5 points per game a season ago. He was also a Horizon League All-Defense pick in 2020-21. 

Conference All-Freshman pick Shemar Rathan-Mayes is also back. He averaged 10.4 points and 3.5 assists per game and scored in double figures 15 times. He led the Penguins by making 40 three-pointers a season ago. 

The Penguins don't have a ton of size, but senior forward Michael Akuchie returns after averaging a career-high 8.3 rebounds per game last year. He even set a Horizon League record for rebounds in one game last season against Robert Morris, grabbing 24 of them. 

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Gelling quickly. With several newcomers figuring to get significant minutes for the Nittany Lions on opening night, one of the biggest keys to this early part of the season is how quickly all the fresh pieces can gel with each other and the returnees. Shrewsberry and the players have said the chemistry is strong with this group and that bodes well as they get accustomed to playing with one another in competitive action. 
  • Lundy's time. This is less about tonight and more about this season as a whole. If Penn State is going to make any kind of noise in the Big Ten, Seth Lundy needs to be the type of player who dropped 32 against VCU and 31 against Maryland on a more consistent basis. I'll be watching for how aggressive he looks on the offensive end against Youngstown State. 
  • Big John starting strong. With Greg Lee in a walking boot and expected to miss an unspecified amount of time to start the season, there's even more pressure on John Harrar to be a significant presence down low. He handled similar circumstances well last year when the options behind him were pretty sparse. Akuchie will be a pretty decent first test for Harrar down low. 

PREDICTION 

There will undoubtedly be some first-game jitters and growing pains for Penn State. Shrewsberry referenced the fact the coaching staff focused on defense over offense for large stretches of preseason camp. Expect a slow start as the Nittany Lions find their groove, only to pull away in the second half and finish with a solid first win for Shrewsberry. Penn State 72, Youngstown State 59. 

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