Penn State at UMass Preview: Hoops Faces Former A-10 Foe Looking For 2-0 Start

By Vincent Lungaro on November 15, 2021 at 8:46 am
Nov 10, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) controls the ball as Youngstown State Penguins guard Luke Chicone (10) defends during the second half at the Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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Penn State will look to make it two wins from two games on Monday night with a road tilt at UMass. The game tips off at 7:00 p.m., and will air on CBS Sports Network. 

The Nittany Lions (1-0) opened up their 2021-22 campaign with a comprehensive win over Youngstown State last week. The game marked the first game with Micah Shrewsberry as Penn State's head coach. The Minutemen (1-1) topped UMBC and ex-Penn State interim coach Jim Ferry in their opener, but were blown out in game two against Yale, 91-71. 

Projected Starters
Penn State umass
G Sam Sessoms - 6'0 - Sr. G Noah Fernandes - 5'11 - Jr.
G Jalen Pickett - 6'4 - Sr. G Rich Kelly - 6'1 - Sr. 
G Myles Dread - 6'4 - Sr. G T.J. Weeks Jr. - 6'4 - So. 
F Seth Lundy - 6'6 - Jr. F Trent Buttrick - 6'8 - Sr. 
F John Harrar - 6'9 - Sr. F Dyondre Dominguez - 6'9 - So.

Series history

Penn State and UMass used to face each other every season back when the Nittany Lions were still a member of the Atlantic 10, with the last game between the two schools coming all the way back in 1991. 

In total, the two schools have played 23 games against one another. 

SCOUTING REPORT

Last season's 8-7 mark for UMass was the program's first winning season since 2015. Fourth-year head coach Matt McCall will look to build on that and push for an Atlantic 10 title this season. The biggest problem for McCall and the Minutemen in doing that is the players lost in the transfer portal, including former first team A-10 pick Tre Mitchell (Texas) and Ronnie Degray (Missouri). 

Familiar face Trent Buttrick leads UMass in scoring through two games, averaging 13.5 per game to go along with 5.5 rebounds. Buttrick is also hitting 40 percent from three thus far. That was an area he never quite found consistency in during his days in the Penn State rotation. 

Junior guard Noah Fernandes runs the show for the Minutemen (12.5 ppg, 6 assists) and senior guard Rich Kelly is someone Penn State will have to be aware of from the three-point line. 

UMass rallied from an early 15-2 deficit to comeback to beat UMBC 77-60 in its opener with Buttrick and sophomore guard T.J. Weeks Jr. each scoring 16 points. The Minutemen trailed by 13 at halftime in the loss to Yale and couldn't find their way back into the game in the 20-point loss. It was never much of a game. McCall will certainly be looking for a response from his team in Monday's matchup with the Nittany Lions.

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Don't let Buttrick get hot. I'm not calling this a revenge game, but Buttrick will undoubtedly want to make his mark against his former teammates. He's been a pleasant surprise in a larger role for UMass. Can he continue his good start against Penn State? 
  • Try to get Pickett going early. Jalen Pickett garnered a lot of hype in the preseason and his debut was solid if unspectacular. He overcame some first-half jitters to chip in with 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. Expect Shrewsberry to try and get him some early looks within the offense to get a rhythm going earlier. 
  • Improve the showing from 3-point land. Penn State shot just 6-of-20 from three against Youngstown State. The Nittany Lions will need to improve their distance shooting both against the Minutemen and moving forward this season. 

PREDICTION

Had the likes of Mitchell and Degray returned to UMass, this would have looked like a really tricky early season matchup for Penn State. Thankfully, they've transferred elsewhere. While I expect the Minutemen to stay within striking distance, especially after such a poor performance in the loss to Yale, the Nittany Lions should take care of business to move to 2-0. Penn State 74, UMass 62. 

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