3 things to watch as Penn State men's basketball faces Colorado State in Charleston Classic

3 things to watch as Penn State men’s basketball faces Colorado State in Charleston Classic

Penn State men’s basketball wraps up its weekend in Charleston, SC, when it faces off with Colorado State in the third-place game of the weekend tournament.

The Nittany Lions split their first two games of the three-game tournament with a win over Furman and a loss to Virginia Tech. Colorado State beat South Carolina in its opener before losing to host College of Charleston on Friday. Both teams bring 4-1 records into the final, which will tip off at 6 pm on ESPNU.

You can get all of the details for the game right here from Mark Brennan. Below, I’ll drop three things I’ll be watching for when the Rams and Nittany Lions square off Sunday evening.

Read more: How To Watch: Penn State basketball vs. Colorado State Sunday

1. How does Penn State bounce back from a loss?

For the first time this season, coach Micah Shrewsberry has to get his Nittany Lions to bounce back from a defeat. What’s it going to look like? During his first season at Penn State, Shrewsberry proved himself to be adept at making adjustments, but the Nittany Lions still had three different three-game losing streaks. Penn State’s talent level in 2022-23 should prevent the team from succumbing to a similar fate, but the Nittany Lions still need to prove it. I think this year’s Penn State team is better equipped to bounce back, especially with a day of rest and a day to game plan Saturday. But the Nittany Lions still need to prove they can shake off adversity in the loss column for the first time this season.

2. Penn State needs to play an even game.

The Nittany Lions have been uneven from half-to-half over their first two games in Charleston. In Thursday’s opener against Furman, Penn State built a 21-point first-half lead before the Paladins closed to within one in the final two minutes of action. The Nittany Lions held on, 73-68. The next day, Virginia Tech led by 16 early before Penn State got to within two late in an eventual 61-59 loss. Penn State hasn’t strung together two dominant halves since the win over Loyola (Md.) on Nov. 10 in the second game of the year. Penn State needs to buckle down and figure out how to get through 40 minutes of solid basketball against a quality opponent, which Colorado State, a tournament team a year ago, is.

3. What does the staff look like?

In the Virginia Tech loss, freshman Evan Mahaffey played nearly 16-and-a-half minutes off the bench for Penn State. That just about equaled his total from games against Winthrop, Loyola and Furman, with a DNP against Butler mixed in there. The 6-foot-6 Mahaffey, who is listed as a guard/forward, gave the Nittany Lions good minutes on both sides of the floor, and he scored four points and grabbed five rebounds in his time on the court.

Through the first five games of the season, forward Kebba Njie has received the most early run among the five-man freshman class. But in the first two games in Charleston, Mahaffey joined him in getting first-half minutes, and for a team with a size deficiency, Mahaffey’s potential emergence as a playable option against good teams is a good sign for the Nittany Lions. After using an eight-man rotation against Butler, Mahaffey pushed it to nine against Furman and Virginia Tech. Will that hold up against Colorado State?

Freshmen guards Kanye Clary and Jameel Brown haven’t played since the Loyola game, so it’ll be worth watching if Shrewsberry gives them a taste of the action against Colorado State. Penn State is deep in the backcourt with starters Jalen Pickett and Andrew Funk handling the scoring load, Myles Dread working as the sixth man and Dallion Johnson getting some minutes, too.

Forward Demetrius Lilley, the fifth member of the highly regarded freshman class, has yet to make his collegiate debut, and Shrewsberry said he hoped to get Lilley five minutes or so if game flow dictated it. Obviously, the two close games to open the tournament didn’t allow for that.

Penn State returned five scholarship players from last season and added eight new players, so Shrewsberry’s rotation is continuing to come together.

Daniel Gallen covers Penn State for Lions247 and 247Sports. He can be reached at daniel.gallen@cbsinteractive.com. Follow Daniel on Twitter at @danieljtgallen.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *