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Buzz Williams discusses perks, pitfalls of doubling Jalen Pickett in 1st half vs. Penn State

Andrew Graham03/16/23
Article written by:On3 imageAndrew Graham


Penn State v Texas A&M
DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 16: Head coach Buzz Williams of the Texas A&M Aggies reacts during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 16, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

There is no question about where the offense starts and stops for the Penn State men’s basketball team: Jalen Pickett. And Texas A&M head coach Buzz Williams is in a bit of a quandary as what to do about it.

The veteran guard averages nearly 18 points per game for the Nittany Lions and can score in a litany of ways. And presenting a double team on Pickett — who wears No. 22, as Williams referred to him — creates other challenges.

“Well, when we help on 22, it has to be distinct. Because it’s not just the guy that’s helping, it’s the responsibility of the other three. And he causes so many problems, we don’t wanna help. But when we help, those other three have gotta do their job,” Williams said to TBS sideline reporter Allie LaForce.

One risk is sagging off of senior guard Andrew Funk, who is shooting better than 40% from beyond the arc. He had already torched the Aggies for a pair of 3s before Williams briefly spoke, and clearly the shooting ability is making Williams second-guess helping on Pickett.

Later in the first half, funk buried his third 3 to give Penn State a 24-15 lead, spurring Williams to call a timeout. Between Pickett, Funk, and the free-flowing Penn State offense, Williams and his defense will have their work cut out for them.

Meanwhile, Penn State did a fantastic job of limiting Texas A&M offensively. The Aggies were fortunate to crack 20 points in the first half.

During the frame, head coach Micah Shrewsberry discussed the defense with LaForce.

Penn State held the Aggies to 15 points through the game’s first 14 minutes, including a 6-for-18 showing in the early going of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Shrewsberry said the biggest key to that success is keeping track of the basketball. That’s why the Nittany Lions have been able to guard the paint so well.

“I think we’ve been conscious of the ball, where it is,” Shrewsberry said. “Not overdoing it with guarding guys away from the ball. Trying to protect the paint, pack the paint. That helps us rebound, as well. I know they’ve gotten some, but we’re doing our best job and battling.”