Penn State Faces Temple In The NCAA Tournament

Since it was announced Penn State would take on Temple in the second round of the NCAA Tournament today at 2:10 P.M. on TNT, there's been a lot of talk about the teams' preseason scrimmage at the Bryce Jordan Center in October and how it might offer clues about which team has an advantage in this game. Few if any outside of the two programs got to see that scrimmage, though, so we're left with player and coach speak on what transpired at the event which may or may not be accurate.

What we do know is that when these two teams met last December in Philadelphia, it wasn't pretty. Temple earned a 45-42 victory against the Nittany Lions thanks to suffocating defense and just enough offense in what was an ugly game for both teams offensively.

The Owls limited Talor Battle to eight points on 3-15 shooting and no Penn State starter registered double figures. Only former guard Chris Babb broke that plateau with 11 points off the bench. Jeff Brooks was held to three points on 1-5 shooting while Andrew Jones and David Jackson took only three shots each on the afternoon. The Lions shot only 35% as a team.

Temple had an even more difficult shooting day, hitting at only 30%. The Owls, however, forced 14 turnovers and dominated the offensive boards 14-4, allowing them to take 17 more shots in the game than the Lions, just enough to get them over the top despite their horrible shooting.

While both teams have changed a lot in the last year don't don't expect the pace to. Penn State showed how comfortable it is slowing things down and playing tough defense at the Big Ten Tournament where it limited two opponents under 50 points and 40% shooting to earn a spot on the dance floor. Temple, though it can score with anyone, routinely held A-10 teams in the 50s and 60s all season.

A slug fest of a basketball game may be waiting in the wings with a potential date with No. 2 seed San Diego State on the line in round three.

When Penn State Has The Ball

  • Odds are, the Penn State players are going to to be tight playing in their first NCAA Tournament game. Getting some easy buckets down low early on will go a long way in alleviating this problem. The Lions will be less reliant on their jumpers and more confident in attacking the rim if they can have some success before the two teams get too deep into the game.
  • The Lions dictated the pace all weekend in Indianapolis, even against No. 1 Ohio State, and that's why they're here today. If Penn State can slow the ball down and force the Owls to deal with its half court defense, the game will go right down to the end.
  • Penn State gave Temple way too many possessions in Philadelphia last year. Of course, that was roughly 50 games ago for both teams, but that doesn't mean the Lions should lessen the priority on taking care of the basketball and attacking the offensive glass.

When Temple Has The Ball

  • Penn State did a nice job of taking a banged up Kalin Lucas out of his game in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan State. If the Lions can get 11.6 point per game scorer and recently injured Scootie Randall out of his game, it'll make their jobs a lot easier in defending the rest of the team.
  • Temple is No. 109 nationally in rebounding while the Lions are in the 300s. We've seen Penn State beat great rebounding teams like Ohio State and Purdue on the boards, though, so we know the potential to outrebound the Owls is there, it's just a case of manifesting it early and often in this one. 
  • The Owls aren't great at knocking down the deep shots as they're hitting at only 35% this season. Perimeter defense has been Penn State's Achilles Heel all season, though. Penn State will have to lock down on the arc like it did in Indianapolis to have a chance to win.

Overall

Temple's 14-2 record in a league as respected as the A-10 is nothing to sneeze at, but Penn State hasn't lost to a team outside the Top 10 since Feb. 10 at Michigan State. The Lions have earned the right to be here, too, and they need to play with the confidence they have in the last month if they hope to keep their season going for another couple of days. Temple is good and it has had Penn State's number over the last couple of years, but reacting to that instead of the momentum built up at the Big Ten Tournament is a bad idea. The Lions are good in their own right and, as they've shown, a little swagger and fight makes them dangerous enough to beat anyone. Why not Temple?

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