After last weekend's 78-point performance, the Lions are hoping a week off won't cool down their hot shooting when they face the Hornets.
|Who:||Delaware State Hornets (5-5)|
|When:||Saturday, 2:00 PM|
|Where:||Bryce Jordan Center|
After last Saturday's 78-70 victory over pesky Army, Penn State will look to buck the trend and win back-to-back games for the first time this season against a Delaware St. team coming off a big rivalry win in overtime against Delaware. The Hornets have also faced Big Ten foe Northwestern earlier this season, losing to the Wildcats 69-50, so this could be a good barometer game for Penn State.
The good news is that Delaware St. is the first team the Nittany Lions have faced in a while that doesn't light it up from beyond the arc (they still shoot better than the Lions, mind you). The Hornets are shooting just under 30% from three this year. Sophomore guard Tahj Tate leads the team in scoring (15.5 ppg) but head coach Greg Jackson's squad does boast a balanced attack, as six other players are averaging over six points a game.
Kendall Gray is one of those six, although he does most of his work on the defensive end--he's swatting shots at a whopping rate of 3.9 per game. At 6'10" 240lbs, Gray forms a formidable frontcourt pairing with do-it-all senior Marques Oliver (6.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 1.9 spg). Oliver has seen reduced minutes compared to his sophomore and junior seasons despite being named second team all-MEAC this preseason.
Penn State produced what was far and away their best offensive showing of the season against Army, and they'll hope that performance proves to be the start of a new trend rather than an anomaly. Even though the Black Knights had whittled the lead down to two at one point in the second half, you have to feel good about the Lions' chances to win any game (read: any game against an unranked opponent) when they pass the Big Mac threshold. 78 points marked their highest total since the season opener against St. Francis (PA), and that game featured a healthy Tim Frazier.
Individually, a quartet of players continue to emerge as the primary scoring threats for this team - D.J. Newbill, Jermaine Marshall, Ross Travis, and Brandon Taylor. Travis especially appears to have turned a corner, putting up career-best efforts in his last two outings, including his second career double-double last Saturday. Perhaps more importantly the sophomore from Minnesota has played a Tim Frazier-like 78 of the 80 available minutes over the two-game stretch (97.5% Min%).
Newbill turned in another solid effort as the makeshift point guard, notching 19 points, six boards and five assists. His assist-to-turnover ratio hasn't been optimal (1-1), but for a guy learning the position on the fly, it could be much worse. He and Marshall have split ball-handling duties when faced with the full-court press, which will undoubtedly be utilized by most, if not all of Penn State's opponents going forward.
Jon Graham and Sasa Borovnjak once again had little impact down low as the two combined for eight fouls in 28 minutes against Army, a team lacking in the post department. Delaware St.'s frontcourt could present an issue for Pat Chambers, especially considering Gray's shot-blocking presence. Expect to see a three-guard lineup for much of the game, with Nick Colella bearing the fruits of his good shooting last Saturday (3-5 from deep) with major minutes.
Penn State is the more talented team here, and if they can shoot nearly 50% once again the Lions should be able to control this from the outset. Though expecting that kind of shooting with this team is always a risk for disappointment.
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