Game 9: Army Preview

Patrick Smith

Penn State will look to correct some issues that doomed them to defeat at the Palestra, but the Black Knights may not be the cupcakes the doctor ordered.

Who: Army Black Knights (4-3)
When: Today, 4:00 PM
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: Big Ten Network

Wednesday's second half debacle against La Salle was discouraging, to put it mildly. All credit to the Explorers for making 16 of their 29 three point attempts, but Penn State was once again woeful in their defensive rotations. La Salle took full advantage of their opportunities, and to ask this Nittany Lions team to match anybody shot for shot on offense is, well...not ideal.

In light of the loss, "lowly" Army seems like a nice cupcake opponent to recover against, right? Well, don't count those chickens just yet. While the Black Knights are 4-3, a record which includes losses to Bryant (who beat BC, who beat PSU) and a 3-6 Yale team, they also rank 60th in the country in points per game (75.5 - imagine all the Big Macs they must get!). If there's one weakness this Penn State team has, it's when opposing teams score more points then the Nits can.

The Knights' biggest offensive threat is all-Patriot League swingman Ella Ellis. The 6'7" senior is a big-time scoring threat, and he's been as efficient as they come at the mid-major level this season--Ellis is averaging just under 20 points a game on 45% FG shooting and connecting on 41% of his three-point attempts. Freshman guard Kyle Wilson is also a perimeter threat, averaging just under 12 ppg on 48% from the field.

Don't count on Army getting in a Providence-like pickle, where fatigue becomes an issue, either; 10 players are seeing more than 10 minutes per game. Because the Knights are permitted by NCAA rule to carry more than the standard 15 roster players, coach Zach Spiker will likely use all 13 players at his disposal. This is the type of scenario where the full-court press becomes a major issue for the point guard-less Penn State.

Though the end result was not so flattering, it wasn't all bad news at the Palestra for the Nittany Lions. Sasa Borovnjak (3-4 FG, 8 pts) and Ross Travis (6-11 FG, 12 pts) had their best offensive showings of the season, and while D.J. Newbill struggled to find his own shot, he did finish with five assists compared to a mere two turnovers against one of the best backcourts Penn State will face all year. (See, we can stay positive about this whole situation. Excuse me one moment [closes door, resumes listening to "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath]).

This game has a certain "je ne sais Maine" feel to it, but if Penn State can make stops, handle Army's defensive pressure and find some easy buckets on the inside where they should have an advantage--Army's tallest rotation player is 6'7"--then this should be a very winnable game for the Nittany Lions. But, as we've seen, "winnable" isn't exactly a familiar word 'round these parts.


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