Nebraska vs Penn State Preview: Lions in Need of a Win

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-8, 1-4)
When: Thursday, 8:00pm
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: ESPNU
KenPom Rank: 79
Vegas Line: Penn State -3
Enemy Blog: Corn Nation

Much like last year, once again Penn State looks to their Nebraska brethren as the golden opportunity to get their first Big Ten win. Fresh off the heels of a disastrous loss against Purdue, Penn State now has dropped six-in-a-row. Despite their public appearances, losing always breeds negativity behind-the-scenes as this program has seen time and time again. It's starting to feel a bit like 2010 around these parts, when that better-than-their-record-indicated Penn State team started 0-12 in conference play in similar fashion to this year's club.

For the sake of his own rebuilding project, Pat Chambers needs wins...fast. If they don't breakthrough soon, the train can completely derail not only this season, but beyond.

Scouting The Opposition

Tim Miles has begun stocking his own cupboard in Lincoln with a pair of key transfers in former Texas Tech wing Terran Petteway and Florida transplant Walter Pitchford. Petteway is Nebraska's volume scorer, capable of creating for himself both on the floor and at the foul line. He averages 17 points a game on 13 shots (102.7 ORtg on 29.5% Poss%). Pitchford holds down the 5-spot on the block, but much like Donovon Jack, he is more than capable of stepping out and hitting a three (averages three attempts per game from beyond the arc).

The X-factor for Nebraska as David McGee pointed out yesterday is sophomore Shavon Shields. Penn State should know Shields very well after he torched the Lions last year for 29 points on just 11 shots in the Bryce Jordan Center. He has struggled so far in the Big Ten after a strong non-conference campaign (much like Brandon Taylor for PSU), but he just recently busted out for 18 points in Nebraska's upset of the Buckeyes.

The biggest disappointment so far has been Miles' prized recruit, Tai Webster. The New Zealand import combo guard was expected to make an immediate splash in the Husker backcourt, but he has consistently struggled in his first season in the States. That inevitably means he will put together a strong performance tonight against the Nits.

As a team, Nebraska isn't particularly imposing on both sides of the ball, but they're not weak either. They don't shoot well nor do they crash the glass, but they limit their turnovers and can force fouls in a hurry. Penn State certainly has a well-documented fouling habit, letting opponents attempt 30+ free throws in 4 of 6 Big Ten games. Defensively the Huskers really clean up the glass, but they also will have a tendency to put their opponents on the foul line as well. It's certainly possible both teams find themselves in foul trouble tonight.

Key Matchup

Ross Travis vs Terran Petteway. The Lions' erratic junior wing has the athleticism to match-up with Petteway. If he is able to slow down the Huskers main scoring threat, Penn State should be in position to win the game. If Travis struggles or gets in foul trouble, who else does PSU throw at Petteway?

Prediction

I personally like the matchup for Penn State here. Donovon Jack should be able to stay out of foul trouble against this team, which has almost always netted a positive for PSU. Nebraska also sports arguably the worst backcourt in the league, a unit PSU's guards should be able to exploit. Penn State comes through with an 8-point victory, 70-62.

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