|La Salle Explorers(4-1)
|Today, 9:00 PM
|NBC Sports Network
Coming off a relatively comfortable win against Penn on Saturday, Penn State will face La Salle on the Quakers' home floor and the home of Big 5 hoops, the Palestra. This matchup represents the Nittany Lions' second trip to Philadelphia under Pat Chambers, who was born and raised in Philly, and a return home for D.J. Newbill, who played his high school ball just a few miles away from the Palestra at Strawberry Mansion. The Explorers will be unveiling special throwback uniforms for the occasion, so this contest should be aesthetically pleasing if nothing else.
Dr. John Giannini, in addition to having the most Philadelphia basketball coach's name ever, has his team coming into the game having won three in a row, including an overtime victory over Villanova on November 25th. Giannini is in his ninth season at La Salle and has staked his claim as the most successful coach in the program's A-10 era, despite the fact that they've never made the Big Dance under the Doc's reign (Too bad his PhD isn't in Bracketology! I will see myself out).
The Explorers' roster features a few names that should be recognizable to Penn Staters -Taylor Dunn, a reserve guard, is the son of former PSU head coach Jerry Dunn, and center Steve Zack was a high school teammate of Jermaine Marshall's at Red Land High in Lewisberry.
Like most Big 5 teams, La Salle boasts a very talented backcourt. Junior Tyreek Duren leads the team in scoring through five games averaging just over 16 points per contest, 37% of which come from the free-throw stripe. Senior guard Ramon Galloway is the team's biggest three-point threat, shooting 38% from behind the arc on the season. He'll be a major focus for the Nittany Lions' defense, as they have struggled to close out on open shooters all season.
As far as post players are concerned, sophomore forward Jerrell Wright has been La Salle's biggest threat thus far. The 6'8" 240lb'er has been the team's best rebounder, averaging seven boards in 26 minutes of action per game. Zack also presents a challenge for Jon Graham and Sasa Borovnjak at 6'11" 245lbs. The sophomore center is blocking over one and a half shots a game thus far.
In order for Penn State to give themselves a good chance at winning this game, they'll likely need to get major scoring contributions from someone other than Jermaine Marshall (14.4 ppg) and Newbill (14.7 ppg). Freshman Brandon Taylor has shown promising signs towards being that capable third scorer, who leads the team in three point shooting (41%) and adds a unique dimension to the Lions' offense at 6'7" 235lbs.
Jon Graham has been largely unreliable scoring-wise this season, but we've seen him be a capable scorer in spurts as evidenced by his back-to-back buckets from textbook post moves against Penn resulting in an #ATTITUDE EmbraceTM. Ross Travis is coming off what is arguably his most impressive outing of the season, where he refused to settle for a mid-range shot that hadn't been falling and instead attacked the rim where he seems to be much more effective. The sophomore leads the Big Ten in total rebounding (7.7 rpg, 54 total) at this early stage. Chambers has also hinted that freshman forward Donovon Jack is in line for more playing time sooner rather than later, though this isn't an ideal situation to throw an inexperienced player into the fire.
This is the first ever Penn State game to be broadcasted on NBC Sports Network, and our ears will be graced by the dulcet tones of former Orlando Magic coach/San Fernando Valley legend Stan van Gundy (video SFW) on color commentary. So that should be entertaining at the very least.
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