|Radford Highlanders (3-2)
|Tonight, 6:00 PM
|Bryce Jordan Center
|Big Ten Network
|Penn State -7
Penn State returns to the floor for the first time since their 26-point whooping to Duquesne last Friday night. The Lions hope to deliver a response they couldn't offer in Pittsburgh once the Dukes rained down a barrage of treys. In a devastating 29-4 run that spanned 10 minutes over both halves, Duquesne opened up a 25-point lead with 14 minutes remaining that effectively ended the game.
It wasn't a lack of effort that caused the dud of a performance, but this inexperienced bunch just didn't know how to respond after being punched in the face. Shep's gotta learn that he can't just put his head down to put the team on his back. Brandon Taylor's gotta understand he can't be DJ Newbill and must find the open man when he's doubled. Meanwhile the rest of the rotation is just getting their first significant run in college.
But it was still a demoralizing performance for a Big Ten squad against a program that just lost by double digits to Pepperdine yesterday (and only shot 6-for-27 from 3 for 22 percent). For a young team that's given no respect, those were the kind of losses that fosters doubt in one's own abilities. The body language during the Lions' meltdown was discouraging, but not totally unexpected for a team still searching for an identity. Still, it's up to Chambers to learn what they can from that abomination and move this team forward tonight against Radford.
Scouting The Opposition
These programs only met once before five seasons ago. Both current head coaches were in their first season at their universities trying to pick up the pieces from their predecessors. Radford's coach Mike Jones (ed. note: not that Mike Jones) has done an admirable job turning around the 5-24 team he inherited. They've won more than 20 games the last two seasons and were picked to finish fourth in the Big South this year.
The Highlanders have made early headlines after they upset the Georgetown Hoyas in double-overtime in the season-opener. Senior guard Rashun Davis was the hero for Radford after scoring a career-high 28 points, including the game-winner. They also got 20 points from fellow senior Cameron Jones. That's not a great matchup for a youthful PSU backcourt that was just lit up by Duquesne's senior-laden attack.
But Radford is still a step below Duquesne despite the impressive win in Washington DC. The Highlanders come in ranked 224 in the Pomeroy ratings and started the season at 251. Since the opening win, Mike Jones' team has gone 2-2 with losses to VCU (92-74) and Siena (76-62). This is still a team Penn State should beat.
What To Watch For
After the humiliation we witnessed last time out, this game is all about how Penn State responds. The Lions are due to suffer a few beatdowns this season, but they can't let one loss turn into two. Chambers was back to his optimistic self at Monday's availability and has seemed pleased with the team's response in practice, but we've all got to see it on the BJC floor tonight.
Hopefully this game offers another chance for Penn State's beleaguered frontcourt to rebuild some confidence. Radford has little size and experience outside of 6'8" senior Brandon Holcomb. Look for the Lions to dump more feeds into the post on offense as they continue to work the ball inside-out. They must convert better than the 39.6 percent they're shooting inside the arc, and the Highlanders are a good opponent to cure those ills.
Many will also be keying on how Penn State performs from beyond the arc on both sides of the ball. The improved three point shooting in practice has yet to carry over for PSU, meanwhile they just gave up 17 three pointers in the Duquense rout. Radford has a few shooters that can get hot and Davis is a proven distributor, but they aren't on the same level as Duquesne.
I think Penn State's able to put that massacre behind them tonight. This team has more fight than they showed in Pittsburgh and I expect Garner to lead the charge. The Lions should have more energy against a Radford team that's on their fourth road trip in 11 days. Penn State will key on forcing turnovers, as that's been an issue for the Highlanders in the first week of the season. If Shep and Josh Reaves can continue causing havoc in the passing lanes, Penn State should have plenty of transition opportunities. I'm taking the Lions in a comfortable 72-60 win.