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Penn State vs. Montana Preview: The Tune-Ups Continue

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The Nittany Lions take on the Grizzlies in the first meeting between the two schools

NCAA Basketball: Montana at Oregon Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent Summary

Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Montana Grizzlies Wednesday, November 15, 7:00 PM Bryce Jordan Center BTN 141 2-0, 0-0 Big Sky TBD

Fresh off a win over Pittsburgh, their first P-5 victory since 2010, the Montana Grizzlies are coming to State College to try and make it two-in-a-row. With their win over Pitt, Montana is going to be the toughest opponent Penn State will play prior to a game against either Oklahoma State or Texas A&M next week. In year’s past this game would present an opportunity for a let-down performance. Let’s look at how the two teams match-up.

Scouting the Opposition

Last year the Grizzlies finished 16-16 (11-7) on the season, losing in the Big Sky tournament quarterfinals. It was a disappointing season for a team usually among the top in their conference. With greater depth and experience this year, the Griz were voted to finish third in preseason conference polls by the coaches and media.

Montana returns an experienced roster, bolstered by what may be the best backcourt in the Big Sky Conference. Against Pitt it was Michael Oguine leading the way with 29 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists while turning the ball over 0 times. Penn State will have to contain Oguine, who is capable of penetrating the defense and getting to the rim. Ahmaad Rorie, an Oregon transfer, is the other guard that the Nittany Lions need to be prepared for, although he is most dangerous beyond the arc.

The frontcourt is a different story. Senior Fabijan Krslovic is joined by transfer Jamar Akoh and freshman Karl Nicholas, Admir Besovic and Kelby Kramer. Both Akoh and Nicholas have potential upside, but at 6’8” they may struggle to show it against a bigger Penn State team. Head Coach Travis DeCuire has a pair of reliable players on the wings in Bobby Moorehead and Sayed Pridgett. Moorehead is a talented 3-point shooter, while Pridgett is more of a utility player.

What to Watch For

Get off to a fast start: Montana is travelling across the country and coming off an overtime victory, Penn State needs to reverse the trend of the last two games and build an early lead. The Griz have 3-point shooters, a volume scorer in Michael Oguine, and surging confidence after a big win for their program. The Nittany Lions need to crush any belief that the Griz can hang around in this one.

Ball Control: Montana does not play the same turnover-producing style that Fairleigh Dickinson does, so this should be an easier task than it was on Sunday. Still, the sloppy play needs to be curbed. A slow-start followed by 20+ turnovers will make this game more stressful than it needs to be.

Paging Mr. Garner: The senior 3-point specialist was shut-out against Fairleigh Dickinson on Sunday. It didn’t impact the result of the game, but Penn State is going to need Garner to find his stroke before we enter the tougher stretches of the schedule. If his extended cold streaks continue, it may be harder for him to find playing time.

Prediction

Of the opening slate of games before the Legends Classic next week, this is the one that raises the most concern. Montana is not a bad team, and they won’t be intimidated coming into the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday night. It’s not going to be a win they can hang their hats on come March, but a convincing win proves that this Penn State team won’t falter as easily as teams in the past.

Penn State 90, Montana 73