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Penn State vs Binghamton Preview: Entering the Home Stretch of the Non-Conference Schedule

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Following a victory on the road over George Mason, the Nittany Lions return to the BJC for the first of a three game stand.

NCAA Basketball: George Washington at Penn State Linsey Fagan-USA TODAY Sports

Update: Tony Carr will play tonight.

Coming off two wins by impressive margins over the Georges, Penn State will turn their attention to the Binghamton Bearcats. Expected to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the America East Conference, behind frontrunners Vermont and Albany, the Bearcats will bring with them a 7-game winning streak as they visit the Bryce Jordan Center.

Opponent Summary

Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Binghamton Bearcats Tuesday, December 17, 7:00 PM Bryce Jordan Center BTN+ 202 8-4, 0-0 America East TBD

Without Tony Carr on Sunday, Penn State hardly missed a beat. Six steals from freshman Jamari Wheeler led the team, and put him into a tie with Josh Reaves with 25 steals on the season. George Mason was the sixth team to be held under 60 by Penn State this year at 54 points. All of this has contributed to their current rank on KenPom as the 12th best team in adjusted defensive efficiency.

As of writing this it’s unclear whether or not Carr will be back in the starting lineup, after a violation of team rules sidelined him in Fairfax. I think it’s probable he makes his return, but the bottom line is that it shouldn’t matter one way or the other.

Scouting the opposition

Binghamton comes in hot, riding their longest winning streak in nine years. However, the quality of teams they beat, or have played in general, doesn’t come close to what they are up against tonight in State College. A close loss on the road to Evansville (KP# 151) and a home win over Army (KP# 156) are the toughest tests they’ve faced so far. We have a common opponent in George Mason, who defeated Binghamton 69-57 back in November.

JC Show leads the Bearcats in scoring with 16 points per game. The junior has played a bit of shooting guard and small forward for Binghamton this year, depending on the lineup they go with. He leads the team in three-point shots taken with 78, and has been knocking them down at a 41% rate. On Sunday, he scored the team’s final 11 points in a comeback effort to beat Sacred Heart. In a career performance last year, Show tallied 34 points while shooting 8-11 from three. Introducing him to Josh Reaves should help keep him from stealing the show tonight. [ Ed. Note: Badum Bish! ]

Show’s supporting cast are no slouches from behind the arc, with two other players shooting above 40% from three on the season. Willie Rodriquez has been getting it done as the starting power forward, Fard Muhammad has provided a spark off the bench.

Inside, junior Thomas Bruce will be tasked with guarding Mike Watkins. He’s second on the team in scoring with 13.7 ppg, and nearly averages a double-double with 9.3 rpg. Behind him there’s not a whole lot in terms of players with experience and size, so it will be important for Bruce to stay out of foul trouble.

What to watch for

Bench rotation - Nazeer Bostick made his second career start in Carr’s place, and he and Jamari Wheeler each finished the game with 27 minutes of playing time. Next in line was Satchel Pierce with 6 minutes, followed by 4 and 1 minute each for Trent Buttrick and John Harrar in the closing minutes. Bostick and Wheeler seem to have cemented their roles, but the situation is foggy behind them. Is Pierce back in the good favor of the coaching staff, or will we see a different big come in to spell Mike Watkins tonight?

Shutdown defense - Holding their last two opponents to 54 points, Penn State has a chance to improve their already high defensive efficiency rating against the 213th ranked offense. Their stellar defense has prevented lesser opponents from hanging around late in games, which makes watching them a much less stressful experience.

Stay focused - We’re all too aware of the potential for Penn State to slip-up inside a sleepy BJC in late-December. Win the next three games, and the January 2nd trip to play Maryland presents an excellent opportunity to generate some buzz. Drop one, and the team loses almost any room for error in conference play.

Prediction

It’s hard to worry too much when Penn State has at least two (three if Tony Carr is back) players that Binghamton will have no match for. They aren’t as undersized or inexperienced as George Mason, but both Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins should be able to get whatever shots they want. JC Show is a high-volume scorer, but with Josh Reaves as his shadow the damage should be limited. Penn State 80, Binghamton 58