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Penn State vs Rider Preview: Avoiding the Upset

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The Nittany Lions need a complete performance tonight to knock off the young, but competitive Broncs.

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

Hosting Binghamton on Tuesday night, Penn State’s defense looked out of sync. Despite a quality offensive performance, the Bearcats hung in it until the better team was able to pull away in the second half. To their credit, Binghamton played very well. Tonight against a better team in Rider, the Nittany Lions will need to step up their game to prevent the upset.

Opponent Summary

Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Who When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Rider Broncs Friday, December 22, 7:00PM Bryce Jordan Center BTN 180 6-5, 0-0 MAAC PSU -15.5

Good news is, after tonight the team will have a week of before a game they’d have to try to lose against Coppin St., then conference play resumes. If the team comes out and takes care of business, they can start preparing for an important game at Maryland on January 2nd.

Scouting the opposition

Rider has had an interesting non-conference run so far. After a 5-1 start, including a road-win over George Washington, the team was four points away from knocking off Providence. That loss sent the team into a spiral, losing their next three games before ending the skid at home on Saturday in an OT win over Wagner.

Following a 18-15 (10-10) record last year, Rider was projected to take a step back this year after losing four starters. Senior point guard Stevie Jordan is the lone returning starter from 2016-17. He’s done well so far, averaging 15.4 points and 7.1 assists per game, though he does turn the ball over over three times per game.

After sitting out last year upon being ruled ineligible, freshman guard Jordan Allen has been a pleasant surprise for Rider. Leading the team in scoring with 16.6 ppg, Allen has already been awarded Rookie of the Week by the MAAC three times. A natural scorer currently shooting over 40% from 3-pt range, Allen also wins the award of “Most Likely to be Shadowed by Josh Reaves.”

Rider has some depth behind those two, albeit inexperienced depth. Five players currently average double-figures, and they utilize 10 players consistently. Other than a blowout loss to 9th-ranked Xavier, all of their losses have been competitive. They’ll come out expecting a chance to win the game tonight, and Penn State will benefit by squashing those hopes early on.

What to watch for

Full-Court Press - Penn State’s full-court press was ineffective for much of the game against Binghamton. Rider already likes to play fast-paced offensively, so it will be interesting to watch how Pat Chambers attempts to stop them. An extra day to prepare for Rider should help.

Creating Energy - I expect the BJC to be rather empty again tonight, as it was on Tuesday with the students home for Winter Break. The team will need to create their own energy to prevent a let-down.

Mike “Minutes” Watkins - By my count Mike has played over 30 minutes in each of the last three games. Despite another double-double, he started to show some fatigue against the Bearcats on Tuesday. Playing Watkins 30+ minutes per game is unsustainable in conference play, and Pat Chambers knows it. There may not be one answer, but it’d be nice to see Moore, Pierce, Harrar or Buttrick show some potential to give the big man a break...

Prediction

This is a game that concerns me after the team struggled to slow-down Binghamton in the first-half of their last game. A strong second-half is reassuring, but it will take a more complete effort to keep Rider from leaving town with an upset victory. A stronger defensive performance, combined with another strong showing on offense will be enough for Penn State to come away with the win. Again the Nittany Lions will pull away at the end. Penn State 85, Rider 70