After being among the ‘others receiving votes’ in this week’s AP Poll, the Penn State Nittany Lions are set to return to the court as expectations continue to rise. After overcoming a double digit deficit, Penn State mounted a late comeback to defeat Yale this past Saturday to remain undefeated. This was great to see because in past years this was a game that the Nittany Lions would have lost.
As part of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off the Nittany Lions will battle the Ole Miss Rebels on Wednesday evening. In addition to the Nittany Lions and the Rebels, the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Syracuse Orange are participating in this year’s NIT Preseason Tip-Off.
Scouting the opposition
Coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015, the Ole Miss Rebels are off to a 4-1 start this season. Their lone loss was a 1-point defeat at the hands of a top-15 Memphis team. The Rebels will present the Nittany Lions with their second big test of their non-conference slate.
Senior guard Breein Tyree is the straw that stirs the Ole Miss drink. After finishing third in the SEC in scoring last season, he is averaging 16.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.0 steals per game thus far this season. Tyree and Jamari Wheeler will be a fun match up to watch throughout the game.
With the departures of Bruce Stevens and Dominik Olejniczak, sophomore KJ Buffen has stepped up for the Rebels. Leading the team’s frontcourt, Buffen is averaging 14.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. His 66.7% field goal percentage is a team high.
JUCO transfer Khadim Sy also has a big role to fill in the team’s frontcourt. Five games into his Ole Miss career Sy has had mixed results averaging 6.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
Against Memphis, Ole Miss got a boost with the return of sophomore forward Blake Hinson. After missing the first four games with what was called a “blood abnormality” Hinson returned with a 15 point, 3 rebound, 2 assist performance in their loss against Memphis.
With the return of Hinson Ole Miss may look to use a smaller lineup. Head coach Kermit Davis has said he is comfortable playing Hinson and Buffen together and not using a traditional center. They may also rotate Hinson and Buffen, while Sy sees an increase in playing time to give the team a bigger a lineup.
What to watch for
A fast start from Stevens - In Penn State’s first battle with a quality opponent this season Lamar Stevens played a bad first half against Georgetown. Luckily, the rest of the team picked up the slack for the senior before he got going in the second half. If Stevens starts slow against the Rebels, then the Nittany Lions could find themselves in a bind.
Will the Nittany Lions pass another early season test? - As a Penn State Basketball fan I should know better than to get my hopes up. Well...that ship has sailed. Through the first five games of the season the Nittany Lions have looked like a different team, they look like a NCAA Tournament caliber team. The Rebels will provide maybe their stiffest test to date, can the Nittany Lions continue to pass their early season tests?
The Nittany Lions will have to battle to get the W, but they improve to 6-0 with a win over the Rebels. Penn State 73, Ole Miss 68