The last time we saw the Lions, they’d let a 16-point halftime lead slip away to come away with a disappointing 74-72 loss at the hands of Ole Miss. Penn State was in control for most of the game, then the Rebels started making shots from deep, while the Nittany Lions went ice cold.
Penn State will look to rectify that performance and salvage their tournament outing by beating a Syracuse Orange team that had their own mini version of a collapse against Oklahoma State. The Orange let their first half lead slip away in the closing minutes of the half, and were never able to recover.
Both teams will come disappointed and with a ton of what could have been questions into this game, and it’s the team that can forget Wednesday the quickest that will have the best chance to win this one.
Scouting the opposition
We all know of Syracuse’s zone, and how much trouble it can give opponents. This year’s version is no different, and for Penn State to have a chance in this game they’ll need to do two things: First, find their shot. 26% from three isn’t going to cut it agains the Orange, so Myles Dread, Curtis Jones, and Myreon Jones need to get their three point shooting settled as soon as possible. The second task is for them to break that zone inside with Mike Watkins and John Harrar. This would help with the first point, as the zone will start collapsing if Watkins is having success inside.
They key to stopping Syracuse is limiting guard Elijah Hughes. Hughes is shooting 42% from three on 50 shots this season, well above the second best shooter on the team, former Nittany Lion target Joe Girard. Forward Quincy Guerrier is a block and rebounding machine on his own right, so the Nittany Lions need to be on him at all times. Guerrier’s block percentage rate is 9th in the country as per Kenpom, three spots behind Mike Watkins. And of course, Buddy Boeheim’s own 35.4% shooting from beyond the arc should not be ignored, as he could have his own big night if not accounted for.
What to watch for
Hangover - Will the Nittany Lions still feel the effects from the game against Ole Miss or will they put that loss behind them and come ready to play?
Tempo - Syracuse isn’t the fastest team on the land, so getting out in transition and making shots before they’re set in their zone will be key.
Three-point shooting - Myles Dread went 0-for-4 from three against Ole Miss. The team as a whole, as mentioned, only shot 26.3%. That needs to be rectified in this game.
I hate the way the Nittany Lions lost on Wednesday. It showed a lot of the tendencies that have doomed this team so many times in the past. Today, however, they get to prove whether this team is different or not. I’m going with Vegas here, but I want to see more. Penn State 72, Syracuse 70.