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Penn State vs Bucknell Preview: Lions Look For Bounceback

The Nittany Lions look to get back in the win column.

Penn State Nittany Lions guard Ace Baldwin Jr. (1) looks to pass the ball guarded by Virginia Commonwealth Rams guard Max Shulga (11) in the second half during the ESPN Invitational Events tournament seventh place game at State Farm Field House. Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

After a disastrous ESPN Events Invitational, the Nittany Lions had to wait a week to get the bitter taste out of their mouths. Penn State went 0-3 in the event, and each game looked exactly the same: the game starts out competitive, going into half time with a manageable score. They get close in the second half, then, as the game closes out, things get out of control and the Lions end up losing by double digits. The only three games played against top 100 teams were all losses, and were all by double digits. That is not a good sign for a schedule that has plenty of top 100 teams left on it.

Luckily enough, Penn State doesn’t play a top 100 team on Saturday, as Bucknell is a shell of its former self. The Bison, ranked 330th in the country by Kenpom, bring their 2-7 record and near 20-point average margin of defeat to the Bryce Jordan Center, which should be an opportunity for the Lions to address some of the issues that plagued them during the last week.

For those who wondered why Penn State’s non-conference schedule was so soft coming into the season, now we all know why.

Scouting the Opposition

Bucknell doesn’t really do anything well this season. They’re 334th in offensive efficiency, 310th in defensive efficiency, turn the ball over in 20 percent of their possessions, and are letting opponents get 30 percent of available offensive rebounds. This is exactly the type of team the Nittany Lions need to play after last week, so they can get a little bit of confidence going into the two-game Big Ten week, and beyond.

If there’s anything to praise the Bison for, it would be Jack Forrest and Josh Bascoe, who are 37.5 and 45.5 percent from three respectively. There’s a former Nittany Lion squad who proved that if you make your threes, there’s a lot you can do wrong and still win. Can Bucknell take advantage?

What to Watch For

Energy - It’s very likely that the BJC is practically empty for this game, even on a Saturday. Can this new Penn State crew create its own energy, the way other Lions were?

Efficiency - One of the biggest issues last week was Penn State’s inefficiency with the ball. Aside from playing better defense, the Lions need to take advantage of every possession they have available to them.

Tempo - This is a curious one. Will Mike Rhoades choose to do what previous Penn State coaches have done in the past, and slow the tempo to help a team that is having trouble shooting the ball, or will he leave his HAVOC system unchanged for the rest of the season? If the latter, expect more of these “running out of gas” games from the Lions.

Prediction

This isn’t a top 100 team. The answer is simple. Penn State 79, Bucknell 66