With Groundhog Day happening earlier this week, it’s only fitting that Penn State’s hoops squad is about to face their first rematch of the Big Ten slate, as the Nittany Lions travel to Nebraska today. Much like the first matchup 15 days ago, PSU enters the contest coming off a loss and desperately seeking a win to get back on the winning track and more importantly, to stay on the bubble and keep pace towards a potential NCAA Tournament bid.
Scouting The Opposition
Head coach Fred Hoiberg has had to deal with an increasingly short-handed roster, as starting guard Emmanuel Bandoumel left the last game at Penn State with a lower leg injury and later was announced he would have season-ending knee surgery. This, coupled with losing forward Juwan Gary to injury earlier in January, has made life in the Big Ten even more difficult. Starting with the loss at PSU, the Huskers have lost four straight games, all by double-digits.
Nonetheless, the Huskers still have star forward Derrick Walker, who led the team in the first meeting against PSU with 20 points, six rebounds, and six assists, as well as the backcourt duo of Sam Griesel and Keisei Tominaga, who were the only other two Huskers to reach double-figures in scoring against PSU with 11 and 13, respectively. Tominaga especially, will be the guard to keep an eye on, as he is capable of lighting it up from three-point range, averaging 38 percent on the season, and nailed a pair of treys last time out in Happy Valley.
What To Watch For
How will Micah Shrewsberry’s latest commitment to starting Mikey Henn and Caleb Dorsey help against containing Walker? More importantly, can PSU find a shooting touch similar to that which they’ve enjoyed from home (looking at you in particular, Andrew Funk)? If the Lions have a shooting slump similar to what they’ve experienced in other road games, this game could be a painful nail-biter of a contest, particularly if Tominaga gets “moete iru” (that’s Japanese for “on fire”) from deep. However, if the Lions can get off to a hot enough start and the Huskers struggle to keep pace, they could further demoralize a team desperately seeking something positive as they ride a four-game losing skid into this game.
This is one of Penn State’s best chances to get an additional road win in Big Ten play, as their only one so far has come at Illinois. That being said, it will not be easy by any means, as they are facing a desperate Nebraska team eager to give the fans something to cheer about. Given PSU’s position squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, they absolutely need to come in and take full advantage of a short-handed Husker squad. Look for Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy to their usual thing while Funk also reaches double-digits scoring as he nails a few treys and the emergence of Mikey Henn continues to pay dividends on both sides of the ball.
Penn State 74, Nebraska 64