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YAY HOOPS: Lions Travel to Jersey for a Stripeout

Defense will be the name of the game on Wednesday

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a critical game in this year’s Big Ten basketball standings taking place on Wednesday night between somewhat regional rivals. A guard-heavy team is heading into a hostile environment and trying to keep pace atop the standings. So, enjoy Northwestern traveling to Purdue at 6:30 p.m.

And then stick around for what should prove to be a basketball game at 8:30 p.m. on the same channel. That’s right. Your Nittany Lions take the flaming bus to Piscataway’s Jersey Mike’s Arena (don’t call it the RAC anymore!) to take on Rutgers.

Both teams have dropped two straight, are 4-6 in their last 10, and are just trying to climb out of the basement and build a buffer between themselves and last-place Michigan.

In all seriousness, this is a huge game mentally for first-year coach Mike Rhoades and his team. The Lions (9-11, 3-6 B1G) let one slip away on Saturday at home against Minnesota and their road woes have been well documented. So, stealing one on Wednesday would go a long way toward making us excited about February.

Feel free to use this as Wednesday night’s game thread with all the typical things holding true - be respectful in all ways. But also, look below to read more about the Scarlet Knights.

Scouting the Opposition

The scouting report on Rutgers (10-9, 2-6 B1G) is simple: great defense with poor offense. Their last game was a perfect microcosm of that. The Scarlet Knights - as they usually do - played Purdue tough at home and made life difficult for every Boilermaker not named Zach Edey. But, it was horrific shooting in the first half that kept Rutgers from seriously contending for an upset in the 68-60 loss.

Clifford Omoruyi is the name to know for the Scarlet Knights. The big man shoots better than 50 percent from the field, averages 10.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, and an insane better than three blocked shots per game. The Lions, when right, live on penetration and getting to the rim - something that Omoruyi will certainly discourage. Meanwhile, Aundre Hyatt will be the perimeter shooter that Penn State will need to shade. He’s the lone Rutgers player averaging more than 1.0 3-point makes per game on thes season.

What to Watch For

  • Health Check

The last time we saw Penn State leave the floor - it was without two starters who were injured against Minnesota. Nick Kern, Jr. had an ankle/leg injury, while top-scorer Kanye Clary missed the final moments after taking a shot to the face. Rhoades said it would be a next-man-up mentality moving forward. So, let’s see what that means on Wednesday night.

  • Road Woes

This is one of those stories until it isn’t kind of stats. But, Penn State is still winless in true road games this year - and they have just one win (Michigan) away from the BJC. Conference road wins are the sweetest. Let’s see if the Lions can get one before they head to Bloomington this weekend.

  • Turnovers

Rutgers is really good at making games half court and contesting every shot - on the perimeter and at the rim. Penn State is not a great half court offensive team. So, what does the game come down to? Can the Lions turn over Rutgers and convert those chances into points. Both head coaches are known as defensive guys - just in a much different way. Which strategy pays off most on Wednesday night?

Prediction

I’ll take the home squad against a banged-up Lion team.

Rutgers 68, Penn State 59