Penn State closed out the non-conference portion of their schedule with convincing home victories over LeMoyne and Rider. Now, their quest to stay in the top half of the conference (or perhaps just to avoid the bottom?) commences with a sojourn to Sparty.
The Breslin Center, like most Big Ten venues not named Welsh-Ryan or the BJC, has not been kind to the good guys. Michigan State is 15-2 at home against Penn State since 2000, with the only wins coming in February of 2009 (Cornley, Battle, Pringle, David Jackson, Jeff Brooks, etc.) and the what-could-have-been season of 2019-20.
Scouting the Opposition
To call this a “step up in competition” from the last two opponents is vastly understating the obvious here.
What to Watch For
- A fully healthy squad?
Jameel Brown returned to action against Rider after missing nearly a month. He logged just three minutes in the blowout victory, but he should get more playing time against the Spartans. Favour Aire is also expected to be available after a four-minute stint against Rider, which will give a great boost to a front-court that needs another big body alongside Qudus Wahab. Finally, Nick Kern, Jr. is still listed as “day-to-day.” Needless to say, the more talent that is on the court for Penn State, the better.
- Can Penn State continue their consistent three-point shooting against stiffer competition?
The Nittany Lions are shooting nearly 40% from deep in their last four games after struggling to open the season. They will need to hit that mark or exceed it to stay with a Michigan State squad that has averaged 88 points in their last four games.
- Tempo, tempo, tempo.
In the Spartans’ most recent home loss (70-57 against Wisconsin), the visitors slowed down the pace of the game (as you might expect if you’ve watched the Badgers in the last 20 years). Having a veteran like Ace Baldwin and a dynamic but intelligent player in Kanye Clary will certainly assist (ha, get it? Because they’re both guards.) Penn State’s desire to control the tempo. Michigan State is also susceptible to runs, allowing Indiana State to go in front early in the second half before they pulled away for their most recent victory.
- No second-chance opportunities.
To put it simply, Penn State has already lost games this year by allowing far too many offensive rebounds and not giving themselves any second or third chances on their own offensive end. Michigan State beat the Sycamores by out-rebounding them by 14, including collecting 11 on the offensive end. In fact, even in their most recent defeat against Nebraska, although the Huskers edged Michigan State out in rebounding overall, the Spartans still had three more offensive rebounds.
This could get ugly, but let’s hope it stays competitive. Penn State barely covers.
Michigan State 80, Penn State 68