Key Non-Conference Match Up Looms for Penn State

Story posted December 13, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack Milewski

After matching its best start to a season since the 2000-01 campaign, Penn State (9-1) will look to continue their winning streak and make it eight straight when they take on George Washington (5-2) on Sunday at 12 p.m.

George Washington is currently sitting fourth in the Atlantic 10 standings and have won two in a row including their last contest, a win over Charleston, the only team to have beaten Penn State so far this season.

Penn State’s 9-1 start has been an interesting one. The Nittany Lions seem to be team of trends. They either get off to a fast start and then hold on to the lead late, or they start off slow and then come roaring back in the second half. In their current seven game winning streak, Penn State’s largest margin of victory has been eight points which they achieved in their win over Bucknell.

“Once you have somebody down, you have to bury them and we haven’t done that,” said head coach Pat Chambers. “Now we have to learn how to be dominant and put teams away.”

One positive trend for Penn State in the past few games is that there seems to be some sort of scoring depth emerging ever so slightly. For the third game in a row, D.J. Newbill was held under 20 points, this time collecting only 11, a season low for the senior guard. However, the absence of his scoring has led to other guys stepping up and filling that void. Against Marshall, it was John Johnson and Brandon Taylor who both matched Newbill at 17 points. Against Duquesne, it was Geno Thorpe who had a game high 19 points.

“We all had to pick it up as a unit,” said Thorpe. “D.J. was struggling but we were all in the loop.”

On the other side of the court, the Colonials are led by two scorers in Patricio Garino and Kethan Savage. Garino leads the way with 14.6 points per game and Savage is not far behind at 13.7 points per game. Unlike Duquesne, George Washington does not simply rely on the three ball to determine their success. They have two players who actually play significant minutes, Kevin Larsen and John Kopriva, who are shooting over 60% from beyond the arc.

The rest of the team relies more on dribble-drives and pull up jumpers. Penn State had a tough go of it at times trying to stop the Dukes three-point attack, and their size advantage down low should help them against George Washington.

Penn State is currently sitting tied atop the Big Ten Standings with No. 19 Maryland. After their matchup against George Washington, they have two more games to wrap up their out of conference schedule before their Big Ten opener against Wisconsin in Madison.

For Penn State, the key to this game will be to get D.J. Newbill going again. Sure, the Nittany Lions have proved that they can win without a crazy number of points from Newbill every game, but still you need your best player to be your best player if you want to be a really good team, and Newbill has been sub-par in terms of his standards in the last couple games.

One way the Nittany Lions can do this is run a few more ball screens for Newbill. We know that he likes to create on his own and Penn State is happy to let him do so, but at the same time teams are going to key in on him and limit his space so the ball screens will give him that extra time to work free and get easy buckets.

As mentioned, tip-off is set for 12 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. ComRadio’s coverage of the game will begin at 11:30 a.m. with the Penn State Basketball Pregame Show.

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Abby Drey)

Jack Milewski is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jbm250@psu.edu.