MBB: Penn State vs. Nebraska Preview

Story posted February 23, 2018 in CommRadio, Sports by By Patrick Murphy

The Penn State men’s basketball team will head to Nebraska for the most crucial game of their season, a game that could decide the postseason fate of both teams. Heading into this contest, ESPN Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi says the Nittany Lions are the fourth team out of the tournament while the Cornhuskers are the fifth team out.

A win over a fellow bubble team would be massive for both programs, so this game will almost certainly be close throughout.

Penn State won the previous matchup against Nebraska 76-74 in overtime, but its pretty safe to say that these are two very different teams than the ones that met back in early January.

In the reverse matchup, Lamar Stevens led the way for Penn State with 26 points while Mike Watkins put on an impressive display with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Tony Carr scored nine of his 17 points in overtime, including a game winner.

In the first matchup, Penn State managed to stifle Nebraska’s star guard James Palmer Jr. who only scored five points on the night. Glynn Watson Jr. and Isaac Copeland both scored 21 to lead Nebraska with double digit point totals from Isaiah Roby and Anton Gill off the bench.

Both teams will look different heading into this game than they did a little more than a month ago.

The aforementioned bench players who kept Nebraska close against Penn State the first time, Isaiah Roby and Anton Gill, are both starters now. The Cornhuskers have also only lost twice since that game, so Penn State should expect to see a much more confident team in a raucous home crowd nonetheless.

Penn State suffered a crucial loss at home to Michigan, which certainly could have taken some fo the wind out of their sails. Even more consequential perhaps, could be the fact that Penn State lost Watkins to injury in that game, and he will not be available against Nebraska. With how dominant Watkins was in the first matchup with the Cornhuskers, their somewhat undersized roster will certainly be relieved to know that they won’t have to deal with him. Instead they will see Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce, both taller than Watkins but not nearly as physically imposing.

As important games in college basketball are so often decided by guard play, Carr against Palmer Jr. is going to be a crucial matchup. Reaves may wind up guarding Palmer Jr., but he and Carr will almost certainly be trying to outdo each other on a possession to possession basis. Both probable First-Team All-Big Ten guards are well aware of how well the other had played so far this year, and know that whichever one plays better will likely lead his team to victory.

Palmer Jr. will have a chip on his shoulder heading into the matchup this time after the way Tony Carr took over in overtime while he only finished with five points.

A win in this game won’t get either team into the tournament alone, but a loss could deal a death blow to the loser, assuming they don’t pull off a miracle in the Big Ten tournament.

Patrick Murphy is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email pqm5315@psu.edu.