2022-23 Penn State men’s basketball preview: Clemson
Penn State hits the road for its first true road test as it heads to Death Valley to take on the Clemson Tigers in the final year of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Both teams are on strong starts this year, with the blue and white being 6-1 compared to the 5-2 record of the Tigers.
As tip-off approaches, both teams are looking for a tone-setting win to continue their winning ways.
The Nittany Lions are coming off Feast Week 3-1, with wins against the Furman Paladins, Colorado State Rams, and the Lafayette Leopards.
Their lone loss came in the semifinal of the Charleston Classic, where the team fell to the Virginia Tech Hokies with one final possession being stripped away and going out of bounds in a two-point game.
A big part of the Hokies’ victory is taking advantage of Penn State’s struggles on the interior defense. Virginia Tech posted 40 points in the paint, with 12 of those points coming from Wright State transfer forward Grant Basile.
The Nittany Lions made a change in the Lafayette matchup, where junior forward Caleb Dorsey was replaced by freshman forward Kebba Njie for his first start in his young collegiate career. Against the Leopards, Njie finished the night with five points on 2-3 shooting, with five rebounds.
The young freshman could be on track to start again, and it would come in his first road environment. It can be a step in the right direction if Njie does his job on the interior, both offensively and defensively.
Clemson is coming off a 2-1 run in the Emerald Coast Classic. Its lone loss was to a fellow Big Ten team, the Iowa Hawkeyes, 74-71.
A big portion of why the Tigers were going toe-to-toe with the No. 25 Hawkeyes was the third 20-point performance by graduate guard Chase Hunter. The Atlanta, Ga., native has been the focal point of Clemson’s offense, averaging 16.6 points per game on 60% shooting from three and dishing out 5.3 assists per game.
The Tigers have help from the transfer portal, as graduate guard Brevin Galloway, originally a Boston College Eagle, has been a threat inside the arc. With a 51.1% clip, the Anderson, S.C., native averages 11.1 points per game.
However, the Tigers are currently 1-2 against Power Five opponents, with their lone win against the California Golden Bears in their last matchup 67-59. They face their fourth in the Penn State Nittany Lions, and a lot can go down.
What to Watch
The three-pointer on both sides of the ball can be crucial for both teams’ success. Penn State fires on a 42.2% clip from downtown, and Clemson’s perimeter defense is allowing 32% from beyond the arc.
Penn State does provide a one-two punch in guard Andrew Funk and forward Myles Dread, who are both threats on the outside perimeter. Dread is shooting a best 52.6% from three, and Funk is hitting at a 38.5% clip.
The Penn State defense will also have to step up in both areas on the outside and in the paint. The Nittany Lions are holding teams to 28.7% from three-point land. With Hunter hitting around 60% from three, putting a lockdown defender like senior forward Seth Lundy on him could stifle the Clemson offensive attack.
The interior defense, as mentioned before, could be the X Factor for Penn State’s success. If they managed to control the boards and limit points in the paint, the Nittany Lions could walk out of LittleJohn Coliseum with a victory and continue their winning ways heading into the early stages of Big Ten play.
Jonathan Draeger is a third-year broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.