Game Preview: Men’s Basketball vs. Nebraska
Host Dale Ostrander and analysts Jeremy Gaines and Ben Geller review the Indiana game and preview the upcoming matchup with Nebraska.
No. 24 Penn State (15-5) will face Nebraska (7-14) for the first and only time in the 2019-2020 season Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET in Lincoln. The Nittany Lions are coming fresh off a 64-49 victory over Indiana, while the Cornhuskers suffered a 79-68 defeat to Michigan in Ann Arbor on Tuesday.
A Tale of Two Streaks
Both teams have been playing streaky basketball as of late, but in different ways. Penn State, before its current three-game winning streak, lost its three previous games to Rutgers, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Nittany Lions had a quick turnaround at home, as they were able to bounce back and beat Ohio State thanks to 24 points from senior forward Lamar Stevens and 20 points from sophomore guard Myreon Jones.
The Cornhuskers have not been as lucky. Nebraska has lost six-straight games and now sit 13th in the Big Ten with a 2-8 record in conference play. Coach Fred Hoiberg is back from the NBA trying to grow this program and get Nebraska basketball back on track.
Similar Strategies, Different Results
Both head coaches have preached defense and grabbing boards, as it is an important key to the success for their respective teams.
Penn State coach Pat Chambers has stated multiple times that he wants defending and rebounding to be the team’s main identity. The Nittany Lions lead the league in steals (174) and are tied for first in blocks (113) with Michigan State. Penn State is in the middle of the pack in rebounds per game (39.1), tied for sixth with Iowa.
Some of Nebraska’s struggles could be pinpointed to their lack of execution on the defensive side of the floor. The Cornhuskers are last in the conference in blocks (52) and 12th in rebounds per game (35.2).
Players to Watch
For Penn State, Stevens is usually the go-to-guy in the clutch, when the team needs a basket. He is fourth in the conference in points, averaging 16.7 per game. On the other hand, Stevens has struggled from the three-point line, shooting just 24.6 percent on the season. He has also seen a recent dip in his free throw percentage as well, shooting just 70.9 percent, a little more than 6 percent worse than last year. If the Nittany Lions want to have success on the road, Stevens has to stay out of foul trouble and take smart shots.
For the Cornhuskers, sophomore guard Cam Mack could certainly be a problem. He leads the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game and also averages 6.8 assists. Mack’s ability to create shots and find open teammates is a big reason why Nebraska can be successful. If he is allowed time and space, Mack will be difficult to stop.
This is a must win game for both teams, who are each heading in opposite directions. Nebraska wants to stop the bleeding, while Penn State wants to keep rolling. Expect a slow start by both squads, but ultimately the Nittany Lions defense will carry them to an important road victory.
Prediction: Penn State 70, Nebraska 61
Andrew Field is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.