MBB Preview: Rutgers

Story posted January 25, 2018 in CommRadio, Sports by By Joseph Esquivel-Murphy

Teams across the nation are entering the meat of their schedule where rivalry games are played and signature victories are won. This time of year is vital for teams trying to make the NCAA Tournament or teams that want have something to build upon for the future.

Penn State is in the latter category as the majority of its starters are only sophomores with Shep Garner being the only senior. His 3-point shooting has been erratic throughout the year, but his percentage is around 40 percent, a solid number for any type of shooter.

Tony Carr leads the team in scoring and his play in the Big Ten has been inconsistent as he can go for 33 against Minnesota in one game, but only manage eight the next time out at Northwestern. The return to the Bryce Jordan Center should help Carr as most of his best scoring performances came in Happy Valley.

Carr and Garner could have their hands full with Rutgers’ backcourt of Corey Sanders and Geo Baker, a pair of guards that like to attack the rim and are inconsistent jump shooters. Sanders struggled in his last outing at home against the Nebraska Cornhuskers as he went 6-17 from the floor for 14 points. His inefficient shooting has hurt the Scarlet Knights at times this season, but he is capable of going for 30 when he finds a rhythm.

Baker has been a surprisingly good freshman this season as he has been the team’s third scorer and scored 17 points in a home upset of Seton Hall. If he can find his shooting stroke early, the Nittany Lions might be in for a long night.

The Nittany Lion’s big advantage on the floor is sophomore big man Mike Watkins as he commands the paint as good as almost anyone in the nation. His ability to block or alter shots, clean up the glass and developing post game causes problems for opposing big men in the conference. Deshawn Freeman is a solid big, but can struggle with superior size like his 3-11 shooting against Seton Hall. His presence on the glass might be what helps the Scarlet Knights the most as he has a double-double in his last two games and grabbed 16 rebounds against Angel Delgado in Rutgers’ victory over the Pirates.

Lamar Stevens was playing like one of the best players in the conference averaging 25.3 points per game in a three game stretch earlier in the month. His ability to face-up defenders and attack the basket downhill is a matchup problem for frontcourts in the Big Ten. The only problem with Stevens is that he does not always play to his fullest capability on the defensive side of the ball, an area where head coach Patrick Chambers believes is where Stevens starts his offensive game.
Penn State has been an inconsistent team throughout the year and need a win to give themselves an opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions have too much talent to lose the game and should win comfortably.

Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email jje5139@psu.edu.