Men’s Basketball: Penn State vs Duquesne Preview
Jon Gross, Jack Raynor and Patrick Johnsonbaugh preview this Sunday's matchup between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Duquesne Dukes.
An optimistic Penn State basketball team opened the season Friday night with a disappointing 87-81 loss to the Albany Great Danes. Although frustrating, the Nittany Lions and their fans can chalk their opening season loss to lack of rhythm and energy, which can quickly correct itself with more competition and team-chemistry development.
The Penn State Nittany Lions host the Duquesne Dukes this Sunday to continue their opening three-game home slate of the 2016-2017 regular season.
While the two teams have met 47 times on and off since the Nittany Lions’ 43-40 victory in 1924, the Nittany Lions and Dukes have faced a consistent slew of matchups since 2010. Although the Blue and White hold the 4-2 series record since its renewal, the Dukes cemented a 78-52 victory in 2015.
History aside, Penn State has acquired a new and younger look this season with the departure of offensive and team leader, forward Brandon Taylor. While the team does not have a senior and nine of the 14 roster players are either sophomores or freshmen, Pat Chambers will look towards guard Shep Garner and the possibility of a member of his top-30 recruited class to fill Taylor’s shoes.
While the Nittany Lions fell to the Great Danes, the Dukes proved victorious against the Loyola Greyhounds with a 65-60 win. They maintained consistent play through their strong defensive stance and stronghold over the game’s lead for almost the entire time minus a little over eight minutes of play.
Duquesne’s balanced play on both sides of the ball held Loyola to a 36.5 percent shooting, while Duquesne marked a slightly higher 41.4 percent. Point guard Tarin Smith led the offensive surge with a career-high 13 points, while center Darius Lewis held strong defensively through cementing five of their 12 blocked shots.
The Dukes’ bench depth also contributed immensely to their balanced play; the Greyhounds only scored three points off the bench while the Dukes’ bench led by guard Spencer Littleson’s eight points and forward Eric James’s seven points and six rebounds added another element to the team’s success.
While the beginning of each season proves harder to predict outcomes and X-factors, Penn State should try to focus on exploiting Duquesne’s turnover struggle; the Dukes had 16 turnovers in their first game while the Greyhounds successfully took advantage for 14 points.
Although the Nittany Lions went into halftime against Albany with a 16-point deficit, there were encouraging bright spots that could bolster their play against the Dukes and the remainder of the season.
Garner’s 12 straight points and 25 total points spurred their offensive comeback late into the second half, which also reiterated his developing leadership role. While Penn State transitions leadership roles from Taylor to Garner, the rest of the team is finding their footing in a freshman-dominated rotation. Redshirt freshman Mike Watkins and true freshmen Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens made themselves known to fans and the opposition. Watkins scored the first points for the Blue and White, finishing the loss with 10 points and five blocks. Carr scored 14 points, while Stevens threw down 10.
Even though the Blue and White faithful should not accept the Nittany Lions’ performance, they have a number of encouraging signs to avoid panic; especially with the quickly approaching and highly anticipated return of sophomore guard Josh Reaves. Fans should expect another close matchup on Sunday, while the team works through chemistry and transitioning kinks.
The Penn State Nittany Lions look to redeem themselves against the Duquesne Dukes at 6 p.m. on Sunday in the Bryce Jordan Center.
Madeleine Balestrier is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.