Penn State Basketball Weekly Preview: Nittany Lions Seek First Big Ten Win vs. Indiana, Wisconsin

Story posted December 29, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack McCune

After time off between games for both finals and the holidays, the Penn State Nittany Lions (3-3) look to get back into the win column for the first time in 20 days, as they have yet to beat a conference opponent in two tries. They’ll take on Indiana (5-4) in their next contest in Bloomington on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 8:30 p.m.

Like Penn State, the Hoosiers prefer small ball, but that’s where the similarities end. Their biggest man at just 6 feet 9 inches, sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, is the heart of their offense.

Jackson-Davis, Indiana’s leading scorer at 20 points per game, spends most of his time in the post looking for a feed, and if he has open space and favorable positioning, he’ll get the ball in the bucket. His 8.6 rebounds per game and 26 offensive boards on the season secure his squad possessions and second chances.

The matchup will be a big test for Nittany Lions big John Harrar. The senior played just nine minutes and recorded two points and one rebound as his team fell to Illinois in the previous game.

Shorter and lighter than most big men in the Big Ten, Harrar should be guarding on-ball frequently against Jackson-Davis, who is nearly identical in both height and weight. Depending on his performance, facing the Hoosiers could either be a confidence booster or diminisher for Harrar.

Penn State’s next matchup is against a much different opponent. They’ll take on No. 6 Wisconsin (8-2) after the new year arrives on Sunday, Jan. 3. The recently-awarded Team of the Week by the NCAA brings two dominant big men and a surplus of scoring options.

Head coach Greg Gard’s starting five features all seniors, and four of them average double digits, including 6-foot-10-inch bigs Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers. The Badgers’ backcourt features a sharpshooting do-it-all duo of Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice, who are both shooting over 40% from downtown.

Wisconsin could give Penn State all kinds of issues. Harrar has struggled defending taller opponents, like Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson, who both put up 20+ points when they faced the Lions. The Badgers also play lockdown defense, allowing the least amount of points in the conference so far at fewer than 60 per game.

The Nittany Lions should have to play near perfect to take down the Badgers. But interim head coach Jim Ferry likes his options, including junior guard Myreon Jones, who put up 21 points in the loss to the Fighting Illini after struggling to begin the season. He’s one of four players in blue and white averaging double figures on the year.

“We have to be a team that flies around the court, and we have to be scrappy, maybe scrappier,” Ferry said. “We haven’t played many games this year, so we are constantly working on different in-game situations in practices.”

As Jones gets hot, sophomore forward Seth Lundy continues to struggle. After putting up 32 and 23 against VCU and Seton Hall respectively in the first week of the month, he’s scored just 11 total points since. He could use a smaller lineup like Indiana’s to his advantage before attempting to take down Wisconsin.

 

Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jxm1237@psu.edu.