Penn State looks to gain first conference win

posted January 21, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Mandy Bell

Looking to snap a five-game losing streak and secure its first conference win of the season, Penn State (12-6, 0-5 B1G) will travel to East Lansing Wednesday to take on the Michigan State Spar-tans (12-6, 3-2 B1G)

The Spartans picked up three consecutive conference wins before dropping its last game to Mar-yland, 75-59. Despite two losses to the Terps this season, the Spartans sit a comfortable six games above .500.

Penn State relies heavily on D.J. Newbill’s offensive game to keep them in contention against Big Ten opponents. Newbill leads the team with 21.7 points per game, while no other Nittany Lion averages in double figures. Brandon Taylor is the next leading scorer with 9.6 points per game.

The Spartans distribute their points among their three top scorers: Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice, and Branden Dawson, with each scoring about 13 points per outing. Because their point distribution is more balanced across the team than just relying solely on one player, the Spartans have been able to put up bigger numbers offensively than the Nittany Lions. 

Senior big man Branden Dawson leads the Spartans in rebounds with 9.5 per game while Valentine and Matt Costello add an average of about six. For Penn State, its top rebounder, Ross Travis, averages about seven boards per contest with Brandon Taylor adding close to six. 

By looking strictly at the statistics it appears as if the Spartans have a slight edge over the Nitta-ny Lions. Penn State has been infamous for its close games this season, losing its last four games by less than ten points each. If this same pattern continues, the slight edge that is shown in the statistics may become reality Wednesday night when the Nittany Lions challenge the Spartans. 

Penn State cannot depend solely on Newbill to win Big Ten games. The Nittany Lions need to find that second and third consistent scoring option to win conference games.  Without having another player averaging double digits in scoring, Newbill needs to perform at his best level eve-ry night for Penn State to have a chance of winning. 

Both of the times these two teams met last season, Michigan State collected easy wins.  There is no doubt that those two losses will be in the back of Penn State’s mind when approaching Wednesday’s clash against the Spartans.  If Penn State is able to shut down Valentine and Trice on the offensive end, and give D.J. Newbill some help scoring, then the Nittany Lions could have a favorable chance of capturing their first conference win of the season.

Wednesday’s tipoff in East Lansing, Michigan is set for 7 p.m. and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

Mandy Bell is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism.  To contact her, email amb6857@psu.edu.