Penn State vs Michigan State Preview
After an 0-4 start to Big Ten Conference play, the Penn State Nittany Lions (8-8, 0-4 Big Ten) are looking for their first conference win Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center as they host Tom Izzo and the #18 Michigan State Spartans (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten).
The Spartans are coming off three straight decisive conference victories and are one of the six nationally ranked teams from this season’s loaded Big Ten Conference. One of those victories was a 23 point drubbing of Purdue, whom Penn State last played in an 18 point loss last on January 13.
Penn State’s losing streak has been marred by deficiencies on both sides of the ball. In Sunday’s loss at Purdue, the Lions shot just 15-58 from the field for an atrocious 25.9%, while allowing the Boilermakers to shoot over 45% from the field and 50% from deep. Freshman forward Brandon Taylor was the only Nittany Lion to score in double figures and the bench managed to score only four points in total.
Since the start of conference play, the Lions have failed to score more than 54 points, while allowing at least 60 in each contest. However, the Lions managed to hold #2 Indiana to 74 points; the Hoosiers lead the NCAA in scoring at 87.1 PPG.
Sophomore guard D.J. Newbill has been Penn State’s best offensive player this season, though he is coming off a mere 9 point, 6 rebound effort in the loss to Purdue and only notched 8 points and 6 boards in the loss versus Indiana.
Penn State will need significant contributions from Newbill and Jermaine Marshall to defeat the Spartans on Wednesday. Marshall is having his best season as a Lion and has been effective since the start of Big Ten play, though he and Newbill have failed to play well collectively during the four game losing streak. Sophomore forward Ross Travis must be able to control the boards and keep the Spartan’s Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne (both at 7.2 RPG) off the glass. Freshman Brandon Taylor has been Penn State’s only effective 3 point shooter this season and must continue to capitalize on open looks from deep.
Michigan State has shot and rebounded the ball at an impressive rate this season, ranking 37th in the nation in field goal percentage and 30th in rebounding. MSU is led by unselfish junior guard Keith Appling, the latest floor general in the Spartan’s long lineage of great point guards. Appling leads the team in scoring at 13.8 PPG and in assists at 4.7 PG. With an impressive package of size, speed and strength, Appling is considered an NBA prospect and will present a formidable challenge for Newbill and the other PSU guards in Wednesday’s contest.
Michigan State has also received contributions from highly-recruited freshman sharp shooter Gary Harris. Harris nailed 6 triples in the defeat of Purdue and is shooting 37% from 3 on the season. He is second on the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game.
Michigan State is coming off a run to the Sweet Sixteen in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and will hope to contend for a national championship again this season when March rolls around.
Penn State does not catch any breaks in the brutal Big Ten schedule. The Lions host the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Jan. 19 at the Bryce Jordan Center and will travel to Bloomington to rematch the Indiana Hoosiers on Jan 23.
Ben Morse is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.