Penn State vs. Canisius Preview
The Nittany Lions take a break from the cavernous Bryce Jordan Center this weekend as they welcome the Canisius Golden Griffins to Rec Hall on Thursday as part of the not-so-annual Return to Rec series (Princeton took down the Lions at Rec Hall in 2013 and the event did not take place last year). The cozier confines of Rec Hall provide more of a lively atmosphere than the Bryce Jordan Center, so Penn State can be sure to expect a riveting crowd for both this game and the second part of the series against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.
Penn State (5-3) is coming off a tough 76-66 loss in Washington D.C. to George Washington, the same team that upset then-No. 6 Virginia earlier this season. Canisius sits at 3-4 on the season after dropping a two-point contest against Quinnipiac last Saturday, 78-76.
Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor have carried most of the workload for the Nittany Lions this season, as both are averaging 16 points per game. The two can’t be relied on for all of the offensive production, though, if this team expects to win. The frontcourt needs to step up, and it starts with the three centers: Julian Moore, Donovon Jack and Jordan Dickerson. Against George Washington, the three combined for only nine points and nine rebounds. They haven’t fared much better against lesser opponents either, but the Nittany Lions will need at least one of these big men to step up if Penn State wants to have a balanced offense this season.
Senior guard Malcolm McMillian is expected to provide most of the offense for Canisius, sitting in the top 20 nationally in points per game with 21.3. He also leads the team in three-point field goal percentage at 43 percent, which has been the Achilles heel for the Penn State defense in its losses to Radford and Duquesne. Canisius doesn’t have the size to matchup with the Nittany Lions, but forwards Phil Valenti and Jamal Reynolds are averaging seven and nine rebounds per game, respectively, and are sure to give the Lions fits if the past few games are any idea.
Prediction: Penn State 85, Canisius 65
The Nittany Lions will finally exercise their demons in Rec Hall with a comfortable win over the Golden Griffins. McMillian and company should be able to use the three ball to hang around in this game, but in the end, Moore will finally step into the center role with a forceful double-double performance. I see this as a coming-out performance for this offense and I expect a lot of buckets for the Blue and White. Taylor and Garner will combine for 40 points while the freshman Josh Reaves will also be in double figures.
Tom Shively is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.