Penn State vs. Michigan State Preview

Story posted January 8, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Tyler DiSalle

The Penn State Nittany Lions men’s basketball team is set to face yet another top ranked program Sunday afternoon, as it welcomes Tom Izzo’s fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans to the Bryce Jordan Center in early Big Ten conference play.

This will be the second top five team the Nittany Lions will have played in the past two weeks, having nearly pulled off a shocking upset of the fourth-ranked Maryland Terrapins on Dec. 30.

Penn State (10-6, 1-2 Big Ten) is led in scoring by senior forward Brandon Taylor, who is averaging 16.3 points per game, seventh most in the Big Ten conference. Pat Chambers’ team is coming off an 86-77 win against Minnesota on Tuesday night, which was Penn State’s Big Ten home opener. Sophomore forward Payton Banks scored a career-high 24 and had five rebounds in the game to pace the Nittany Lions.

Looking toward this weekend’s game, the Lions seem to be catching a bad break as the Spartans (14-1, 1-1 Big Ten) are prepared to get back Big Ten leading scorer Denzel Valentine, one of the top players in the country. The 6-foot-6 senior guard leads Michigan State in points, assists, and steals, but has been unable to play since Dec. 21 due to a knee injury.

Valentine’s absence proved to be pivotal in the Spartans’ lone defeat of the season, an 83-70 loss which came on Dec. 29 at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Senior guard Bryn Forbes is the only other Spartan averaging double-digit points, coming into this game at 13.8 points per game.

Michigan State already has one marquee win on their resume this year, having beat the then fourth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks in November. The Spartans also beat a 24th-ranked Louisville squad in early December.

Penn State’s defense will need to come up big if the Lions want any shot of winning Sunday’s matchup. Michigan State averages 79.6 points per contest, while Penn State’s offense enters the game averaging just 66.3 points per game, dead last in the Big Ten. Izzo’s squad is also among the best in the NCAA in sharing the ball, averaging 21 assists per game.

While it will be a tough task, a victory Sunday for the Penn State would give them their first victory over a top-five ranked team since they beat the Michigan Wolverines, then the fourth-ranked team in the land, on Feb. 27, 2013.

Tip-off is set for noon, and can be heard on ComRadio.

Tyler DiSalle is a senior majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email