Series Preview: No. 6 Michigan State vs. Penn State
The No. 6 Michigan State Spartans (14-2, 5-0) are coming to the Bryce Jordan Center Sunday at 4:30 p.m. to face the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-9, 0-4).
Sunday’s contest will be the first home game for Penn State head coach Pat Chambers since serving his one game suspension after shoving Myles Dread in a loss to Michigan last week. The Nittany Lions hope to use Chambers’ return to the Happy Valley as an opportunity to snap a three game losing streak.
Penn State may find a slight advantage this weekend, as Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo announced that junior guard Joshua Langford will not play Sunday due to an ankle injury. Langford has missed the last three games after suffering the injury to Northern Illinois on Dec. 29. The 6’6” guard has been a key contributor for the Spartans averaging 15 points and just over two assists per game.
The Spartans come into University Park riding a nine game winning streak led by junior guard Cassius Winston. Winston, who makes a strong case for the John R. Wooden Award, is averaging 18 points and 7.4 assists per game.
The Penn State defense will have their hands full trying to contain a team that averages 86.4 points per game and has playmakers all over the court including Winston, sophomore forward Nick Ward and junior guard Matt McQuaid.
The key for Penn State in this game is whether they can get their offense to score. The team is often very static on offense and does not move the ball particularly well. Izzo said that the most important task for the Spartans will be to focus on Lamar Stevens. As the team's leading scorer and rebounder, Steven’s is averaging 18.9 points and 8.1 rebounds.
Penn State must shoot the ball efficiently if they want to upset the Spartans. The Nittany Lions are shooting 41.5 percent from the field, ranking nationally at 301. Adding to their offensive struggles, Penn State is shooting 31.4 percent from the 3-point line, ranking 298th in the nation.
Another Penn State struggle is keeping control of the ball. Their turnover margin is 152nd in the country at plus-7. The turnover issues have been a significant issue in close loses to Indiana and Depaul, among others.
Penn State will have to perform at a high level and make little mistakes if they are looking to upset the Spartans. The Nittany Lions must move the ball better to create spacing, allowing them to have more open shots.
Michigan State limits opponents to 36 percent from the field and 31 percent from the 3-point line. Therefore, Penn State must look to attack in order to get Ward and redshirt junior forward Kenny Goins in foul trouble. This will make it more difficult for Michigan State to protect the rim and it will simultaneously create easier shots for Penn State.
Ultimately looking at how the season has gone for both teams, it is safe to say that the Spartans will cruise past the Nittany Lions. Michigan State is playing really well after another big 18-point win against Purdue earlier this week. There is just not enough offense for the Nittany Lions to get the job done.
Prediction: Michigan State: 77 Penn State: 58
Matthew White is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism with a double minor in business and Spanish. To contact him, email email@example.com.