Game Preview: Penn State vs Michigan

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Host Andre Magaro alongside analysts Jeremy Ganes and Preston Shoemaker discuss the upcoming Big Ten matchup between the Penn State Nittany Lions and Michigan Wolverines:

The Penn State Nittany Lions lost their 11th game by single digits, 74-70, on Thursday against Ohio State. Now, they must prepare for their Tuesday night matchup versus No.6 Michigan at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Penn State found nearly all of their scoring from the trio of junior forward Lamar Stevens (20 points), senior guard Josh Reaves (20 points) and freshman guard Rasir Bolton (15 points) on Thursday night. Reaves and sophomore guard Jamari Wheeler each had five steals in the contest. The loss dropped their overall record to 8-15 (1-11).

Michigan and Penn State last met on Jan. 3, where the Wolverines defeated the Nittany Lions 68-55 at the Crisler Center. Michigan is 8-2 since then, while Penn State is 1-8.

The exact problem plaguing the Nittany Lions this season is not easy to diagnose. There have been struggles on both sides of the floor dealing with consistency and production, especially late in the game. Notably, seven of their 15 losses have been decided by two shots or less.

This is a Penn State team that has competed with strong Big Ten opponents but has not been able to close out games. Some have credited this to a lack of a consistent shot maker on the floor, while others have put the blame on head coach Pat Chambers and the Nittany Lion game plan.

Regardless, Penn State must piece together a dominant 40 minutes of basketball to compete with Michigan.

The Wolverines are currently 22-2 (11-2) and sit on top of the Big Ten. Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis leads the team in scoring, averaging 15 points per game this season. However, Brazdeikis makes up only one of Michigan’s plethora of scoring options.

Michigan’s high-power guard duo of senior Charles Matthews and sophomore Jordan Poole are both averaging 12.8 points per game this season. Poole is a 40 percent 3-point shooter but is dangerous from anywhere on the floor. Matthews tends to take more shots inside of the perimeter, but still has the ability to hit the occasional three.

Michigan rounds out their top five with junior guard Zavier Simpson, who is averaging six assists per game and is a defensive player of the year candidate. Junior center Jon Teske leads the Big Ten in blocks per game this season with 2.2.

Containing John Beilein’s numerous weapons will be no easy task for Penn State. Brazdeikis and Teske pose not one but two threats underneath. The Nittany Lions will be forced to play big, with junior forward Mike Watkins and sophomore forward John Harrar splitting time serving as a rim protector.

Penn State must also utilize the defensive efforts of Reaves, Wheeler and freshman guard Kyle McCloskey to attempt to slow down Michigan’s guard play. Penn State has used double teams this season against dominant opposing players and will need to do so again to keep these guards in check.

Offensively, Penn State faces one of their toughest defenses yet. They must get out of the gates early and avoid falling into a hole in the first five minutes. It will be difficult to overcome an early deficit against this strong Michigan defense.

The Nittany Lions should look to find Stevens in one-on-one opportunities. Allowing him to work himself into the paint will open potential perimeter looks for the likes of Bolton, Reaves and freshman guard Myles Dread.

Penn State will look for their second Big Ten win of the season on Tuesday. Michigan is 5-2 on the road this season, while Penn State is 5-6 at home. The Nittany Lions have not defeated the Wolverines since 2013.

 


Preston Shoemaker is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact, email
pus144@psu.edu.