Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pa.
When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday, January 12
TV/Radio: CBS/Spartan Sports Network radio
MSU status report:
A solid home win against a solid Purdue team (that kid Williams is really good and I still wish that he had joined our freshman class, but c’est la vie... he will just be a headache on a lot of not very good Purdue teams), with strong performances from Nick Ward and Cassius Winston moves MSU to 14-2 overall and 5-0 in the B1G.
Looking at the PSU game, MSU will again be without Josh Langford and will have Kyle Ahrens with a slightly ailing back (on track to play, but maybe limited). MSU’s rotation is solidly locked in right now, with a very good offensive groove and an ever-intensifying defensive acumen that is forcing teams to take tough, contested shots, and not giving up paint touches like they were early in the season.
Penn State 7-9 (0-5): NR (AP), NR (USA/Coaches), #62 (Kenpom)
1 - Bolton (6’2” fr), Wheeler (6’1” so)
2 - Dread (6’4” fr), Jones (6’3” fr)
3 - Reaves (6’5” sr), Buttrick (6’8” so)
4 - Stevens (6’8” jr)
5 - Watkins (6’9” jr), Harrar (6’9” so)
It is bizarre that this team is struggling like they are: they have two really talented juniors in Stevens and Watkins, a rock-solid senior wing in Reaves, a very good freshman off-guard in Dread, and... oh... right a freshman point guard. Bolton is not a bad player, but he isn’t quite elevating his teammates (despite averaging 12 ppg, he is averaging under 2 assists per game). In general the team struggles to pass the ball and to create for each other: PSU is #261 in the country in assists/FGM (under 50%), compared to MSU the #1 team in the country in A/FGM (at just under 69%).
When a team doesn’t generate good looks through passing it is generally not going to generate good looks (unless they have superlative individuals, which PSU does not quite have). For this reason PSU does not have a single player with an Ortg higher than 110 (Dread), and all four of their other starters are under 102 for their Ortg.
PSU’s strength is their defense (#22 in Kenpom), where they generally lock down the defensive glass (only allowing opponents to rebound 24.5% of their misses, #33 in the country), don’t allow many free throws, and have a solid steal% (#45 in the country).
Stevens - Averages: 18ppg, 8rpg. Highest usage% and shot% on the team (~30% and 31%), he is THE guy. Does his work in the post, high post, and at the line.
Reaves/Bolton - Combine to average 23ppg, 7rpg, and nearly 5apg. These guys are the two 3pt shooters (at 36% and 37% respectively), and Bolton, especially, looks for his shot consistently (2nd and 3rd highest usage players).
Watkins - PSU’s best big, if he gets in foul trouble (as Ward as done to him in the past), then it gets late quick for PSU. He hasn’t quite developed as I had hoped, but he is talented, big, athletic, and tough (foul him hard - no 3pt plays: he is shooting under 50% from the ft line).
Winston should win his match-up vs. Bolton and Reaves, Ward should win his match-up against Watkins, and if Kenny G and Tillman can prevent Stevens (who is a bit more athletic than X and a bit stronger than KG) from going off on an efficient outing, then this should be relatively perfunctory.
This will be a big opportunity for McQ, Ahrens, Henry, and, probably, Brown on the wing. They will need to keep Reaves and Dread relatively under wraps (Dread too is a nearly 35% 3pt shooter and leads the team with 96 attempts) and really pressure them with drives and transition runs to 3pt line.
MSU 77 Penn State 64