(Photo Credit: Penn State Athletics)

For just the first conference road game and the third road game of the season, Indiana travels to State College, PA to face off against the Nittany Lions.

The Hoosiers now will need to focus their attention purely on winning their second Big Ten test in State College. So far this season, Indiana is winless on the road with their only two losses at Arkansas and at Duke.

Although the Hoosiers bested Northwestern in a defensive battle, they may be facing a stingier team on Tuesday.

Back with the team, two all-Big Ten Defensive players Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins are expected to be of service to PSU on Tuesday evening. No team scored more than 72 points against coach Pat Chambers’ team. The Nittany Lions are currently ranked 8th in Kenpom for adjusted defense. Incredibly, that’s only good for third in the Big Ten as Michigan and Wisconsin were both ranked higher at the time of writing.

At 4-3 on the season, Pat Chambers will need to get his ball club back in order to continue their hopes at a postseason run. The good and bad news about Penn State has been their ability to keep games close. In their two non-conferences losses (DePaul and Bradley), they lost by only a single possession. In their match up against Virginia Tech, they won by just one point. They can keep up with the stronger teams, but also play down to weaker competition.

The front court has been fairly concerning for the Penn State staff with Mike Watkins only recently being available and 7’0″ senior Satchel Pierce ruled ineligible due to academics for at least the first semester.

On the Indiana side, having familiar faces such as Zach McRobertsDevonte GreenDe’Ron Davis, and Al Durhamhas been very beneficial for the team. With at least a pair of games under their belts from their latest injury bugs, they began to show signs of comfort against Northwestern. Indiana needs them to play at their potential that we witnessed last season.

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The trio of Zach, Devonte, and Al had a combined 6 turnovers in their game against Duke. In the match up against Northwestern, they collectively only gave up the ball twice.

Archie Miller has two short days to game plan for Pat Chambers’ ball club and hope to finally break the victory seal on the road.

Meet the Nittany Lions

Key Departures

  • Tony Carr – 6’5″ / 204 lbs / Guard – Philadelphia, PA. After scoring nearly 20 points per game and averaging nearly 5 rebounds per game, the Philadelphia native declared for the NBA draft and got selected by the New Orleans Pelicans in the second round. After a rough summer league performance, the rights to Carr eventually got transferred to Fiat Torino (Italy).
  • Shep Garner – 6’2″ / 196 lbs / Guard – Chester, PA. The graduated senior contributed 11.4 points per game last season as the veteran presence for Penn State.

Projected Starters

  • Lamar Stevens – 6’8” / 230 lbs / Forward / Junior – North Wales, PA. The center piece of this year’s Nittany Lions now that Tony Carr is gone. He is currently averaging 22.4 points per game and he has attempted over 18 field goals per game. Stevens can finish in all sorts of ways: baseline, mid-range, fades, post, etc.
  • Josh Reaves – 6’5” / 214 lbs / Guard/ Senior – Fairvax, VA. The lone senior in the starting line up has been controlling the flow of the offense; however, he has also averaged 4.0 turnovers per game. Extremely quick off of the first dribble and can finish at the rim. Tall guard that can really cause trouble for unsuspecting opponents and has a team high 18 steals on the season.
  • Myles Dread – 6’4″ / 215 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Detroit, MI. Three-star prospect that has taken the most three point shots on the team at 43. He has only converted 30.2% of them on the season.
  • John Harrar – 6’9” / 243 lbs / Forward / Sophomore – Wallingford, PA. Lamar Stevens front court partner in the starting line up that has done a good job of filling in while Mike Watkins has been unavailable. Expect Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis to take advantage of this match up.
  • Jamari Wheeler – 6’1″ / 170 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Live Oak, FL. True point guard for Penn State that has put on over 20 pounds since high school.

The Rotation

  • Mike Watkins – 6’9” / 254 lbs / Forward / Redshirt Junior – Philadelphia, PA. Watkins, who was suspended due to legal concerns in the beginning of the season, is now starting to become worked back in the rotation. The sizable defensive force for the Nittany Lions has already totaled 4 blocks and 5 steals in his two games back.
  • Rasir Bolton – 6’2″ / 180 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Petersburg, VA. Although Rasir comes off the bench, he is the third leading scorer for Penn State with 11.1 points per game. A realiable offensive force that coach Chambers can bring into the game.
  • Myreon Jones – 6’3″ / 170 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Birmingham, AL. Three-star recruit averaging 4.6 points per game in 13.1 minutes per game of action.
  • Trent Buttrick – 6’8” / 234 lbs / Forward / Sophomore – Bloomsburg, PA. Crafty big that has no issues putting the ball on the floor or shooting the three.
  • Deivis Zemgulis – 6’6″ / 220 lbs / Forward / Senior – Kaunas, Lithuania.
  • Danill Kasatkin – 6’7″ / 215 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Vichuga, Russia. Point guard out of Russia that has played for the Russian U-16 and U-18 national teams.
  • Kyle McCloskey (W) – 6’5″ / 210 lbs / Guard / Freshman – Lower Gwynedd, PA. Walk-on Kyle McCloskey actually played for Villanova football prior to transferring to Penn State. Four years of eligibility remaining.
  • Taylor Nussbaum (W) – 6’2″ / 175 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – South Salem, NY.
  • Grant Hazle (W) – 6’6″ / 194 lbs / Forward / Junior – Kingwood, TX.
  • Satchel Pierce – 7’0″ / 225 lbs / Forward / Senior – Barberton, OH. The senior big man is currently ruled academically ineligible and he has not seen action this season. He will be reevaluated after the semester break.
  • Izaiah Brockington – 6’4″ / 195 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Philadelphia, PA. The transfer from St. Bonaventure announced his commitment to Penn State earlier this year and is ineligible this season per transfer rules.

Expectations for the Nittany Lions

Penn State is coming off of a tremendous 2017-2018 season, culminating in winning the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) title. The Nittany Lions won 26 games, which was the school’s second-highest win-total ever and was the first 20-win season since 2008- 2009. To put it in perspective, last season was so successful that the squad broke 21 team records.

Unfortunately, Penn State lost two of their top four scorers. In particular, the loss of Tony Carr to graduation was a big blow. Carr averaged 19.6 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game. He also shot 43.3% from beyond the arc. He was not only productive in the stat sheet but was a clear leader on the court. Likewise, the graduation of Shep Garnerand his 11.4 points per game also meant that, between him and Carr, 41% of last year’s offensive production would no longer be on the team.

As a result, Penn State’s expectations for this season weren’t particularly high. Andy Katz predicted a 10th place finish in the Big Ten. Even at Big Ten media day, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers appeared to temper expectations by saying that the team’s goal was to compete to put themselves in the conversation for the NCAA Tournament.

If that was going to happen, everyone knew from the beginning that Penn State’s fate rested solely within the hands of Lamar Stevens. Stevens was excellent last year, averaging 15.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists. Stevens also was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2018 NIT, where he scored 28 points in the championship game. Last season, he also surpassed the 1000 career point milestone becoming the second Penn State player ever to reach the number during his sophomore campaign.

After emerging last season, expectations for Stevens this year were through the roof. Stevens was even named to the preseason watch-list for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award. Yet, somehow Stevens has been even better than anticipated, averaging 22.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and just a hair under 2 assists per game in 36.7 minutes of action per game.

So far, Penn State has been a bit of a mixed bag. Losses against DePaul and Bradley aren’t ideal. However, Penn State does have an incredibly strong resume-building victory over then #13 Virginia Tech.

In conference play, Penn State lost it’s opener to the Terrapins in the Xfinity Center in a game closer than the final score represents. Like Indiana, Penn State is undefeated at home and winless on the road.

What to Watch For

  1. Continue to build on turnover improvement. A long and disruptive Penn State team with a top ten defense is going to look to get into Indiana’s passing lanes. They have size in all positions of their team and they will look to create havoc. Josh Reaves leads the conference in steals per game at 2.6. Teams are averaging 15.1 turnovers against the Nittany Lions this season, while Pat Chambers’ team is only turning over the ball 12.7 times. Indiana needs the entire team, not just the guards, to have smarter and more intentional passing.
  2. Lamar Stevens has been doing it all. In addition to his 22.4 points per game – good for second in the conference only behind Purdue’s Carsen Edwards – Stevens has tacked on an average of 8.6 boards and he is shooting nearly 7 free throws a game at an 80.9% rate. Collin Hartman was on the assignment last year, but Stevens was still able to drop 20 points on the Hoosiers in Bloomington. How will Archie lock him down this year?
  3. The Justin Smith enigma. One of the most interesting storylines developing this year is the lack of domination from Justin Smith. Nearing the end of last season, you could see the trajectory there. Justin was improving across all phases of the ball and was becoming one of the go-to options for Indiana. In fact, many believed the #3 would be the third option after Juwan and Romeo this year. So far this season, Justin has not met those expectation, which were certainly unfairly put on him. That being said, Archie Miller continues to praise Justin and the quotes from Smith himself seem optimistic. We have yet to see that translate on the court. Justin Smith is going to have a breakout game any moment now, could this be it?
  4. It’s quiet… too quiet? The Bryce Jordan Center is not necessarily known to be one of the loudest and most raucous arenas in college basketball. In fact, it is often the opposite. With over 15,000 seats, the loyal Nittany Lion fan base averaged 6,991 attendees per game. Besides the closed scrimmage against Loyola, the Hoosiers have not yet seen such an environment.
  5. Starting to become a must-win for Penn State. Okay, now this might be a stretch, a pretty big stretch, but Penn State needs to seriously get themselves organized or they are going to miss out on any chance at a post-season. They have already dropped 2 non-conference games and currently have the second worst record in the league. Just Illinois at 2-5 ranks behind them. If Pat Chambers can get his team motivated and energized, the Hoosiers of late will have a tough time.

Injury Watch

For Indiana, Juwan Morgan exited the game against Northwestern with what seemed like a right leg injury. He had to be helped off the court by Clif Marshall and Vijay Blackmon. We have not yet heard word about the status of Indiana’s senior captain.

IU freshman forward Jerome Hunter (leg) will not be available and redshirt sophomore forward Race Thompson(concussion) will likely also not be available for Indiana.

As mentioned earlier, Penn State is without the services of Satchel Pierce due to academics.

How to Watch

DateTuesday, December 4th
Time7:00 PM EST
RadioHoosiersTV Audio

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