Can Penn State bounce back from Sunday’s demoralizing defeat against Seton Hall and get a crucial resume-building win in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge tonight? I might be the only one asking that question. For the second straight game, the Nittany Lions are playing during a primetime NFL game, and they don’t have many supporters to begin with.
Still, those who tune into ESPNU at 9:00 p.m. ET tonight should get treated to an exciting game of basketball. Penn State showed against Seton Hall that it still has plenty of scoring talent on the roster after Lamar Stevens signed an NBA contract in November. Seth Lundy will have to continue his rise to stardom if Penn State is going to keep pace with Virginia Tech, while Sam Sessoms and Myreon Jones have also shown an eagerness to score from the perimeter.
What I’m looking for from the Nittany Lions in this one is better selectiveness in the half-court offense. They don’t need to be jacking up the first shot available when there are so many options on the floor. Too often against Seton Hall they failed to cycle the ball through Lundy, who is clearly the team’s most gifted player with the ability to score as a shooter and with his back to the basket as well. He should be touching the ball on almost every possession.
When Lundy starts to attract a crowd, it should open up easier opportunities for the supporting cast, which means more in-rhythm three-point shots and fewer impulsive heaves. That’s the hope anyway. Defense figures to be a bigger issue considering Penn State’s lack of depth in the frontcourt and Jim Ferry’s refusal to play John Harrar and Trent Buttrick at the same time.
That’s not going to make defending Virginia Tech big man Keve Aluma any easier. The Wofford transfer is averaging 17.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, including a 23-point effort in the Hokies’ upset win over Villanova. Based on the trouble that the Lions had with Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili, Aluma should prove to be a handful.
We’re going to learn a lot about Ferry and his team tonight. It’s Penn State’s first road game of the season, first game coming off a loss, and first game against a ranked opponent. Everyone will be expecting a Virginia Tech win, but I have a feeling that this Penn State team is full of surprises. Because if they’re not, this season won’t be very much fun. Here’s hoping I won’t be flipping to Illinois vs. Duke after halftime. That game should be awesome, by the way.