Penn State vs. UMBC Preview: Nittany Lions Host Retrievers in Final Non-Conference Game

By Matt Simco on December 29, 2018 at 6:30 am
Dec 4, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions forward Lamar Stevens (11) reacts during the first half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Bryce Jordan Center.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
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UMBC Retrievers
UMBC Retrievers
7-6 (0-0 America East)
Roster / Schedule
1 p.m. ET – Saturday, December 29
Bryce Jordan Center
State College, PA
Watch Info: BTN+ ($) I Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 244
KenPom Line: PSU -17

After three straight games away from home, the Nittany Lions head back to the BJC to play the Retrievers from UMBC, famously known for their miraculous upset over UVA last March. Penn State is coming off a crushing 73-64 loss to Alabama. Quick starts have been one of the Nittany Lions' greatest strengths this young season, with early leads of 9-0 against Indiana and 11-0 against DePaul. Unfortunately for the Nits, none of those leads lasted longer than seven minutes, and to make matters worse, Penn State lost all three of those games.  

None were more demoralizing than last Friday night in Tuscaloosa, in which the Nittany Lions allowed a 24-0 run after taking the early 14 point lead. Penn State has struggled in close games thus far, failing to blow games open when they have the chance. They are 2-5 in games decided by single digits and will need to get that number turned around if they want a chance at the big dance in March considering what's facing them next week. Tomorrow night provides a good opportunity to get back on track heading into Big Ten play.

UMBC's name will be etched into basketball history forever following their stunning 20 point upset victory against the #1 overall seeded Virginia Cavaliers in last year's NCAA tournament. Despite not having that same magic to start off this season, the Retrievers (7-6) should never be overlooked. UMBC lost its two best players last season - fan favorite 5'8 point guard KJ Maura and tenacious scorer Jairus Lyles are now playing professionally, and the Retrievers are searching for guys to fill their shoes. Senior forward Joe Sherburne leads them with 14 ppg on 47% shooting from beyond the arc, while sophmore Brandon Horvath is averaging 12.5. UMBC's only other game against a major-conference team in Marquette resulted in a 25-point defeat.

Lamar Stevens will look to get back on track after struggling from the floor against the Tide. He shot just 6-19, and 0-6 from behind the arc in Tuscaloosa. Freshman guard Myreon Jones also struggled shooting the ball, making just 3 of his 16 shot attempts in extended minutes. Mike Watkins has been solid after returning to the team, averaging 6.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in limited playing time. He shot 3 of 5 while securing eight rebounds at 'Bama.  

Prediction: This is a game that Penn State should be able to win easily. While UMBC returns a few starters from their run last year, they are without the best two and have been very shaky to start off the season with losses to teams in the 200's and 300's of the RPI rankings. Penn State wins this game 77-61.

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