Penn State at Nebraska Preview: Nittany Lions Seeking First Win at Pinnacle Bank Arena

By Chad Markulics on January 10, 2019 at 12:06 pm
Jan 2, 2019; College Park, MD, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers guard James Palmer Jr. (0) dribbles up the court during the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at XFINITY Center.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska Cornhuskers
11-4 (1-3 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
9:00 p.m. ET - Thursday, January 10
Pinnacle Bank Arena
Lincoln, Nebraska
Watch Info: ESPN2/WatchESPN I Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 16
Vegas Line: Nebraska -10/5

To the casual viewer, Sunday's lifeless home performance against Wisconsin was typical Penn State basketball. Getting blown out at home isn't anything new. But to those who have paid attention and noticed the relative strides this program has made in the last three seasons under Patrick Chambers, it was equally surprising and disheartening to see the Nittany Lions not put up more of a fight against a conference opponent in the BJC.

The results back that feeling up. The last time Penn State lost by more than 10 points to a conference opponent at home was precisely three years ago today, when a Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes-led Michigan State team blasted Brandon Taylor's Nittany Lions 92-65.

Granted, Chambers was not coaching the game on Sunday - though the self-inflicted nature of his suspension arguably makes him even more responsible for the blowout defeat. The program is approaching a crossroads, sitting at 0-4 in the ultra-competitive Big Ten. If history is any indication, Penn State is staring 0-5 in the face.

Projected Starters
Penn State   Nebraska
Rasir Bolton - 6'2" - Fr. 1 Glynn Watson - 6'0" - Sr.
Myles Dread - 6'4" - Fr. 2 Thomas Allen - 6'1" - Soph.
Josh Reaves - 6'4" - Sr. 3 James Palmer - 6'6" - Sr.
Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Jr. 4 Isaiah Roby - 6'8" - Jr.
Mike Watkins - 6'9" - RS Jr. 5 Isaac Copeland - 6'10" - Sr.

Scouting Report

It's amazing what a brand new arena can do to invigorate a program (HINT HINT). Nebraska has been less of a fortress in recent seasons, but Penn State has still yet to figure out a winning formula in Pinnacle Bank since the building opened in 2014. This will be their toughest test yet against a Husker team desperate to notch a win after a two-game losing streak on the road.

The Huskers aren't deep, as usual, but their big four rivals any other team in the conference. Glynn Watson hasn't made the leap to stardom many expected after his big sophomore season but he's averaging 13 points per game and career highs in assists and rebounds in his final go-round in college. Isaiah Roby and Isaac Copeland form one of the most versatile frontcourts in the nation. Roby leads the team in rebounds and blocked shots, while Copeland is second in scoring and rebounding. The latter also shoots 38.8 percent from deep.

James Palmer stirs the drink, scoring 20 points per game and living at the line. An aggressive driver, Josh Reaves will have his hands full trying to defend Palmer without getting into foul trouble.

Keys to the game

It's pretty simple for Penn State - they'll have to rediscover some sense of offensive capability, at least as much as they had in portions of the non-con. Defense alone, especially against a capable defensive club, will not get it done on the road against a top-10 KenPom offense. Lamar Stevens and Rasir Bolton will have to raise their performances for the Nittany Lions to have a chance in Lincoln.

Prediction

It's hard to see this Penn State team outperforming on the road in the Big Ten until they prove they can hang with such a team at home. They haven't done that yet, and PBA has always been difficult for Chambers' teams to maneuver. It's a little surprising Nebraska is only laying 10.5 points. Nebraska 79, Penn State 61.

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