Penn State vs. Mississippi Preview: Lions Head to NYC for the NIT Tip-Off

By Craig Fritz on November 27, 2019 at 12:01 pm
Penn State guard Izaiah Brockington
RLR Staff
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Mississippi Rebels
4-1 (0-0 SEC)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
5 p.m. ET – Wednesday, Nov. 23
Barclays Center
Brooklyn, NY
Watch Info: ESPN2
KenPom Rank: 53
Read: Penn State Escapes Yale

The competition and national interest are ramping up over the Thanksgiving holiday for Penn State (5-0, 0-0) and head coach Patrick Chambers. The Nittany Lions are seeking their first 6-0 start under Chambers and will face the Mississippi Rebels (4-1, 0-0 SEC) in the first game of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Ranked No. 53 in KenPom, the Rebels are set to be the best team Penn State has played so far this year. The Lions will face the winner/loser of Oklahoma State/Syracuse on Friday, so the opportunity for two more huge, resume-building wins is knocking.

Penn State will need to shoot the ball far better than it did in its last game against the Yale Bulldogs. The Lions needed a 16-2 surge in the final minutes to beat the Ivy League squad by 2. Yale held Penn State to an abysmal 18.5% from three, and just 33% shooting overall. 

Projected Starters
Penn State   Yale
Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Jr. 1 Breein Tyree- 6'2" - Sr.
Myles Dread - 6'4" - So. 2 Devontae Shuler- 6'2" - Jr.
Myreon Jones - 6'3" - So. 3 Luis Rodriguez- 6'6" - So.
Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Sr. 4 KJ Buffen - 6'7" - Jr.
Mike Watkins - 6'9" - Sr. 5 Khadim Sy - 6'10" - Jr.

Scouting report

Guards Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler are the engines that drive Ole Miss basketball. The pair have combined for 57% of the Rebel attempts on the year and both average in double figures. Foward KJ Buffen is extremely efficient in his opportunities, averaging 14 points/game and shooting 70% from inside the arc. Mississippi also welcomed back talented sophomore Blake Hinson in its last game, a one-point loss to Memphis. Hinson started 30 games as a freshman and has been dealing with a "blood abnormality" since the summer.

The Rebels are another team that causes chaos on defense, forcing 17 turnovers a game. But they can also be turnover-prone when they have the ball, so expect a good deal of fast-break opportunities both ways. Khadim Sy is their only rim-protector, with just 6 blocks on the season. In general, Ole Miss sports a similar offensive and defensive profile to Penn State. Both teams shoot 46% from the floor and 34% from three. Both teams allow roughly the same numbers from opponents, with the Rebels giving up 36% from the floor and 23% from distance, and the Nittany Lions allowing 39% from the floor and 29% from deep.

keys to the game

  • Start fast. Penn State needs to put the sour taste of its remarkably bad shooting performance against Yale behind it in a hurry. Nothing would do that better than seeing buckets fall early as they did against Georgetown.
  • Big-game Lamar. The best player on the team has just one 20-point effort this season. Another one or two in New York would lead to good things for the boys from State College.
  • Defensive flex. Yale hit a ton of shots against Penn State and made the Lions work for every possession on the defensive end. Chambers needs an effort like the one we saw in Washington a couple weeks ago if the Lions are destined for the tip-off final.

prediction

Regardless of the outcome, Penn State is facing the two best opponents of the young season in the Big Apple. There's a palpable buzz about the Nittany Lions so far this year, and to sustain that momentum, they need to perform well on the big stage. While the Lions will need to lean on Jamari Wheeler to help shut down the dangerous Ole Miss backcourt, look for Penn State to feature Stevens and Mike Watkins inside to take advantage of the Rebels' under-sized frontcourt. Critical defensive stops down the stretch will be the difference. Penn State 71, Mississippi 68.

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