Penn State vs. Cornell Preview: Hoops Begins Busy Week Against Unbeaten Big Red

By Vincent Lungaro on November 22, 2021 at 10:13 am
Nov 10, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions forward Seth Lundy (1) shoots the ball as Youngstown State Penguins guard Tevin Olison (2) defends during the second half at the Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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Cornell Big Red
4-0 (0-0 Ivy)
Roster / Schedule
6:30 p.m. ET - Monday, Nov. 22
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, PA
Watch Info: BTN I Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 259

Monday night marks the start of a busy Thanksgiving Week for Penn State basketball. 

The Nittany Lions (2-1) begin a six-day stretch of three games by hosting Cornell (4-0) on Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. With games against LSU and then either Oregon State or Wake Forest looming as part of the finals of the Emerald Coast Classic, it's easy to see why Monday's matchup might fly a little under the radar for Penn State fans. 

Cornell represents a solid test in its own right for the Nittany Lions, though. The Big Red are off to a hot start with four straight wins, including a big win over Colgate. The Raiders were an NCAA Tournament team a season ago and just pulled off a big upset over Syracuse on Saturday.

PROJECTED STARTERS

PENN STATE CORNELL
G Sam Sessoms - 6'0 - Sr. G Greg Dolan - 6'3 - Jr.
G Jalen Pickett - 6'4 - Sr. G Sarju Patel - 6'3 - Sr.
F Seth Lundy - 6'6 - Jr. G Chris Manon - 6'5 - So.
F Jalanni White - 6'8 - Sr. F Jordan Jones - 6'5 - Jr.
F John Harrar - 6'9 - Sr.  F Kobe Dickson - 6'9 - Sr. 

SCOUTING REPORT

Cornell's 4-0 start to the 2021-22 season is the first such start for the program since 1961. The Big Red have put up some impressive offensive numbers in those four games, averaging 87.8 points per game. The hot start is all the more impressive when you consider the fact they did not play the 2020-21 as the Ivy League sat out the season because of COVID-19.

Forward Jordan Jones leads the way for the Ivy League outfit with 16 points per game on 46 percent shooting. Guard Chris Manon is second on the team with 13 per game. Behind Jones and Manon is a balanced offensive attack, with a further seven players averaging at least five points per game. Cornell has shown no problems sharing the wealth with the team averaging 18 assists per game. 

The offensive numbers have also been complimented by an opportunistic Big Red defense, which averages 8.5 steals per game, while only allowing opponents to shoot 37 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range. 

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Limit the turnovers. Highlighted by those 8.5 steals per game, it's clear Cornell has had a knack for forcing turnovers. Penn State handled St. Francis Brooklyn the other night despite 15 turnovers. That followed up a 15-turnover showing in the blowout loss at UMass. The Nittany Lions cannot be that careless against the Big Red. 
  • Find someone outside the big three to get going. Penn State has three players in double-digits in Sam Sessoms (18.3 ppg), Seth Lundy (16.0 ppg) and John Harrar (12.7 ppg). The Nittany Lions are still looking for another consistent offensive option or two. I'm still waiting on Jalen Pickett (6.7 ppg) to have his breakout performance. Maybe this is the week. 
  • Win the rebounding battle. The Nittany Lions -- thanks in large part to Harrar -- have owned the glass through three games with an 11.3 rebounding advantage per game. Cornell is playing with a lot of confidence right now on the offensive end and the last thing you want to do is give them more possessions. Penn State needs to continue to dominate the rebounding battle. 

PREDICTION

Cornell is firing on all cylinders right now and won't at all be afraid of taking on a Big Ten team in its own backyard. I expect this one to be a really tight game that goes down to the wire. A big shot late from Sessoms is enough to lift the Nittany Lions to a confidence-building win.  Penn State 74, Cornell 71

 

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