Penn State vs. Miami Preview: Lions Host Hurricanes in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

By Vincent Lungaro on December 1, 2021 at 8:00 am
Nov 10, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) shoots the ball against the Youngstown State Penguins during the first half at the Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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Miami (FL) Hurricanes
4-3 (0-0 ACC)
Roster Schedule
9:15 p.m. ET - Wednesday, Dec. 1
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, PA
Watch Info: ESPNU I Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 105

Conference bragging rights are on the line Wednesday as Penn State hosts Miami as part of the 2021 Big Ten/ACC Challenge. 

The Nittany Lions (4-2) welcome the Hurricanes (4-3) to the Bryce Jordan Center for some late-night hoops (tip-off is at 9:15 p.m. ET) to kick off a three-game homestand. 

Penn State is coming off a solid showing down in Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic, where it split a pair of games. Miami dropped two of its three games at a Florida-based early-season tournament of its own, the ESPN Events Invitational. The Hurricanes were beaten by tournament winners Dayton, topped North Texas, and then got blown out by Alabama.

There will be some familiarity between the two staffs, with Penn State associate head coach Adam Fisher re-joining his alma mater this past offseason after eight years on Jim Jim Larrañaga's staff with the Hurricanes. 

projected starters

PENN STATE MIAMI
G Sam Sessoms - 6'0 - Sr. G Charlie Moore - 5'11 - Sr.
G Jalen Pickett - 6'4 - Sr. G Isaiah Wong - 6'3 - So.
G Myles Dread - 6'4 - Sr. G Kameron McGusty - 6'5 - Sr.
F Seth Lundy - 6'6 - Jr. G Jordan Miller - 6'7 - Jr.
F John Harrar - 6'9 - Sr. F Sam Waardenburg - 6'10 - Sr.

BIG TEN/ACC CHALLENGE HISTORY

Penn State has won six of its past seven Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchups and owns an 11-9 overall record in 20 games. 

In last season's challenge, the Nittany Lions shellacked then-No. 15 Virginia Tech on the road in an impressive start-to-finish performance. 

Penn State and Miami are only one of three of the combined 29 Big Ten and ACC schools to win six of their last seven challenge games, with Duke being the third. 

SCOUTING REPORT

Miami has no shortage of talent in its backcourt. Everything runs through 2020 All-ACC Third-team pick Isaiah Wong (15.6 ppg, 3.6 rbg, 1.7 apg) and last season's leading scorer Kameron McGusty has picked up where he left off (17.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg).

Wong can score inside and out, exploding for 30 points against Louisville, 29 against Florida State, and 28 against Clemson last season. He and McGusty – whose length and physicality compliments Wong really nicely – make up one of the better guard duos in the ACC.

Deploying a four-guard lineup a lot of times this season, ex-Cal, DePaul, and Kansas guard Charlie Moore (10.7 ppg, 2.6 apg, 1.7 spg) and George Mason transfer Jordan Miller (5.4 ppg) add to Miami's backcourt options.

There remain question marks for the Miami frontcourt, though.

Starting big man Sam Waardenburg (6.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg) is still working his way back from a broken foot that kept him out all of last season. Versatile forward Anthony Walker started off the season brightly with back-to-back double-digit scoring efforts against Canisius and UCF, but his highest output in the past five games has been 8 points.

Similar to Waardenburg, 7-foot senior Rodney Miller Jr. missed a large chunk of last season and hasn't seen much playing time this year. Former four-star forward Deng Gak has seen action hard to come by this year as well.

Three of Miami's four top rebounders are guards, including the top two in McGusty and Jordan Miller.

KEYS TO The game

  • Try to limit Wong and McGusty as much as possibleOne of Wong or McGusty has led Miami in scoring in all but one game so far this season. If one (or both) of them get going, it could spell trouble for the Nittany Lions.
  • Win the rebounding battle. Something Penn State didn't do well in the loss to LSU this past Friday night was rebound the basketball. Granted, just about everyone the Tigers play this year is going to find controlling the boards difficult. Still, this is an area the Nittany Lions can and should exploit against Miami. The Hurricanes sit 284th in the country in rebounding margin, while Penn State sits in a tie for 85th. Time for John Harrar to eat on the glass.
  • Pack the paint. Miami shoots a paltry 27 percent from three, good (or bad) for 335th in the nation. Keep in mind there are 350 programs in Division I. The Nittany Lions held both LSU and Oregon State to sub-par shooting nights, making good looks at the rim hard to come by. Expect Penn State to deploy a pack-line defense of sorts to try and frustrate Miami and make them settle for outside shots. Naturally, and in true Penn State basketball fashion, the Hurricanes will knock down 50 threes on Wednesday now that I've pointed this out.

PREdiction

I was way off in my previous preview prediction that LSU was going to handle Penn State relatively easily. Credit to Shrewsberry and his players for hanging with the Tigers, turning the game into a rock fight that saw LSU score nearly 20 points less than its season average. They executed a similar game plan on Saturday in the win over Oregon State, holding the Beavers to 31 percent shooting.

Look for the Nittany Lions to try and keep that going against Miami in another game where neither team reaches 70 points. Hey, slow-paced, ugly basketball can be effective basketball...just look at Wisconsin's success over the years! 

Penn State 62, Miami 58

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