Penn State vs. Wagner Preview: Lions Hope to Avoid Three-Game Skid

By Vincent Lungaro on December 8, 2021 at 12:16 pm
Dec 5, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) drives the ball to the basket as Ohio State Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell (32) defends during the second half at Bryce Jordan Center. Ohio State defeated Penn State 76-64. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
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Wagner Seahawks
3-1 (0-0 NEC)
Roster Schedule
7 p.m. EST - Wednesday, Dec. 8
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, PA
Watch Info: BTN+ I Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 134

Following a two-game skid and looming road matchups with Michigan State and VCU on the horizon, Penn State can't afford to drop Wednesday's game against Wagner. 

The Nittany Lions (4-4, 0-1) are coming off of losses to Miami and Ohio State, and will hope to end a three-game homestand on a high note against the Seahawks (3-1). 

It won't be easy, though. Wagner was picked to win the NEC in the preseason and won the conference's regular season title in 2020-21. 

PROJECTED STARTERS

PENN STATE WAGNER
G Sam Sessoms - 6'0 - Sr. G Javier Ezquerra - 6'1 - Fr.
G Jaheam Cornwall - 6'0 - Sr. G Zaire Williams - 6'4 - Fr.
G Jalen Pickett - 6'4 - Sr. G Elijah Ford - 6'5 - Sr.
F Seth Lundy - 6'6 - Jr. G Alex Morales - 6'6 - Sr.
F John Harrar - 6'9 - Sr. F Raekwon Rogers - 6'8 - Sr.

SERIES HISTORY

Penn State is 4-0 all-time against Wagner. 

The two teams last met on in 2019 with the Nittany Lions earning a 91-64 victory.  

SCOUTING REPORT

Wagner comes into Wednesday's game at 3-1 and have had a stretch of three games postponed because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols. 

The Seahawks most recently blew out Stony Brook on Saturday, 78-49. They've also notched victories over upcoming Penn State opponents VCU and Hartford. 

Their only other Power Six matchup thus far was a 85-63 loss to Seton Hall, but that was also the team's first game back from the COVID pause.

Wagner features four players in double-figures in scoring, led by senior guard Alex Morales and his 18 points per game. Other double-figure scorers for the Seahawks are senior guard Elijah Ford (12 ppg), Will Martinez (11.3 ppg) and Raekwon Rogers (10.5 ppg). 

As a team, the Seahawks average 69 points a game, while holding opponents to an average of 59.3 points per game. 

Wagner shoots just 29.7 percent from three...so, as has been the case against poor shooting teams all season, I'm sure they'll catch fire from 3-point land against Penn State on Wednesday. 

Morales is the team's engine, coming off a First Team All-NEC and Conference Player of the Year season last year, which saw him average 17.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.26 assists and 1.8 steals per game. 

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Keep John Harrar out of foul trouble. Penn State is clearly a better team with Harrar on the court compared to when he's on the bench. Foul trouble saw him miss a large chunk of the first half in the loss to Ohio State, and that paved the way for the Buckeyes to go on a big run to close the half. Jalanni White has been OK this season, but struggled with extended minutes against OSU. The Nittany Lions can't afford to be without Harrar for large stretches. 
  • Put together 40 minutes. The Nittany Lions have yet to play a 40-minute game this season, per Shrewsberry. They started the first half really well against Ohio State and started the second half really well against Miami. Unfortunately, on both occasions Penn State couldn't sustain those quality starts. Wagner isn't a team that you can just show up and expect to win. The Nittany Lions are going to have to be at their best to beat the Seahawks. 
  • Run the offense through Jalen Pickett. Jalen Pickett might already be Penn State's best player. In his last five games, including three against Power Six opponents, Pickett is averaging 14.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game over the last five contests. He put together a really efficient performance against Ohio State, scoring a game-high 23 points and adding four rebounds and three assists. Sam Sessoms has been really hot and cold lately, and none of the other Penn State guards inspire much confidence. Let Pickett cook.  

PREDICTION

Penn State is going to have to put the narrow losses to Miami and Ohio State behind them quickly. Sandwiched in between the high-profile games against the Hurricanes and Buckeyes and upcoming road games against Michigan State and VCU, is a less glamorous matchup with Wagner. This has all the makings of a trap game for the Nittany Lions and I'm picking the Seahawks to pull off the upset. 
Prediction: Wagner 74, Penn State 71

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