Penn State Basketball has an opportunity to make a prime-time statement versus the Georgetown Hoyas. What are the keys to a Nittany Lion victory?
Thursday evening at 6:30 pm EST, Penn State Basketball will square off against Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas squad, in Washington D.C., at Capital One Arena. This will be the first real test for the 2019-20 installment of the #Climb. The Nittany Lions comfortably took care of business at home versus over-matched opponents. The basketball fans that follow this program are looking forward to having vital questions answered. Is all of the preseason hype surrounding this club, for real?
Some high-profile prognosticators have the Nittany Lions putting on dancing shoes, in March. A statement win on the road over Georgetown will be a positive first step. A Pat Chambers lead team can insert itself into the Big Ten conversation and have a formal “coming out” party, Thursday night. Here are my keys to a Nittany Lion victory over the Hoyas.
Key #1: Myles Dread – aerial assault technician
Myles Dread, the 6 foot 4 inch 215 pound sophomore from Michigan played high school ball at Gonzaga College High School, in Washington, D.C.. Myles was recruited to be the next Shep Garner type of player. Shep’s final season in Blue & White saw him average 43.3%, from three-point land. So far this season, Myles is sinking 40% from beyond the arc. In order for Penn State to open up driving lanes Thursday night, Myles needs to keep the pressure on the Hoyas perimeter guards.
If Dread isn’t having an effective night launching long-range rockets, the G-Town guards will collapse in the lane and try to deny Stevens the ball using double-teams. What better “homecoming” for Myles Dread than to torch the nets of Capital One Arena, in the place he went to high school?
Key #2: Involve Mike Watkins
Mike Watkins can be one of the best big men in the Big Ten this year if he stays healthy and his teammates actively seek to provide him the rock. Over the two previous seasons, I believe Josh Reaves provided Watkins with most of his scoring opportunities. If you want the big man to score, you have to get him the ball, right? I believe all of the guards have a role to play in feeding Mike Watkins the ball but I’ll place most of the emphasis on dishing to Mike, on Myreon Jones. It seems like Pat Chambers is grooming Jones to take over the PG position that was vacated when Rasir Bolton left for Cyclone corn.
Once Watkins gets the ball in his hands and he decides to score, he is extremely efficient at it. Watkins has been on the court for 42 minutes, so far this season. During that 42 minutes of play, he is averaging 70% from the field, he is converting 71.4% of his free throws and he is pulling down 9.5 rebounds per game. He is a defensive force in the lane, averaging 4 blocks per game. If you want Penn State to have an outstanding interior game on both sides of the ball, involve Mike Watkins early and often.
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Key #3: Beat the Hoyas’ bench
Pat Chambers has stated that this season he has his deepest roster since he’s been in Happy Valley. Over the first two games, Penn State’s bench has outscored its opponents by a factor of 1.6 (68-43). To be successful on the road, the Nittany Lions have to outmatch the production of the home team. A key player coming off the bench is Izaiah Brockington. Brockington knows what it takes to get to an NCAA Tournament. He was a freshman on the St. Bonaventure squad that lost to Florida in the first round of 64, in the East Regional. For the Nittany Lions, Brockington is averaging 21 minutes of playing time with 11 points, 2.5 rebounds and an assist. He is contributing positive minutes and spelling the starters. This needs to continue versus Georgetown.
Key #4: Make your free throws
I have repeated this key in every one of my game previews, thus far. In order to win close games, you need to convert a high percentage of your free throws. Last year, Penn State lost to Indiana, at home, by two points. Penn State missed 15 free throws. I can’t repeat this point often enough. Make your free throws and win more games.
You may have noticed that I only mentioned Lamar Stevens once, in this article. As good as he is, Lamar cannot win games all by himself. It takes a team of players that know their roles and don’t stray far from their primary objectives. I haven’t mentioned anything about the Hoyas players, at all. That’s because Penn State can win this game by focusing on the things they have done well, so far this season. This is the deepest team that Pat Chambers has had, thus far at Penn State.
The trip to Capital One Arena is just the first step on the road to redemption. Nittany Lions’ fans suffered through a horrendous opening slate of Big Ten Conference games, only to be teased into believing that the season may have turned the corner and better days were ahead, in March. This year’s team can make a statement and defeat a Power Five school, on the road. When other Big Ten teams have faltered early this year, Penn State can separate itself from the pack.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have any comments, please feel free to share them. You can read more of my articles here. Penn State versus Georgetown will be televised by FS1 and game time is 6:30 pm.