PREVIEW: MSU looks to go 4-0 in the Big Ten against Penn State
On Jan. 7, MSU men’s basketball (11-5 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) looks to improve its Big Ten record to a perfect 4-0. However, the Nittany Lions of Penn State (9-7 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) will hope to play spoilers as the teams face off at the Palestra in Philadelphia, Pa.
Six Penn State players who call the Philadelphia area home, and assistant coach Dwayne Stephens said they will be jacked up to play, just like junior guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. was to play back at his home in the Bahamas. Traditionally, the Nittany Lions play in Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa.
Nicknamed, “The Philly 6,” Nittany Lions that lived or played in Philadelphia include: freshman forward Lamar Stevens, redshirt-freshman forward Mike Watkins, junior forward Julian Moore, junior guard Shep Garner, freshman forward Nazeer Bostick and freshman guard Tony Carr.
“They have some veteran guys that maybe haven’t had the success that they want to have, and I think that’s the way they’re playing,” Stephens said. “They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder.”
The Nittany Lions come in wounded after failing to secure their 14-point lead against the University of Michigan Wolverines on Jan. 4 at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
In this contest, Stevens, the team’s second leading scorer, scored a game-high 16 points and corralled nine rebounds in 19 minutes played. However, Stevens fouled out and committed five turnovers.
“It’s going to be a very important game for us and it’s a chance for us to take a step towards some of the things we want to accomplish as a team,” Stephens said.
The Spartans will have freshman forward Miles Bridges back again. Bridges played 17 minutes in a win against Rutgers. He scored six points, including two alley-oop dunks and six rebounds.
In the seven games without Bridges, freshman forward Nick Ward held down the fort for the Spartans, averaging 17.1 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game.
While Bridges said he enjoyed his return to the court, he said his focus is on Penn State and not the total minutes he will play.
“They’re very athletic, long team, run their sets hard,” Bridges said. “They have a great point guard, a great player in Shep Garner, so we just have to lock down.“
Garner is the team’s leading scorer at 13.1 points per game. Watkins is the leading rebounder with 8.4 rebounds per game and Carr is the leading assist man with 3.9 assists a game.
The game is set to tipoff at 1 p.m. and it will be aired on ESPN.