Friday, November 21, 2014

Penn State-Cornell Previews

Penn State (2-1) vs. Cornell (2-2)
Where: TD Bank Arena; Charleston, S.C.
When: 9:00 PM
Watch it: ESPN3
After a crushing 106-97 2OT loss to Charlotte Thursday night, Penn State will have to recover quickly as it takes on Cornell Friday night at 9 PM. D.J. Newbill scored a career-high 35 points in the losing effort, a game that Penn State once trailed by 17 points. Brandon Taylor chipped in 19 points, Geno Thorpe added 14 and true freshman Shep Garner also scored 14.
Penn State plays a Cornell team that got washed by South Carolina 69-45 Thursday night. Shonn Miller, the team’s leading scorer (16.0 ppg), notched just nine points in the loss and fouled out. The Big Red have three other players that average double-digit points. Robert Hatter (14.0 ppg), Devin Cherry (12.3 ppg) and Galal Cancer (11.3 ppg), along with Miller, are all seniors, except for Cherry who is a sophomore.
There’s experience and multiple scoring options on both sides of this contest. Penn State is the more talented team and Cornell head coach Bill Courtney has struggled to get the program back to postseason play since they last appeared in the Sweet 16 in 2010. Courtney hasn’t had his team finish better than fifth in the Ivy League while Penn State hasn’t finished above 10th during Pat Chambers’ tenure. As both programs look to move up in their respective conferences, a win in the Charleston Classic would go a long ways.
KenPom Prediction: Penn State, 90%

 After a grueling double overtime loss to Charlotte in their opening game, Penn State will attempt to circle the wagons for a must-win battle against Cornell.

Who: Cornell Big Red
When: Tonight, 9:00 PM ET
Where: TD Arena in Charleston, SC
TV: ESPN3 (online)
KenPom Rank: 298
Vegas Line: N/A
Enemy Blog: The Cornell Basketball Blog

Well, that was a fun little heartbreaking finish yesterday, wasn't it? A little over 24 hours after furiously rallying from 17 points down only to lose in double overtime to Charlotte, Penn State will be seeking to get to 1-1 in the Charleston Classic with a golden opportunity against a flailing Cornell team that was easily dispatched by South Carolina in their first game last night, 69-45.

Scouting The Opposition
Cornell is simply put, not very good at this basketball thing. In fact, they're coming off a 2-26 campaign from a year ago. Bill Courtney returns for his fifth season as head coach, which tells you just how undesirable a job like Cornell (or most other Ivy League coaching jobs, for that matter) is. If he was coaching in almost any other league, Courtney would have been replaced after last season's dismal mark.
Oh sure, they've got a player or two to look out for. Namely, guard Devin Cherry, who scored 8 points, grabbed five rebounds, and a pair of steals (he did however, also commit seven turnovers, himself) and 6'7" small forward Shonn Miller who has potential to be a scoring and rebounding force. However, this is a team that struggles to maintain possession and their weaknesses reared their ugly head against South Carolina, as they turned it over a grand total of 17 times. This is why it's not surprise that according to Kenpom, the Big Red are rated 282nd in offensive efficiency (94%) and 301st in defensive efficiency (103.5%).

What To Watch For
Penn State's legs. More specifically, D.J. Newbill's legs after seeing 50 minutes of action last night while scoring a career-high 35 points. If the players are still gassed from yesterday's game, then this game could very well end up being too close for comfort. Also of importance is to see if the PSU big men can stay out of foul trouble and assert their will in the paint on both ends of the floor, as they had issues with boxing out against Charlotte's bigs last night.

The worst part of losing to Charlotte was that it meant Penn State would end up playing a Cornell team that is likely to finish with a sub-250 RPI come March. While being squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble may seem like a pipe dream at the moment, if PSU does manage to find itself in such a situation, this will be an opponent that will bring down its strength of schedule, which is one of several key factors the selection committee considers. That being said, this is an absolute must-win game for the Nittany Lions in order to salvage something from this tournament. I can see another sluggish start to the game but PSU's talent and depth advantages should be enough to get them over the top, fatigue or no fatigue. Give me PSU 68-59.

When: 9:00 PM ET, Friday, November 21, 2014
Where: TD Arena, Charleston, South Carolina
D.J. Newbill may have celebrated a milestone in a memorable way in Penn State’s last game, but his 100th career start turned out to be more bitter than sweet. His Nittany Lions hope to bounce back from a gut-wrenching double-overtime loss Friday when they meet Cornell in a consolation game of the Charleston Classic. Newbill – a former Southern Miss transfer who played in his 67th game with Penn State on Thursday – exploded for a career-high 35 points, but Penn State fell 106-97 to Charlotte.
The Nittany Lions overcame a 17-point deficit with 11:48 left in regulation and had a chance to win it in the first overtime, but Newbill’s drive to the basket with four seconds left and the score tied at 90 was blocked. The Big Red endured much less drama in their 69-45 opening-round loss to South Carolina, shooting a season-low 26.9 percent – including 5-of-20 beyond the arc – while committing a season-high 17 turnovers. Cornell has already matched its win total from last season’s disastrous 2-26 campaign and split 10 all-time meetings with Penn State, although its last victory in the series came in 1972.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN3
ABOUT PENN STATE (2-1): Guard play continued to carry the Nittany Lions, who also received 14 points apiece from backcourt mates Shep Garner and Geno Thorpe as well as a 3-pointer from John Johnson with two seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime. On the season, the quartet has accounted for 68.9 percent of the team’s scoring. While matching his season-point total entering Thursday, Newbill also moved into 19th place in school history with 1,176 career points and needs eight more to match Ron Brown (1972-74) for 18th.
ABOUT CORNELL (2-2): Preseason first-team All-Ivy League selection Shonn Miller, who opened this campaign with back-to-back 20-point games after missing all of last year due to shoulder surgery, was held to single figures for the second straight game following his nine-point effort versus the Gamecocks. With Miller – also the team’s leading rebounder – limited by early foul trouble, the Big Red continued to get pounded on the glass and have surrendered at least 13 offensive rebounds in three of their four games. Cornell has recorded nearly twice as many turnovers (53) as assists (30).
1. The winner will face Akron or Miami (Fla.) in Sunday's championship game.
2. Newbill’s scoring effort was the highest total by a Nittany Lion since Joe Crispin also poured in 35 points against Iowa on Jan. 6, 2001.
3. Cornell already has one more Division I victory than it did all of last season (one).
PREDICTION: Penn State 66, Cornell 52

GAME NOTES: After suffering opening-round losses on Thursday, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Cornell Big Red will meet up in a consolation game of the Charleston Classic at TD Arena on Friday night.
The winner will play in Saturday's fifth-place game against the survivor of USC and Drexel, while the losers will face off for seventh place.
PSU had Charlotte on the ropes in the opening round, overcoming a double-digit second-half deficit to tie the game at the end of regulation, but it ultimately fell in the second overtime by a 106-97 final. The setback spoiled a 2-0 start for the Nittany Lions this season.
Cornell, on the other hand, was thoroughly outmatched in its opening-round contest, as it fell to South Carolina, 69-45. The Big Red are 2-2 on the year, and they have already matched their win total from the entire 2013-14 campaign (2-26)
The two sides have split 10 all-time meetings right down the middle, with Penn State coming out on top most recently during the 2011-12 season, 74-67.
The Nittany Lions appeared down for the count midway through the second half of their contest with Charlotte trailing by 17, but they chipped away at their deficit down the stretch before D.J. Newbill sent the game to overtime with a 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation. After playing to a tie at the end of the first extra session, they were outmatched in the second overtime and ultimately suffered the nine-point setback. They shot only 39 percent from the field while allowing Charlotte to make nearly 50 percent of its shots overall, but they kept themselves in the game by draining 11 3-pointers. Newbill poured in a career-high 35 points, but he needed 33 shots to get there (14-of-33). Brandon Taylor tallied 19 points and nine rebounds, while Shep Garner and Geno Thorpe scored 14 points apiece.
On the season, PSU boasts a +7.7 scoring margin while outscoring its opponents from the floor, 42.6 percent to 37 percent. Newbill's huge game against Charlotte leaves him with 23.3 ppg, while Garner (13.3 ppg) and Taylor (11.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg) are also off to fast starts.
While PSU made its opening-round matchup competitive, Cornell's wasn't much of a contest from the very start, as it went down by 14 at the half and never got to within single digits of the lead in the second stanza. It was plagued by a poor shooting night, as it drained only 26.9 percent of its shots, including 5-of-20 from 3-point range. JoJo Fallas led the way off the bench with 11 points, knocking down all three of his shots from beyond the arc. Galal Cancer was the only other player in double figures with 10 points.
The Big Red's offensive output this season has been lackluster, as they shot only 37.3 percent from the floor for 60.5 ppg, but luckily they hold their opponents to the exact same percentage for 64.3 ppg. Shonn Miller is a mainstay in the paint with 14.3 ppg and 7.8 rpg, although he only shoots 36.4 percent from the floor. Robert Hatter, Devin Cherry and Cancer all score between 11.0 and 12.0 ppg.
Although Cornell's defense might be strong enough to slow down Penn State's top scorers somewhat, the Nittany Lions will still likely have more firepower to down the Big Red.

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