Penn State (6-2, 0-0) at Pittsburgh (7-0, 0-0)
7:30 PM EST
Line: Pittsburgh -14
Series Record: Penn State 74-70
Last Meeting: Pittsburgh 91-54 (2005)
The Nittany Lions turned some heads last week as they went into the Barclays Center Classic and upset St. Johns in overtime, advancing to face Ole Miss in the classic's title game. Even though Ole Miss started off hot and were hitting absolutely everything from outside, Penn State held pace the entire first half and even took the lead in the second half before eventually losing a close one. The teams performance was definitely a step up from some of their earlier performances and could be used to help build confidence as Penn State sets to play at Pitt in the 145th matchup in the series.
While the game will be Penn State's 13th Big Ten / ACC Challenge appearance (5-7 record), it'll be the first time Pittsburgh plays in the challenge as they just joined the ACC this year after being a member of the Big East. The reality is this game likely was the result of pairing up the two in-state rivals to create an exciting matchup and hopefully we will be treated to a more exciting game than the last time these two teams played back in 2005 (Pitt won by 37 points).
Penn State's backcourt is deadly, everyone knows this. The biggest question mark was if Tim Frazier was fully healthy and if Frazier and D.J. Newbill could co-exist effectively as both play a similar style. So far it's pretty apparent that Frazier is healthy and back to normal, while the duo has looked impressive working together. What's more surprising is the role of Penn State's frontcourt. Led by Ross Travis and Brandon Taylor, the frontcourt has looked surprisingly impressive and if Penn State can keep the production down low at a similar level then this team could be considerably more competitive than anticipated. Of course the team has little depth and next to no bench production, but the starting lineup has looked good so far.
They'll face their biggest test on the road against an undefeated Pitt team looking to pick up a win in the their first Big Ten / ACC Challenge. The Panthers are coming off of a solid week that saw them take care of Texas Tech, Stanford and Duquesne. If Penn State wants to have a chance to win they'll need to slow down Lamar Patterson, Pitt's leading scorer with 17.1 points per game. The wing is deadly from all over, shooting 50% from the field, 44.1% from three and 81.8% from the charity stripe.
Both Frazier and Newbill have been hot and Penn State will need another strong night from their backcourt if they want to win here. If the guards can keep trucking and if the frontcourt keeps playing effectively, Penn State should be able to compete here. It still looks like Patterson and the Panthers have enough talent and depth to pull this one out, but it should be a closer game than expected a week or two ago.
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