Opponent: Morgan State Bears (Baltimore, MD)
Date / Time: Friday, November 14th - 7 PM Eastern
Location: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA
TV: BTN Plus
After a disappointing 16-18 season, capped off by a 52-54 loss to Siena in the CBI, the Nittany Lions will look to start out the 2014-15 campaign strong against MEAC foe Morgan State. Only one player from the team that played Siena will not be with the team to start this season. That player is point guard Tim Frazier, who had been a starter since his freshman season, and was an All-B1G player in each of his last two seasons. Point Guard DJ Newbill will be the focal point of the offense this season, and he will look to lead his team to another postseason birth.
Getting to Know Morgan State
While there isn't a whole lot of information out there on the Bears, there are a few things that we do know. The Bears finished 15-16 last year, and 11-5 in the MEAC, good enough to tie for third place, and they lost in the MEAC championship game. They are projected to finish 3rd in the MEAC this year, and guard Blake Bozeman is a projected third team All-MEAC player. Bozeman averaged 6.6 PPG last season, and will be leading the backcourt this year. Leading the frontcourt will be 6-6 forward Cedric Blossom who averaged 6.6 PPG last season and 5.3 RPG. Morgan State returns only a quarter of their point production last year, and lost two All-MEAC first teamers. They may put two 7 foot graduate seniors on the floor in an attempt to match up with Penn State's centers. Cal State Bakersfield transfer Zech Smith will match up against Jordan Dickerson for Penn State.
What to Watch For
The biggest storyline in this game will be who plays alongside DJ Newbill at guard. Lockdown defender Geno Thorpe will likely start at shooting guard, but JuCo transfer Devin Foster and Freshman Shep Garner will have their opportunities. From Thorpe, we will be looking for a scoring presence, something he lacked for most of last season. Garner and Foster will both be looking to score. They will also both be trying to prove they can lead the team at the point by trying to get their teammates involved.
Another thing to look for is how Brandon Taylor plays within the offense. Taylor is expected to be the 2nd scorer on the team this year. We will see if he attempts to work inside against a smaller team, or if he will mostly spot up from behind the arc.
The last thing to look for will be how much the two redshirt freshman will play. Coach Chambers has talked up Julian Moore and Payton Banks a lot this offseason (especially Banks). We will get our first chance to see how much playing time they will receive this season and how they fit into the lineup.
Morgan State lost a lot from last year's mediocre team. Penn State hasn't lost an opening game since 2004. Don't expect that to change this season. Expect the Nittany Lions to roll over the Bears from Morgan State. Penn State will get out to an early lead, and Morgan State will struggle to make it close. Penn State will win big, but the score will be closer than the game would indicate.
Penn State 81 - Morgan State 65