Expect to see … Penn State edition
The Spartans square off with the team at the bottom of the Big Ten tonight: Penn State. It’s the only meeting of the season between the teams, and they split in two meetings last season.
1. Beware the bottom-dweller
Penn State is 2-9 in the Big Ten, sitting in the cellar of the conference. They did beat Purdue and Illinois, while coming close to upsetting Indiana. MSU has lost to Penn State twice in the past three seasons (including one at Breslin), and following an emotional rivalry win against Michigan on Sunday, the Spartans should be on high alert.
Factor in the upcoming meeting with Ohio State, and it’s the epitome of a trap game.
2. Protect the homecourt
The Izzone was rocking Sunday against Michigan — easily the loudest it has been this season and probably in the past couple years. Just as the risk of an emotional letdown exists for those on the court, it exists for those in the stands.
Penn State has just one road win (Boston College), and the Spartans have not lost on their home court this year, and it has rarely been close — it should stay that way.
3. Stop Frazier
What Penn State tries to do isn’t complicated … it’s all about Tim Frazier. The Big Ten’s leading scorer (18.3 ppg) averages almost 37 minutes per game, and takes about 15 shots per game. This season, he has taken almost a quarter of Penn State’s shot (29 percent in fact).
Get the picture? Frazier is another version of Talor Battle — a guard who used to torch MSU — but not nearly as talented. He scores a lot because he shoots a lot (Editor’s Note: Black Shoes Diaries has a good feature on this). His 3-point percentage is 28.8 and he will miss plenty, which leads to the next point.
4. Clean up the glass — second-chance points
This will appear in every single preview of a Michigan State game this season, because when they rebound, they almost always win. And with a team like Penn State, who are the worst shooting team in the conference, there are plenty of opportunities for the Nittany Lions to get offensive rebounds. MSU must clean up those misses.
Penn State also ranks first in defensive rebounding percentage, so the battle for offensive rebounds will be huge at both ends.
5. Get Appling going aggressively and Payne playing physically
Appling has been struggling a bit lately — he is 1-of-15 on 3-pointers and just 17-of-53 from the field in the past six games. He also has a 21-to-19 assist-to-turnover ratio in those games.
Appling’s offense needs to be more consistent, and his defense remains huge in this one for MSU against Frazier.
Payne looked outmatched by a smaller Jordan Morgan against Michigan. He had four points and just one rebound, while appearing frustrated and out of it many times.
Payne is freaky big and freaky athletic — and he needs to start playing like he can. He cannot get pushed around so easily by a smaller player, and needs to use his size to his advantage more.
The two sophomores are key to the continued success of the Spartans this season, and for these two a good game is incredibly important to give them some momentum going into the Ohio State game.
This matchup really is not close. Not only is Penn State among the worst — if not the worst — in the Big Ten, they don’t have the size, overall talent or individual talent to match up. But these are the exact reasons to not look past Penn State to Ohio State. It’s moments like these when good teams lose to worse teams.
Tom Izzo should have the team focused, Draymond Green and Branden Dawson will go for double-doubles to lead Michigan State.
MSU will win 74-51.