Preview: Men’s basketball vs. Penn State

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Then-junior guard Joe McDonald makes a move in GW's road loss to Penn State last year. The Nittany Lions come to Foggy Bottom Tuesday to close out a home-and-home agreement.

What: Men’s basketball (7-1) vs. Penn State (5-2)
Where: Smith Center, TV: CSN and SNY
When: Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.

The Colonials are on a mini revenge tour. Last year, GW dropped three of the four home-and-home series the team began on the road, losing to Virginia, Seton Hall and Penn State. So far, they’ve gotten back at the Cavaliers and the Pirates this year at home, and the Nittany Lions come next to the Smith Center on Tuesday night.

The Colonials will be looking to continue a new winning streak after a bounce-back performance against Seton Hall last Wednesday, which followed the team’s first loss of the season to then-No. 24 Cincinnati. The team will also be looking for a resurgent performance from senior forward Kevin Larsen, who has scored two points or fewer in two straight games, beginning with the Cincinnati game.

Here’s what to expect from the game:

Case for the Colonials: Penn State enters the game on a three-game winning streak, but, at GW, will get its toughest competition of the season. The strongest opponents the Nittany Lions have faced to date are Duquesne on the road, which Penn State lost 78‒52, and DePaul at home, which the team won 68‒62.

The Nittany Lions have not shot the ball well this season. They average 39.5 percent shooting from the field and 34.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Though Penn State has three players averaging more than 10 points per game in forward Brandon Taylor, guard Shep Garner and forward Payton Banks, no others on the team’s roster are averaging more than six.

Taylor and Banks, both of whom are listed as 6 feet 6 inches, will be an undersized duo facing off against GW forwards Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh, though, and if the GW bigs avoid foul trouble and play hard on defense they could get swallowed up.

A player like Cavanaugh would have gone a long way for the Colonials last season in their loss in Happy Valley, in which then-senior John Kopriva got swallowed up down low and only added one rebound to complement Larsen’s 13. The Colonials were outrebounded 40‒35 in that game, but with Cavanaugh averaging 7.8 boards per game so far this season that seems unlikely to happen again.

Penn State has also given up 78 and 86 points in its two losses, when opponents have run up the score via the three-pointer. GW has the personnel to light things up from beyond the arc and could take advantage of Penn State’s poor three-point defense.

Case for the Nittany Lions: GW looks like the favorite in this game, but that was the case last year when the Colonials lost on the road.

In that loss, the Colonials came out looking lethargic and couldn’t get anything going for anyone besides Larsen and then-junior Patricio Garino. It’s getting to the point in the season when the grind sets in, and the Nittany Lions do get a higher percentage of their minutes, 31.4 percent to GW’s 26.5 percent, from their bench than the Colonials.

Six-foot-10-inch sophomore forward Julian Moore has started four games and come off the bench in three, with 7-foot-1-inch senior center Jordan Dickerson starting in his place in those contests. Both bring height and more, as Dickerson leads the team with 10 blocks per game and Moore leads the team with 2.4 offensive rebounds per game in just 16.1 minutes per game.

Penn State also is safe with the ball, turning it over just 10.4 times per game, on 15.7 percent of possessions.

Bottom line: Penn State has plenty of talent, but GW has beaten better teams this year. It would probably take a big performance from three-point range for GW to win big, and if Larsen has another quiet game this could be a nail-biter, but the Nittany Lions’ inefficient offense should have trouble against a good Colonials defense.

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