Penn State will try to bounce back from a damaging non-conference loss when it hosts Coppin State - one of the nation’s six winless teams - on Saturday in a final tune-up before returning to Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions will have had more than a week to digest a 71-70 home loss to Rider on a buzzer beater, and they need a complete effort before the schedule begins to intensify.
“I hope this is an incredible lesson for these guys, because they’re in a lot of pain, and that’s a good thing,” coach Patrick Chambers told reporters after the upset. “They need to feel the pain before we head into the Big Ten. We’ve got one more noncon, and we’ve got to take care of that, and then we head into Maryland and Northwestern.” All five Penn State starters scored in double figures in the loss to the Broncs, although the team’s top scorer - sophomore guard Tony Carr - was just 3-of-14 from the floor and finished with 10 points, nearly nine below his average. Senior Shep Garner has been trending in the other direction and he has made 11-of-18 from 3-point range over the last two games, setting a career-high with six makes in the loss to Rider. The Eagles have struggled to break through in a challenging non-conference slate that has featured five losses to major-conference opponents, including a 76-62 setback at Georgia Tech on Wednesday.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network Plus
ABOUT COPPIN STATE (0-14): The Eagles led by three with less than 10 minutes remaining against the Yellow Jackets before a late run by the hosts spoiled their upset bid and a career night for junior forward Cedric Council Jr., who made 5-of-6 from 3-point range en route to a personal-best 17 points. Sophomore Dejuan Clayton is the only player on the team with a scoring average in double figures (10.2), but he has missed eight consecutive games with a knee injury. Coppin State ranks last among 351 Division I teams in shooting (32.8 percent) and 342nd from beyond the arc (28.4).
ABOUT PENN STATE (10-4): Junior guard Josh Reaves stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and five steals in the loss to Rider, and he has scored in double figures in four straight games after three in a row in single digits. “We would have lost by 10 if he wasn’t out there,” Chambers told the media after last week’s loss. “I know he didn’t shoot the 3-ball well and he’s been shooting the 3-ball well all year. ... But to have 13 rebounds, eight assists and five steals, he’s the guy that people need to be talking about a lot more. This is the guy that’s really emerging as a guy setting the table for a lot of his teammates.” Sophomore forward Mike Watkins fell a rebound shy of his fourth straight double-double while recording four blocked shots, his fifth game this season with at least that many rejections.
1. Nittany Lions F Lamar Stevens is averaging 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds over his last three games.
2. Watkins entered Friday ranked second among Big Ten players in field-goal percentage (68.0) and blocks per game (3.5).
3. Penn State won the only prior meeting in 2001.
PREDICTION: Penn State 75, Coppin State 63