A very big must-win for the Nittany Lions coming up tomorrow. They’ll be going on the road into the Thrillerdome for a nationally televised tilt. The game’s obviously apart of the Big Ten/ACC challenge and will be broadcasted at 7:30 PM on the Deuce, otherwise known as ESPN2.
Results thus far
- Winston-Salem State – W 92-47
- @ Mercer – W 82-76 OT
- Arkansas Pine-Bluff – W 74-47
- Jacksonville – W 79-76
- PG – Moe Miller
- SG – Iman Shumpert
- SF – Gani Lawal
- PF – Zach Peacock
- C – Alade Aminu
Georgia Tech is coming into the game under-manned. Senior guard DeAndre Bell unfortunately is out for the year, discovering he has spinal stenosis. Also, fellow senior guard Lewis Clinch is academically ineligible for this semester, so he will not play as well (thank goodness, he dropped 4 threes and 20 points against us 2 years ago). Their backcourt is a little thin at the moment. It’s led by sophomore point Maurice Morris (6-1 181). He was Tech’s primary point man at the end of the year last season, in his true freshmen season. He averaged 20 MPG last season while putting up 8.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, and 3.3 APG. This season he’s only played 3 games, suffering a mild concussion against Mercer and missing a game. He has yet to hit a three this season (0-13) and is shooting 52.2% from the charity stripe (12-23). I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s gotten off to a rough start because I don’t how you can be an ACC starting point guard with shooting percentages like that. Hopefully he doesn’t have a breakout game tomorrow. Joining him in the backcourt at the 2 is freshmen stud Iman Shumpert (6-4 185). He’s averaged 11 PPG so far with 5 RPG and 4.5 APG. He hasn’t shot well either, only 3-11 from behind the arc and 62% from the foul line. We’re his first high D-1 opponent in his career. He has turned the ball over 14 times already, so hopefully that high number continues. Backing them up is sophomore Lance Storrs. He didn’t play much his freshmen year and is seeing a lot of action so far this season due to the short bench. He’s shown an ability to hit the trey, making 5-10 on the season. Freshmen walk-on Nick Foreman (6-3 185) has seen a lot of time as well, but who knows how much he’ll play against a good team.
Georgia Tech’s frontcourt, led by projected NBA lottery pick, sophomore Gani Lawal (6-8 220), is downright scary. At least compared to PSU’s. Lawal only has one weakness in his game – the foul line. He’s only made 15 of 35 free throws so far this season. However, he’s averaging 19.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG and 1.3 BPG. Unfortunately, PSU doesn’t have the frontcourt depth to just keep hacking him. Joining him in the starting lineup are two upperclassmen, junior Zack Peacock (6-8 240) and senior Alade Aminu (6-10 225). Peacock was expected to be a breakout candidate in hoops this year. He started a few games as a true freshmen, but came off the bench all of last year. Despite averaging just 20 minutes, he put up 9.9 PPG and 4.3 RPG. It remains to be seen whether Peacock really will be the go-to guy for this Tech squad, or if Lawal has already stole that role from him. So far Peacock has put up 12 PPG and 4 RPG. Alade Aminu finally steps into the starting role for the Yellow Jackets this season and he’s off to a great start. He’s shooting 62% from the field and averaging 15 PPG and 8 RPG. 7 foot sophomore Brad Sheehan is the primary reserve off the bench.
Georgia Tech under coach Hewitt has always played fast. They like to make it a fullcourt game and get out and run. They have some serious athleticism in the frontcourt. While I’m sure they’ll exploit our weak frontcourt, I feel semi-confident with our guys. Yea, they’re undersized and they haven’t come close to reaching their potential, but I feel that Andrew Jones, Jeff Brooks, DJ Jackson, and Jamelle Cornley can run with these guys. They have the athleticism to not get run off the court, unlike some other recent PSU frontcourts. We know what Jamelle and DJ give us. But this will be a tremendous test for Jones and Brooks. They have got to step up tomorrow, especially defensively. We cannot afford to let them get into foul trouble. They’ll probably have the biggest impact on whether or not we can win the game. I’m interested to see how we defend these guys. We’ve played man all year, but against our one true opponent (URI), we were forced to play some 2-3 zone due to their athleticism. One would think GT is more athletic than URI. I think David Jackson can matchup with Lawal. Yea, he’s going to get his points, but I think DJ can prevent him from dominating. Jamelle would probably matchup with Peacock again (they faced off in the 2006 game). Can Andrew Jones stay on the floor and d-up Aminu? I bet Ed will give him the chance, but I won’t be surprised if he quickly pulls the plug and goes to a 2-3 zone. Force them to have to take some jumpshots.
PSU’s interior defense has to give the PSU backcourt a chance to win the game. We have a significant edge against their young, thin backcourt. It all starts with Battle, as usual. Moe Miller doesn’t scare him. Battle should be able to penetrate often and get the offense going. Also, Shumpert is obviously a hell of an athlete, but there’s no way he has ever had to guard in his life the speed and quickness Stanley Pringle will bring on Wednesday. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Shumpert pick up a few handcheck fouls trying to keep up.
The bottomline is we’ve had to rely on a 3 guard lineup of Battle, Pringle, Morrissey, DJ, and Jamelle a lot this season because of Jones’ and Brooks’ lack of production. That lineup will get destroyed against this big GT lineup. Someone, either Brooks or Jones HAS to be able to compete. I can’t stress it enough. Neither team is really that deep, so it’ll get very interesting if the refs are whistle-happy, especially considering both teams’ inability to make foul shots (GT = 58.2%, PSU = 65.8%).
Injury Note: It was said on the radio broadcast of one of the Philly Classic games that Billy Oliver was expected to be able to practice again early this week. That could mean he will be available for the first time all season tomorrow night. He could give us another 6-8 body and some fouls, if nothing else. But I doubt he plays unless we have some serious foul trouble.
Prediction: GT is relying on their frontcourt, PSU is relying on their backcourt. GT will get high-percentage shots, PSU probably won’t. If PSU gets hot from the perimeter, they can definitely steal this one. But I’m not going to pick PSU hoping that they make 12 threes. Oh, and this game is on the road, too. I don’t think Brooks or Jones are ready for this challenge. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I gotta take Georgia Tech by 9. ACC wins 6-5, yet again.
EDIT: Jeff Rice of the Centre Daily Times echoed my thoughts on Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones in his article today, found here.