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Penn State Basketball

5 Things to Know Before Penn State Takes on Minnesota

Penn State athletics

Penn State basketball’s had an up-and-down first season under coach Mike Rhoades. The team (9-10, 3-5 Big Ten) has a chance to get back to .500 against Minnesota (12-7, 3-5) Saturday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Here are five things to know.

IF PENN STATE STARTS ITSELF UP…

The way Penn State’s played in the first half of its Big Ten games is reminisicent of a Coney Island rollercoaster.

There have been times– such as last Tuesday’s win over then-No. 11 Wisconsin, when Penn State got out to a 29-17 lead– where Penn State’s started strong. 

Then there have been times– such as Saturday’s loss to Ohio State, when Penn State fell behind 16-0– where the team, uh, hasn’t started strong.

“We’re putting ourselves in such a hole,” Rhoades told reporters at his press conference Thrusday in the Bryce Jordan Center, “and if you take that run away early in the game, after that, we’re battling. But we’re such in a hole, it just puts you at a deficit, as I told our guys, that it’s hard to come back from.”

The good news for Penn State is that the team’s back at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend, where it’s better overall. Penn State’s 9-2 at home overall, and will look for win No. 10 Saturday.

FOR 3…..

There weren’t a ton of positive to come from Saturday’s 79-67 loss in Columbus. The two main ones were that Penn State didn’t get absolutely embarssed after falling behind 16-0 and that the team shot well from beyond the arc. Penn State shot a solid 11-for-24 from 3, good for almost 46 percent, and 6-for-11 in the second half. For the season, the team’s shooting just about 31 percent, so that’s a hefty improvement. Minnesota ranks just 151st in the country in 3-point defense, which doesn’t knock anybody’s socks off from a literal standpoint and probably doesn’t figurtivley, either. 

“It’s better,” Rhoades said. “That’s for sure. Statiscially and guys making shots and bigger shots. Sometimes, when you see a couple of guys make them, it becomes a snowball effect and gives you confidence. So I thought at the Ohio State game, that second half, we really got each other 3s and guys kocked them down. It gives you confidence, and now, we have to be consistent with it. We’re getting open 3s. We have the right guys shooting them. We have to shoot the ball like we did in the second half there and some other games. But it just helps us.”

If Penn State can build off what it did in Columbous, that could go a long way toward getting back to .500 overall. 

DAWSON’S CREEK

To our knowledge, Dawson Garcia doesn’t own a creek. But he’s capable of owning a basketball game. The 6-foot-11, 230-pounder has become one of the Big Ten’s best players, averaging 17.3 points– good for eigth in the conference– and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

Rhoades said Garcia presents a “big challenge.”

“He’s a guy that can hit 3s (career 33.3 percent 3-point shooter),” Rhoades said. “He’s a guy that can attack you in different isolations all over the court, and, of course, down on the block, he draws a lot of fouls. He finishes in different ways. So, we’ll have our hands full.”

Rhoades said Penn State has to guard Garcia “by committie,” which could mean that the 6-foot-7 Leo O’Boyle will get some time matched up with him. 

Rhoades said Garcia is a player that could “single-handly beat you” offensivley, but Penn State has to make him “play on the other end, as well.”

“He’s a super talented player,” Rhoades said, “and I think Minnesota’s had success because he’s had success. So we just have to make it really hard for him. Shutting him out is probably going to be really, really hard. But, man, if he gets anything, you have to make him earn it.”

In Minnesota’s Big Ten opener at Ohio State in early December, Garcia scored 36 points and added 10 rebounds for an emphatic double-double. Yet the team lost by 10. Earlier this month, Garcia torched Iowa for 30 points, yet Minnesota allowed 86 and lost by nine. If Penn State can control Garcia, it’s chances to win will drastically increase. 

PENN STATE KNOWS THON IS BIGGER THAN BASKETBALL

This will be Penn State’s annual “THON Game” at the Bryce Jordan Center. For Rhoades, it will be his first one as Penn State’s head coach, and most of his players– all but four either came in through the transfer portal or are true freshmen– are in a similar situation.

The biggest message I want our players to get out of it is to pay forward, that mentality,” Rhoades said. “That’s been a Penn State thing and a THON thing for a long time where there’s over $200 million in all these years for pediatric cancer. Like, think about that. And how many people have been involved in that over all the years, all the Penn State people. So our team and our staff and myself can now be a part of that. It’s an honor. Unfortunately, cancer, if it already hasn’t struck us, each of us individually, it will in your family members, friends, loved ones, whatever. So we all should be a part of that and helping. In my family growing up, it was always about pay it forward. Take care of those around you, help everybody around you, things come back to you tenfold in different ways.”

HOW TO WATCH 

For Penn State fans who won’t be at the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday night, here’s more information on how to watch and listen to the game.

Time: 6:30

TV: Big Ten Network

Announcers: Mike Hall (PXP), Dane Fife (color)

Radio: Penn State Sports Network

Radio Announcers: Steve Jones (PXP), Dick Jerardi (color)

SiriusXM: CH. 384, 974 (App)

 

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