Preview: Penn State

No. 2 Notre Dame faces off with No. 2 Penn State in the second game of the NIT Final Four on Tuesday night. The Notre Dame-Penn St. game and the San Diego State-Baylor game before it can be seen on ESPN2 starting at 7 p.m.

Big East vs. Big Ten, Final Four.

But this matchup will not take place at Ford Field over the weekend between Connecticut and Michigan State. Instead, Notre Dame and Penn State will face off in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

The contest between the Irish and the Nittany Lions is scheduled for 9 p.m., following the other semifinal between San Diego State and Baylor.

Both Notre Dame (21-14) and Penn State (25-11) had NCAA Tournament aspirations, but instead had to watch as teams that they beat in their conference made deep runs on CBS.

The Nittany Lions finished tied for fourth in the Big Ten with Ohio State and Wisconsin, behind Michigan State, Illinois and Purdue. All four teams were invited to the NCAA Tournament, as was Michigan, which finished tied for seventh in the league.

Penn State notched victories over the Boilermakers, Wolverines and beat the Illini twice, including an ugly 38-33 win in Champaign. The Nittany Lions' best victory of the season came on Feb. 1 when they went to East Lansing and beat the Spartans 72-68.

Michigan State went on to win 15 of its next 17 games, including four in the NCAA Tournament on its way to this weekend's Final Four. Meanwhile, Penn State dropped its next three games to Michigan, Wisconsin and Purdue, giving its conference foes the upper hand when it came to Selection Sunday.

The Nittany Lions were able to rebound by winning four of their final six regular season games before beating Iowa and losing to the Boilermakers again in the conference tournament.

Like the Irish, Penn State was selected as a No. 2 in the NIT and reached New York with a 77-73 overtime win over George Mason at home, an 83-72 home victory over Rhode Island before knocking off top-seeded Florida 71-62 in Gainesville.

The Nittany Lions are led by sophomore guard Talor Battle, who averages 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists. Senior forward Jamelle Cornley is scoring 14.2 points and pulling down 6.3 boards while senior guard Stanley Pringle is averaging 12.9 points.

But for the most part, it has been a three-man show for Penn State this year. The Nittany Lions do not have another player averaging six points. The Nittany Lions are shooting 44.3% from the field, better than Notre Dame's 43.6%, but they are netting just 36.7% of their three-pointers, while the Irish make 39.9% of theirs.

Notre Dame shoots 70.7% from the free throw line while Penn State is just 66.0% and the Irish could have an advantage on the backboard as they pull down 39.0 boards against Penn State's 33.6 average.

The Nittany Lions rely on their guard play and have only two contributors taller than 6-6 in sophomore forwards Jeff Brooks (6-8) and Andrew Jones III (6-9).

"We play a heck of a team in Penn State," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said at the NIT press conference on Monday. "Great guards, well coached, a confident team. To win at Michigan State, to win at Florida. We have our work cut out for us."

Despite being guard-orientated, the Nittany Lions do not play as much up-and-down, run-and-gun as the Irish. Penn State is scoring just 66.9 points a game, almost 10 points lower than Notre Dame's 76.2 average.

It will be interesting to see how Penn State tries to handle Luke Harangody early on. It would seem that if Notre Dame is able to get its outside game going and then work it inside that the Irish could be looking at a Thursday evening game for a national title.


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