Notre Dame basketball will face off against Penn State in the second-round of the NIT
The first round of the NIT was not much of a challenge for the Notre Dame basketball team. A blowout of Hampton eliminated the question of whether or not the Irish would be motivated enough. That motivation was never in question as the Irish dominated.
The second round of the tournament might not be such a breeze. Notre Dame will face Penn State next, following their 63-57 win over Temple. This will be a little bit of a different match up against some better competition to challenge the Irish.
Be that as it may, the Irish are the No. 1 seed and the favorite in this one. They’ll look to avoid an upset Saturday at the Joyce Center.
Here are the keys for Notre Dame to advance to the third round of the NIT.
Dominate the paint
We saw it in the first round against Hampton. Notre Dame wanted to get to the paint early and often. Why wouldn’t you when Bonzie Colson is 100-percent back?
It didn’t have to be just Colson scoring in the paint. He actually started out a little slow in the points column. While the senior was making up for it by dominating the boards, Martinas Geben was the big man getting it done. But even he didn’t do it alone. Notre Dame’s guards got in on the action as well.
Temple Gibbs might have hit some big threes, but he did most of his damage driving to the paint. Whether it was a midrange pull-up or a finish at the basket, Gibbs made his presence known.
Of course, that was against an undersized Hampton team. Penn State will likely be a little undersized as well.
The Nittany Lions have been without their big man Mike Watkins and it’s likely that he will not play during the NIT. Before injuring his right knee during a home loss to Michigan on Feb. 21st, Watkins was a force down low.
He’s the team’s leading rebounder with 8.9 rebounds and 12.1 points per game. With him likely being out, this opens up the possibility for Notre Dame to do some of the same things they did against Hampton.
Sometimes your offense can be your best defense. That’s what it will take for Notre Dame against Penn State.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Basketball
It’s not that Notre Dame can’t handle Penn State defensively, it’s that Penn State seems to find different ways to win — or at least stay in games. Their last time out against Temple is a perfect example of that.
The first half wasn’t anything to be proud of for the Nittany Lions. Fortunately for them, Temple didn’t play a great game either. Overall it was an ugly display of basketball. But Penn State still found a way to get it done.
With only 12-points in each of the first two quarters, it was clear that the offense wasn’t there for the Nittany Lions. Second half adjustments were key after scoring just 24-points in the first half. Penn State answered with a 20-point third quarter.
It wasn’t just about getting the offense to start clicking, as there was more adversity that Penn State had to overcome.
Tony Carr, the leading scorer for Penn State, went 1-of-12 from the field. Despite averaging 19.4 points per game on the season, he was only able to produce two points in the first round of the NIT.
He wasn’t the only one who struggled.
Three Nittany Lions starters only hit one field goal the entire game. A fourth starter only hit two.
Penn State doesn’t have to rely on Carr for all of its offensive production. Four other players scored double-digit points, led by Josh Reaves with his 19 points and 11-rebounds.
It doesn’t matter what adversity Penn State faces. They will make the most out of anything you give them. Notre Dame’s goal has to be to not give them that chance to fight back. Hit them in the mouth from the start and be efficient enough that the Nittany Lions can’t make up the difference.