Penn State figures to play with plenty of confidence, as the program has won its first three games for the second straight year. To be fair, the Nittany Lions haven't played a team of Kentucky's caliber, as wins over Hartford, Radford and Long Island aren't going to scare the 'Cats. Wednesday' 77-68 decision over Long Island was a bit too close for comfort, and Penn State will certainly need to play much better today to give the Wildcats a run for their money.
Speaking of Kentucky, it is flying high after a 75-65 victory over 12th-ranked Kansas on Tuesday. That win was the second in as many games for the Wildcats, who are serious national title contenders once again despite a couple of key losses from last season's outstanding team. John Calipari's club is expected to win the SEC in 2011-12, but there is tremendous competition in the league's East Division from the likes of Florida and Vanderbilt.
Kentucky owns a 2-1 series lead over Penn State, and the teams haven't met since 2000.
Junior guard Tim Frazier has clearly been the best player on the Penn State roster thus far, as he is averaging 20.7 ppg on the strength of his 51.2 percent shooting from the field and 83.3 percent efficiency from the foul line. Frazier is far more than just a score, as he has already racked up 26 assists to go along with 10 steals and 5.0 rpg. The only other double-digit scorer on the roster is Cammeron Woodyard with 11.0 ppg for the Nittany Lions, who are generating 69.7 ppg. Defensively, they are holding foes to 56.3 ppg on 37.7 percent shooting from the field. In the nine-point win over Long Island last time out, Frazier tallied 26 points and 10 assists, while Woodyard pitched in 13 points. The Nittany Lions finished with 17 assists against only eight turnovers and limited Long Island to 36.2 percent shooting from the field, overshadowing a 27-14 deficit in points from the foul line.
The fact that Kentucky is ranked second nationally despite a starting lineup featuring three freshmen and two sophomores is downright scary, though not at all hard to believe considering Calipari's track record. The Wildcats are racking up 91.5 ppg on 57.1 percent shooting from the field, and they have their two opponents to 61.5 ppg on 32.8 percent field goal efficiency. In the win over Kansas, Kentucky found itself deadlocked at 28-28 at halftime after shooting 38.5 percent from the floor in the opening stanza, including 1-of-6 from three-point range. Over the final 20 minutes, the 'Cats exploded for 64 percent field goal efficiency, including 6-of-9 from three-point range, and limited the Jayhawks to 28.1 percent shooting from the floor. All five starters reached double figures in scoring for Kentucky, and Doron Lamb led the way with 17 points. Star forward Terrence Jones added 15 points, while the rookie trio of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and Marquis Teague showed poise and toughness.