Penn State will get its final chance to pick up a quality win in the non-conference portion of its schedule on Sunday evening when it hosts Mississippi for a 6:00 p.m. tipoff at the Bryce Jordan Center.
All six of Penn State's wins have come against teams currently ranked outside the top 100 in the RPI according to RealTimeRPI.com. The Nittany Lions have already missed out on picking up wins against No. 8 Kentucky and No. 34 St. Joseph's, so No. 18 Mississippi represents their last shot to get on the board with a real resume-strengthening win as their four remaining opponents, Lafayette, Duquesne, Mount St. Mary's and Cornell, all currently sit on the outside of the top 100.
At 6-1, the Rebels are dangerous. Though they were beaten convincingly by Marquette on Nov. 20, a win at home against Miami and a road victrzory at DePaul have them back on the winning track and more than capable of handling a young Penn State team still searching for its sea legs against power conference-level competition.
Here are some things to watch for in the game.
When Penn State has the ball...
-Jermaine Marshall came up huge in Penn State's win at Boston College last week, posting a career-high 22 points while grabbing eight rebounds. If he can offer that kind of help to Tim Frazier at the offensive end again, Penn State will have a solid chance to win on its home floor.
-Trey Lewis hasn't quite been in same in playing four of the last five games away from the Jordan Center. The team's second-leading scorer has contributed more than five points just once in that span, and that effort came at home against Youngstown State on Nov. 23. It'll be interesting to see if he can bounce back in a return to his comfort zone.
-Frazier turned the ball over seven times against the Eagles last Wednesday. If he does that against a capable Ole Miss team, that could be a big problem for the Lions, so it will be crucial for him to take better care of the basketball in the offensive end.
When Mississippi has the ball...
-On the other side of the turnover coin, Penn State forced 18 against Boston College and picked up a bunch of extra opportunities as a result. Keeping up the pressure against the Rebels would be very helpful for the Lions' chances.
-Five Rebels average 9.0 or more points per game, so a balanced effort defensively for Penn State will be key. There are players that can hurt the Lions at all spots on the floor, so allowing one too much space could be disastrous.
-Penn State has had a lot of success on the boards this season, but the Rebels have had even more as they're ranked No. 24 in the nation in rebounding. Penn State's forwards will need to step up on the glass on both ends, but especially defensively to ensure Ole Miss doesn't get a deadly amount of second-chance points.