Penn State: Winter Sports Watch
While everyone in Happy Valley is hopeful that the Penn State Nittany Lions will be playing important football games in December and January this winter, there will also lots of exciting action on the hardwood, on the ice and on the mats.
Here is a look at some of the best teams, games and players to watch this winter in State College:
There are few, if any, teams in recent memory as dominant as the Penn State wrestling program. The Nittany Lions have won seven of the last eight NCAA titles and have a 45-match winning streak and are poised to make a run at another title. In the long, proud history of Penn State wrestling, there have been two wrestlers who have won three individual national championships. This season, Penn State has three separate star wrestlers looking to claim their third straight individual titles.
Two-time national champ at 184 pounds Bo Nickal, who pinned Ohio State’s Myles Martin to clinch the team title for the Nittany Lions last year, is moving up to 197 pounds. While both Jason Nolf (157) and Vincenzo Joseph (165) will look to win their third national championship each.
Since Olympic Gold Medalist Cael Sanderson took the program over in 2011, the Nittany Lions have been dominant and will look to continue that this season. The Nittany Lions open their season on November 11 at Rec Hall against the Kent State Golden Flashes. The biggest home meet of the year is when the Michigan Wolverines come to the Bryce Jordan Center the first weekend in February.
Penn State wrestling may be the hottest ticket in town, so if you’re interested in experiencing one of the best atmospheres in all of college sports, make sure to look into season tickets now!
Can’t Miss Match: 2019 BJC Dual: PSU vs. Michigan, weekend of February 1 at the Bryce Jordan Center (The date and time of the dual will be announced at a later date per the Big Ten.)
The Penn State Nittany Lions basketball team is building in the right direction under Coach Pat Chambers. Last season, the Nittany Lions posted an impressive 26-13 record en route to the NIT Championship. Most impressive, the Nittany Lions ended with a .500 conference record for the first time since the 2010-11 season – and only the fourth time in the past 21 seasons.
In order to take the next step and earn an invitation to the Big Dance – the NCAA Tournament – the Nittany Lions will have to replace last year’s star point guard, Tony Carr, who was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans with the 51st overall pick. As a sophomore last year, Carr filled the state sheet and averaged 19.6 points (second-most in the Big Ten), 5.0 assists and 4.9 rebounds.
The Nittany Lions are not short on returning talent though. The biggest piece coming back is junior forward Lamar Stevens who won the NIT Most Outstanding Player and averaged over 19 points per game in the five tournament games. Penn State will also get back forward Mike Watkins who missed all of Penn State’s tournament games last season with a knee injury. Watkins a 6’9” junior was named honorable mention all-conference last year.
This year, the Big Ten Conference moved to a 20 conference game schedule – meaning ten huge conference games will be held in State College. The first conference game at the Bryce Jordan Center may be the most intriguing – when the Indiana Hoosiers and freshman superstar Romeo Langford come to Happy Valley on December 4. Langford, who averaged over 35 points per game as a high school senior, is almost sure to be headed to the NBA next season but is the kind of playmaker that can take a team to the top. The Nittany Lions will also welcome perennial powerhouse Michigan State to the BJC on January 13.
The Nittany Lions are expecting big things on the court this year and hope to make a run at the Big Ten championship and the Big Ten Tournament, which will be held from March 13-17 in Chicago.
Can’t Miss Game: PSU vs. Michigan State, Sunday, January 13. The Spartans have stars every year and always seem to make a run in the NCAA tournament under coach Tom Izzo. Last season, the Nittany Lions came up just short against the #5 ranked Spartans in East Lansing.
For 20 home games at the Pegula Ice Center, Happy Valley will again transform into Hockey Valley. After a second-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, head coach Guy Gadowsky and the Penn State men's ice hockey are ready to make a run toward the Frozen Four. Last season, the Big Ten sent three teams to the Frozen Four and if Penn State can get rolling, their talented roster can make a serious push to get to the Frozen Four at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, NY in April.
This season, the Nittany Lions will be led by team captain Chase Berger and alternates Kevin Kerr and Brandon Biro. Berger, a senior forward, has not missed a game since arriving in State College in 2015 and is currently third on the all-time scoring list with 89 career points.
For local hockey fans looking to see the Nittany Lions on the road, Penn State will again play on some bigtime rinks – at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia against Princeton on October 26 and at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, on January 26 against Big Ten rival Michigan.
Can’t Miss Games: PSU vs. Norte Dame, Friday, December 7 and Saturday, December 8. The Fighting Irish had an unbelievable season last year that ended in a 2-1 loss in the National Championship game. Last season, the Nittany Lions were winless in four tries against the Fighting Irish so are looking for revenge.
Lady Lions Basketball
After struggling through the tough Big Ten Conference last season with an incredibly young team – one without a single senior on the roster – the Lady Lions are poised to bounce back in a big way for the 2018-19 season. The Lady Lions, who won 11 of 15 home games last season, have the luxury of playing 18 games in the comfort of the Bryce Jordan Center where they have gone 27-6 over the past two seasons. The season starts with 10 straight games in Happy Valley and if the Lady Lions get rolling early, there is no telling how far this team can go.
The benefits of last season’s young team is that now the Lady Lions return a team of veterans this season for head coach Coquese Washington’s 12th season. The Lady Lions return their top two scorers from last season – guards Amari Carter and Teniya Page. Page is one of five Lady Lions in program history with 1,500 career points and 300 career assists and needs only 411 points to hit the 2,000 point mark.
The Lady Lions season gets underway on Thursday, November 8 against Providence but the season really picks up when Maryland comes to town on December 28 for the Lady Lions first conference game of the season.
Can’t Miss Game: PSU vs. Ohio State, Thursday, January 17. The Buckeyes had an impressive 28-7 record last year before being upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes beat Penn State twice by an average of 27 points last year, so if the Lady Lions want to turn take the program up a notch; there is no bigger game than Ohio State.