When Penn State squares off with Delaware State at the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday, the Nittany Lions will have the opportunity — or burden — to contain another premier scorer in Hornets’ guard Tahj Tate.
Delaware State (5-5) has represented the lack of superiority in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) this year with losses to Illinois State, Farleigh Dickinson, Eastern Kentucky, Navy and Northwestern.
However, the Hornets’ chances to defeat a Big Ten team in the Lions (5-4) aren’t in the sewers considering Tate’s presence and the Lions’ troubles against prolific scorers.
“We got to do a better job containing these guys. We have to look at their strengths and play them to where they can't use their strengths as much,” Lions guard D.J. Newbill said.
Tate, who averages 15.5 points per game this year, was a 2009-10 McDonald’s All American nominee, the 2011-12 MEAC Rookie of the Year and ranked third among Division I freshman scorers last year.
The 6-foot-4 guard has led the Hornets in points and assists this year, and should present a stiff test to the Lions’ backcourt.
However, Tate isn’t the only dynamic guard the Lions have faced this year as the team has squared off with the likes of La Salle’s Tyreek Duren and Army’s Ella Ellis.
Ellis, who scored 37 points against Yale on Nov. 24, has averaged 19.7 points on the season and led all scorers at the BJC on Saturday with 23.
While the Lions pulled out the victory against Army, the team wasn’t as fortunate against La Salle as Duren’s 29 points and four three-pointers helped cause an 82-57 defeat.
“Duren, I’ve loved ever since I watched him play at Neumann Goretti [High School],” coach Patrick Chambers said. “He’s lightning fast. He played terrific, is a heck of a player and is only a junior, which is scary.”
And even though Tate may not be on the same level as Ellis or Duren in terms of average scoring production, the South Carolina native has the ability to go off on any given night.
In fact, Tate should be feeling confident after two straight games with 24-point performances, one of which was in an upset over in-state rival Delaware.
Tate also dropped 23 points against Big Ten foe Northwestern and scored a career-high 29 points against Notre Dame last season.
Regardless of Tate’s scoring abilities, Penn State guard Jermaine Marshall said the team’s mantra of gritty defense will stay focused on everyone on the court, not just one particular scoring threat.
“It's not about one guy we focus on, it's more of team defense,” Marshall said. “We just stick to our principles of playing hard and together, and everything else will take care of itself.”