EDINBORO — The NCAA Division II Fighting Scots are happy. Make that: happy to be traveling to Happy Valley tonight to face the Division I Penn State Nittany Lions in a preseason game.

Not Penn State-Behrend.

Not Penn State-Altoona.

Edinboro is playing Penn State University, the basketball team that’s part of the Big 10, in its final tune-up before the regular season begins next week.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” said Greg Walcavich, now in his 17th year as head coach of the Scots. “I mean, they are the state university in the state and they’re in the Big 10.

“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to go down there and play, and I think our team is looking forward to it.”

Indeed they are.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” said senior forward Joe Cephas. “We’ve been looking forward to it all summer.”

Edinboro is the second Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West team to play Penn State in exhibition this season. The Nittany Lions soundly defeated Lock Haven last week, 89-43.

Edinboro might prove to be more of a challenge to Penn State than Lock Haven, which was selected to finish last in the PSAC in last week’s coaches poll. Edinboro, which returns three starters and eight letterwinners from last year’s squad, was picked to finish third.

“They’re gonna be tough,” Cephas said of the Nittany Lions. “They’re gonna be a tough team, they’re gonna be big, but it’s just gonna be great to play in that kind of environment.

“It’s gonna be a great experience, nothing but a learning experience.”

The big loss Penn State dealt Lock Haven doesn’t have Walcavich worried, and he emphasized that the game is only exhibition and won’t count in either team’s overall record.

“Some of (the players) have already played against (Division I athletes) in the past, and some of them haven’t,” Walcavich said. “Most everybody will handle it pretty well, I think. I don’t anticipate that we’ll be star struck or anything.

“It’s an exhibition game. We would like to play well. If that means we outscore them, that would be wonderful. But if it means we didn’t outscore them (and play well), that’s good.

“If we win, we’re 0-0 when we open (the regular season) next Tuesday. If we lose, next Tuesday when we open, we’re still 0-0.”

Tonight’s game will also shed additional light on how Edinboro will perform without graduated 1,000-point scorers Jakim Donaldson and Rob Sims.

Senior Daren Tielsch, who began his collegiate career as a member of the Nittany Lions, will take over as Edinboro’s main inside scorer. He played in 25 games a season ago, with 19 starts, averaging 13.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Guard Curtis Ingram and forward Justin Moore, both transfers, are also expected to start for the Scots while Torry Mitchell, a senior guard who scored 364 points last season, and Chris Ravello, also a senior guard, are also back.

Penn State, which went 7-23 last season, is young and improving under third-year coach Ed DeChellis.

The Nittany Lions are expected to take the floor tonight with a pair of junior guards, two sophomore forwards and one freshman forward. Sophomore forward Brandon Hassell average 12.7 points per game with 6.3 rebounds last season while junior guard Ben Luber averaged 6.1 points and two rebounds.

The Nittany Lions have Mike Walker, a sophomore guard, as their top player off the bench. Walker averaged 6.3 points with 1.4 rebounds per contest last season. Freshmen forwards Joonas Suotamo and Milos Bogetic, 6-feet-9 and 6-feet-10, respectively, are also expected to see time.

“We’ll have the jitters (tonight),” said Ingram. “You get nervous before every game, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”

Ed Topoleski can be reached at 724-6370, ext. 276 or by e-mail at etopoleski@meadvilletribune.com.

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