Basketball preview: Ohio State vies for second win over Penn State, which has won four of its last six

Ohio State learned Thursday that beating a team a second time is no easy feat.

The Buckeyes weren’t able to complete their second meeting with Wisconsin in just over a month, but they’ll have the luxury of home-court advantage when they battle for another win over Penn State at noon on Sunday.

WHO OR WHEN TV

Penn State (8-6, 3-3 B1G)

Schottenstein Center

Midday

BTN

Micah Shrewsberry’s first-team Penn State is 8-6 on the year so far and .500 in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions lost to the Buckeyes, 76-64, at home on December 5, but have won four in six games since then. Penn State’s two losses during that streak are nothing to scoff at, one being a road loss to current No. 10 Michigan State and the other just a seven-point loss to No. 1 of the time. 3 Purdue.

Penn State has won three Big Ten teams in this streak, with wins over Indiana, Northwestern and Rutgers all coming since the start of 2022. The Nittany Lions’ Jan. 2 win over the Hoosiers is particularly raising eyebrows the Buckeyes, who were blown out by Trayce Jackson-Davis and company just 10 days ago.

“They’re going to beat you for everything,” Ohio State assistant coach Ryan Pedon said Saturday. “I think they have a real chip on their shoulder, they play like they’re trying to prove something, like they’re a bunch of underdogs. I think that’s the mentality their coach is forming.”

Ohio State has suffered two losses in a week and a half and will look to rebound from Wisconsin’s loss with its second win this season against a Penn State team it is favored to manage at home.

To monitor

Improved 3-point shooting for Ohio State

Ohio State is coming off its worst collective 3-point shooting performance in three years. The Buckeyes knocked down just three of their 19 attempts against Wisconsin, a 15.8% mark that is Ohio State’s worst since March 6, 2019. Ohio State hit four times more 3-pointers in Game 1 against Penn State, and must be more precise beyond the arc to earn another victory over the Nittany Lions.

Home Court Haven

The Buckeyes’ Dec. 5 victory over Penn State may have been their best road performance of the year, but other than that, Ohio State has done much better at home this year. The Buckeyes are still undefeated at Schottenstein Center. After two road losses in the past 10 days, Ohio State should be thrilled to get a two-game home game over the next few days. In losses to Xavier, Indiana and Wisconsin, Ohio State simply watched from the sidelines, while home wins to Duke and Wisconsin brought out the best in the Buckeyes.

New range Nittany Lion

Since losing to the Buckeyes, Penn State has inserted previously injured 6-foot-9 transfer forward Greg Lee into its starting lineup, moving third-leading scorer Sam Sessoms (11.9 ppg) to the bench. Lee, who made stops at Cal State Bakersfield and West Michigan before landing in Happy Valley, is averaging 6.8 points and six boards for the Nittany Lions in five games, and adds size and of length at Penn State’s starting area that he did not have before. Ohio State forward Zed Key said the difference was tangible when studying the film.

“Penn State is a totally different team than when we played them at the start of the year,” Key said. “They play faster, they play harder, they have different plays. They’re a really good team coming in on Sunday to beat us, so we just have to be ready.

Potential for a low point total in Penn State

No Big Ten team has scored fewer points per game than Penn State. The Nittany Lions still won more games than they lost this season, as they also have the third-best defense in the Big Ten (65 points per game), but their 67.2 points per game are the lowest of the league. Penn State has scored more than 69 points only twice in its last 10 games, and the Nittany Lions scored just 64 points in their first meeting with the Buckeyes. If there’s one stat that could undermine that possibility, it’s that Ohio State has allowed an average of 82.5 points per game against its last two opponents.

Three Important Buckeyes

EJ Liddell

It’s been an interesting stretch for Liddell lately. Ohio State’s first two games back from the COVID-19 hiatus were its worst of the season. The following was the most outstanding performance of his career. In Thursday’s loss to Wisconsin, Liddell was barely noticeable on the field in the first half but nearly led the Buckeyes to an unlikely second-half comeback. Ohio State could use a little more consistency from Liddell, although its best performances appear to be coming at home.

Jamari Wheeler

Last time out against his former teammates, Wheeler had a tangible increase in intensity and energy on the court for Ohio State. It resulted in one of the best performances of the start of the season for Wheeler, who finished with nine points, eight assists, five boards and five three steals. Now that he’s gotten even more comfortable with the Buckeyes, look for an even bigger game from the former Nittany Lion.

Kyle Young

Young has performed slightly better since returning from an illness that extended his own mid-year hiatus longer than that of the Buckeyes, and his 10-point effort against Wisconsin was his best in more than a year. month. Ohio State played with Young’s move in the starting lineup — or at least from the second half, in the case of the Wisconsin game — and keeping tabs on his usage will be interesting. Young had 16 points last game against Penn State, so this could be the contest for him to really get back into shape.

Three significant Nittany lions

PROJECTED STARTING ROSTER

Player

Position

Height

Weight

Statistics

MYLES DREAD

g

6-4

235

5.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG

JALEN PICKETT

g

6-4

202

13.4PPG, 4.4APG

SETH LUNDY

F

6-6

217

14.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG

GREG LEE

F

6-9

217

6.8 PPG, 6 RPG

JOHN HARRAR

F

6-9

240

11.1 PPG, 10 RPG

Seth Lundy

Seemingly always set for a big performance against the Buckeyes, Penn State’s leading scorer is averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game so far this season. The 6-foot-6 winger got hot early in the last meeting with Ohio State, but his production dwindled later as the Buckeyes picked up the win. The Buckeyes wings will no doubt know where Lundy is at all times on the floor on Sunday, given his penchant for scoring runs on scarlet and gray.

Jalen Pickett

Despite Lundy’s strong start against the Buckeyes on Dec. 5, it was primary guard Jalen Pickett who really set Ohio State on fire in the last game. Pickett finished with 23 against the Buckeyes, knocking down 6 of 8 shots from inside the 3-point arc, and Siena’s transfer didn’t slow down. Pickett is averaging 16.3 points in the six games since this game and is second to Lundy with a season average of 13.4.

“The ball is much more in his hands than it was in the first game. It’s obvious to me,” Pedon said. “I think he’s a really good decision-maker. He’s an experienced guy, who scored a lot of points in his college career before he came to Penn State. I like his basketball persona; he’s on good things.”

John Harrar

The fifth-year senior forward is one of only two Big Ten players (along with Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn) to average a double-double this season averaging 11.1 points and 10 cards per game . While maintaining a 70% field goal percentage in 14 games, Harrar had 12 and 12 in the last game with the Buckeyes.

How’s it going

Line: Ohio State -8.5, O/U 136.5

Penn State will have more size, length and depth with the addition of Lee, and Pickett’s emergence as even more of a threat over the past seven games has also given the Nittany Lions another dimension. But while the Buckeyes may find themselves in another close game late, I like Ohio State at home, where they played their best ball this season.

Prediction: Ohio State 76, Penn State 69

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