|#2 Ohio State 17-0, 4-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule||January 15, 2011 5:30 PM ET - BTN —— The Schott Columbus, OH||Penn State 10-6, 3-2 Big Ten Roster | Schedule|
Coming off a close win in Ann Arbor for Hokeapalooza, the third-straight conference game that played out closer than the early season romps Buckeye fans had grown accustomed to, Thad Matta's crew welcomes perennial conference doormat Penn State this evening, looking to add a 14th-straight victory over the Nittany Lions.
With Duke losing at Florida State Wednesday night, OSU has a chance to claim the top spot in the next batch of polls with a win, but Ed DeChellis' team enters on a bit of a streak having knocked off #19 Michigan State and #16 Illinois in the two games leading up to tonight's contest. Saturday against the Spartans, Penn State rode strong defense and won the rebounding battle, while seeing three players not named "Talor Battle" go for double figures, while it was pretty much all Battle, including this 38-foot bomb on his way to 26 points in the upset over the Illini.
The wins marked the first time the Lions had beaten ranked opponents in back-to-back games since a Final Four run in 1954 which is in sharp contrast with the effort put forth earlier in the season. That effort, or lack thereof, was on display in an embarrassing home beat-down at the hands of Maryland and an "upset" loss to Maine which saw the Black Bears put up 43 second half points on Penn State.
|44||William Buford||13.7||4.4||3.6||G||12||Talor Battle||20.9||4.9||3.2|
|33||Jon Diebler||12.1||1.8||2.5||G||23||Tim Frazier||3.8||3.3||4.5|
|23||David Lighty||13.1||3.9||3.7||F||15||David Jackson||10.6||4.7||0.6|
|0||Jared Sullinger||17.5||10.1||1.2||F||25||Jeff Brooks||13.3||8.2||1.8|
|52||Dallas Lauderdale||4.8||4.6||0.2||C||22||Andrew Jones||6.3||5.6||0.7|
Though it doesn't often seem like it, the Nittany Lions have other players besides Battle, the league's leading scorer. Senior forward Jeff Brooks is the team's best rebounder and is averaging nearly a double-double and at 6-8, has the size to pose matchup problems. Forward David Jackson (6-7/210) and center Andrew Jones (6-10/245), both seniors as well, receive about 30 minutes, while sophomore guard Tim Frazier (6-1/160) is the distributor, but isn't much of a threat to pile up points as he's yet to crack double digits this season.
While the supporting cast has stepped up at times, everything still goes through the dynamic Battle. A two-time all-conference selection (first team as a sophomore, second team last year as a junior), Battle was the only player from a BCS conference to lead his team in scoring (18.8), rebounding (5.4), assists (4.1) and steals (1.1) last season. This year, it's been more of the same. He has six games with at 25 or more points with a high of 31 established against Duquesne (12/4) and Michigan (1/2). Only once has he been held below 13 points in a contest, when he finished with nine points on 4/15 shooting against Central Connecticut earlier in the season.
Tonight's affair will be Penn State's fourh-straight (of five) against top 20 competition. Getting a win in Columbus against the nation's #2 (for now) team will be a tall order, but it's Big Ten play, so we're not about to rule anything out just yet.
For the first time all season, the Buckeyes were tasked with pulling out a close game without manchild Jared Sullinger after he received his fifth foul late in the second half against the Wolverines. Quite frankly, foul problems or an injury to Sully are the only things that have a chance of derailing this team, but Matta's squad is blessed with four other players that average double figures, and they largely stepped up on the road Wednesday night.
The Wolverines did a great job of sagging and doubling, so Sullinger will be looking to rebound strong at home after finishing with just 12 points on 4-6 shooting, especially with his string of conference Freshman of the Week honors in jeopardy. Look for every team in the Big Ten to try to emulate Michigan's approach and if Penn State can provide the same kind of defense and support -- which they certainly have the size to do -- Buford, Diebler and Lighty will have to step up. They've been doing it all season, so it's a pick-your-poison type thing when trying to defense this team. One thing to keep an eye on, however, is how Diebler responds after hyperextending his elbow against Michigan.
Defensively, look for Lighty to draw the bulk of the work trying to slow down Battle with help from Buford and anyone nearby. The Penn State guard is one of the top three players in the conference, so stopping him is likely out of the question. Holding him to 15 points or less should be considered a good night.
- At 17-0, this team is currently tied with the Jim Jackson-powered 1990-91 team for the third-best start in school history. The 1960-61 team started 27-0 and the 1961-62 team started the year 22-0.
- David Lighty is just four rebounds away from joining Jackson and Evan Turner in the 1,000 point, 500 rebounds, 300 assists club.
- Don't forget to stay tuned to the BTN after the game when Jerry Lucas is featured as Big Ten Icon #8.