Preview: #1 Ohio State at Penn State

By Chris Lauderback on March 1, 2011 at 1:00 pm
Sully is staring down a conference crown
Ohio State Buckeyes#1 Ohio State 27-2, 14-2 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 9:00 PM ET - BTN —— Bryce Jordan Center University Park, PA Penn State Nittany Lions Penn State 15-12, 8-8 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

Back atop the national rankings after posting convincing wins over Illinois and Indiana last week, the Buckeyes head to State College for a date with a desperate Penn State team looking to celebrate senior night with a sorely needed statement win that would get them back on the Big Dance bubble.

A victory would assure OSU no less than a share of the regular season conference title with a revenge match scheduled to round out the regular season this Sunday in Value City Arena.

As you'll recall, Penn State gave the Buckeyes all they could handle back on January 15th before Thad Matta's crew escaped with a 69-66 victory. It took a career high 19 points from Aaron Craft, another 19 from Jared Sullinger and 27 points off turnovers to overcome PSU's 30-18 edge in paint points courtesy of Talor Battle and Tim Frazier's ability to effectively burn Ohio State's switching defense by locating rolling screeners to the basket at will. The easy buckets helped Penn State shoot 56% against the Buckeyes though they only hit 4/17 from downtown on the night.

This could easily be one of those trap games if the Buckeyes don't see any carryover from their improved defensive effort against Indiana, aided by a hellish drill Matta employed in practice after consulting former Buckeye and eternal red ass, Robert Montgomery Knight.

44 William Buford 14.1 3.9 3.1 G 12 Talor Battle 20.5 4.4 3.1
33 Jon Diebler 11.2 2.3 2.3 G 23 Tim Frazier 5.4 3.6 5.1
23 David Lighty 12.5 4.1 3.3 F 15 David Jackson 10.4 4.7 0.7
0 Jared Sullinger 17.8 9.9 1.3 F 25 Jeff Brooks 13.6 6.6 1.8
52 Dallas Lauderdale 4.5 3.5 0.1 C 22 Andrew Jones 6.1 5.5 0.7


Winners of three of their last four, the Lions will be ready for a fight as they intend to send their four senior starters (Battle, Jackson, Brooks, Jones) out on a winning note while keeping their aforementioned NCAA tourney hopes on life support and with a 13-4 record at home, they are capable of catching the Buckeyes napping.

For the stunner to occur, they'll need a big time performance from senior Talor Battle, the B1G's leading scorer at 20.4 ppg. The key to everything they do, Battle also leads the conference in made 3FG per game (3.19) and minutes per game (39). Craft held Battle to 5/17 shooting in the first matchup (1/10 3's) but he still managed to throw in 15 points in 40 minutes.

Another senior, 6'8" Jeff Brooks is averaging 14.5 ppg  in league action on 63% shooting and gobbles up 5.7 boards a night while 6'7" senior David Jackson and 6'10" Andrew Jones combine with Brooks to give the Lions a big group of baseliners. Jackson went for 19 in the first matchup. Tim Frazier comes in 3rd in assists during conference play and handed out a team high 5 assists in the loss back in January.

Ranked last in the B1G in Scoring Offense (63.2) but a respectable 4th in FG% (45.8), the Lions could look to slow the tempo and again try to exploit screening and hedging issues by bringing Ohio State's bigs to the top of the circle and playing off how effective the Buckeyes communicate and react.

They'll likely need to be efficient offensively as they are ranked just 8th in FG% Defense and take on a Buckeye team ranked 1st in both FG% (48.6) an 3FG% (41.7).

The Lions will be rested after stomping out Northwestern 66-52 last Thursday night in Evanston. Brooks poured in 20 to lead four Lions in double figures including Battle, who became the 1st player in B1G history to reach 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. PSU handled the Wildcats on the glass (28-19) and shot 57% from the field while holding NW to 39%.

Buckeye Breakdown

Sullinger took over the final minute of the first matchup converting two and-1's, including the final points of the game with 13.2 seconds left to not only improve Ohio State to 18-0, but also to the top spot in the national rankings. Coming off season lows of 12 minutes and five points, Sullinger should not only be rested but also highly motivated to put that game in the rear view so it's fair to expect a dub-dub from the freshman as OSU looks to clinch no worse than a share of the regular season conference crown.

As noted, Craft had a coming out party of sorts in the first matchup but has been somewhat up and down offensively since, though his defense has been solid. Without a doubt, his primary chore tonight will be to contain Battle and anything offensively will be a bonus.

William Buford has been solid averaging 16.0 points over his last two games after foul trouble held him to just five points in West Lafayette. I expect him to blow up tonight as he's torched the Lions for 23.8 points in four career meetings. Meanwhile, David Lighty is also playing well as of late, shooting 12/23 over his last two games with six steals and six assists against just three turnovers. Lighty was held to just seven in the January matchup against Penn State.

Jon Diebler is a career 9.4 ppg scorer against Penn State in five meetings and had 10 in the previous matchup. Keep an eye on Diebler's shot selection as the last meeting was the first time Diebler showed a desire to do something other than stand and shoot. He took five of his 11 FGA's from inside the arc, the only time all year he's registered at least five two-point tries in a game.

Regardless of the how the offense performs, this game is still likely to be determined by how the Buckeyes play at the defensive end. Sunday's effort against Indiana marked the first time in six games that OSU held their opponent to under 50% shooting. A sub 50% shooting effort from Penn State likely leads to another B1G title for the Buckeyes.


  • Ohio State has won 14 straight against the Nittany Lions.
  • Sullinger became the 29th Buckeye all-time to score at least 500 points in a season (504) with five against Indiana.
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