Ohio State has just one blemish on their Big Ten record this year, which came last month against Penn State in Columbus. Tonight the Buckeyes travel to State College to try and earn some payback against the Nittany Lions, who have won five of their last six games, and are trying to bolster their case for an NCAA Tournament bid.
On January 25th, Ohio State and Penn State squared off in one of the more entertaining Big Ten games this season. The Nittany Lions came out of the gates hot, hitting the first five three-pointers they attempted, jumping out to a double-digit lead on Ohio State early. The Buckeyes regrouped quickly to head into halftime with a 38-37 lead over the Nittany Lions.
Penn State again found their groove in the second half, and with just under seven minutes remaining held a 69-57 lead. Again, Ohio State was able to claw their way back into the game, and a Keita Bates-Diop three-pointer with five seconds left tied the game at 79. While the Buckeye faithful thought this game would be heading into overtime, Tony Carr had other ideas, burying a three-pointer at the buzzer to hand Ohio State their first Big Ten loss of the season.
At least Ohio State didn’t let the loss to the Nittany Lions affect them too much, and have won four games in a row since falling to Penn State. Last time out the Buckeyes beat Iowa 82-64, giving Ohio State their second win this year over the Hawkeyes. Kaleb Wesson led the way for Ohio State with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Keita Bates-Diop and C.J. Jackson each added 14 points in the victory.
Over the years Penn State has played the Buckeyes tough in State College, with Ohio State posting just a 13-8 record on the Nittany Lions’ home floor. Last year the Buckeyes needed a bucket from Jae’Sean Tate late in the game to secure a 71-70 win over Penn State. Three of the last four meetings between the schools in State College have been decided by 10 points or less. The last Ohio State loss on the road to Penn State came in 2014, with the Nittany Lions beating the Buckeyes 65-63 at the Bryce Jordan Center.
With just a 13-8 record coming into the first matchup between the schools a few weeks ago, it looked like this might be another season where Penn State missed the NCAA Tournament. Beginning with the win over the Buckeyes, Penn State has won five of their last six games, and the only loss during that span coming from Michigan State in East Lansing. After tonight’s game against Ohio State, Penn State still has games against Purdue, Michigan, and Nebraska left, and a positive record in their last four games could be the difference between earning an NCAA Tournament bid, or being on the outside looking in.
In their most recent game, it looked like Penn State might be in for a tough fight against Illinois after 20 minutes, with the Nittany Lions heading into the halftime break with just a 37-36 lead over the Fighting Illini in Champaign. Penn State put the clamps on Illinois defensively in the second half, holding Brad Underwood’s young squad to just 16 points in the final 20 minutes, giving the Nittany Lions a 74-52 win. All five Penn State starters scored in double figures, with Shep Garner recording a team-high 16 points in the victory.
As if Ohio State didn’t have their hands full trying to deal with Patrick Chambers’ upstart Penn State squad that is hungry for the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 2011, but the Buckeyes will also have to deal with a raucous crowd. Penn State is trying to organize a “whiteout” for tonight’s game, so there is no doubt the Nittany Lion faithful will be even more vocal than normal as they try to power their team to a second upset of Ohio State this season.
Numbers to know
Keita Bates-Diop is currently second in the country with a 30.5 PAR (points + assists + rebounds). The only Division I player who has a higher PAR is Oklahoma’s Trae Young, who is averaging a 42.4 PAR. Bates-Diop’s PAR is currently the third-highest in Ohio State school history. Evan Turner averaged a 35.5 PAR during the 2009-10 season, while Michael Redd averaged a 31.4 PAR during the 1997-98 season.
With their 18-point win over Iowa on Saturday, Ohio State secured their eight Big Ten win of 10 points or more this year. Prior to this season, Ohio State has just eight Big Ten victories of 10 points of more in their previous 40 conference games. Overall, Ohio State has 15 wins of 10 points or more this season.
Penn State’s three-point shooting against Ohio State in the last meeting between the school was incredible. Not only did the Nittany Lions drain their first five three-pointers of the game, but they only missed three of the 14 three-pointers they attempted in the game. The 78.6% the Nittany Lions shot from behind the arc was a single-game record for Penn State, and is the second-highest in Division I this year, only trailing the 80% Evansville shot against Bowling Green in early December.
Cast of characters
The senior continues to move his way up the Ohio State all-time scoring list, and is knocking on the door of the Top-20. Tate currently has 1,436 career points, which is tied with Paul Ebert for 23rd in school history. The Pickerington native is six points away from passing Bill Hosket for 22nd and 19 points away from passing David Lighty for 21st. Tate recorded 17 points and 10 rebounds in January’s loss to Penn State, giving him his third double-double this year.
After missing the last three games to suspension, it was announced yesterday that Kam Williams would be eligible to return for tonight’s game. The return of Williams will give a veteran presence to an Ohio State team that has been asking more of Andre Wesson, Musa Jallow, and Kyle Young in Williams’ absence. The senior is getting close to becoming the 56th Buckeye to record 1,000 points in his career, as he is currently sitting at 972 career points.
While Keita Bates-Diop is sitting on top of the Big Ten in scoring, Tony Carr isn’t sitting far behind the Ohio State junior, as the Penn State guard is averaging 19.2 points per game this year. Carr was outstanding in the first meeting this year between the school, finishing with 28 points and the game-winning three-pointer as time expired. In Penn State’s last game, Carr scored 15 points, dished out six assists, and pulled down six rebounds in the win over Illinois.
The battle on the block between Watkins and Kaleb Wesson should be fun to watch tonight. The Penn State sophomore is averaging nearly a double-double this year, with 12.9 points per game, and 9.5 rebounds per game. Watkins has recorded 12 double-doubles this year, with seven of those coming in conference games. Watkins has pulled down at least 15 rebounds in four Big Ten games this year, with his season-high coming against Rutgers, when he grabbed 19 rebounds.
How to watch:
Game time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM
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