On Tuesday night, following Penn State's upset win over No. 16 Illinois at the Bryce Jordan Center, coach Ed DeChellis wasted no time in calling Saturday's game with No. 2 Ohio State at 5:30 P.M. on the Big Ten Network an "opportunity."
After No. 1 Duke's loss to Florida State earlier this week, the Buckeyes (17-0, 4-0) will likely be the new consensus No. 1 if they win, and all indications are that they're the far superior team in this matchup, but that's not keeping the Nittany Lions (10-6, 3-2) down.
After all, Penn State has little to lose in this matchup. No one will begrudge the Lions a loss to a team as good as Ohio State. The teams still have to play 40 minutes, though, and for a squad as hot as Penn State is at the moment after beating two ranked teams in a row, there's perhaps no better time to go on the road and try to get not only a resume building win, but a landmark victory for the program.
The Buckeyes are led by some familiar faces. William Buford (13.7 points per game), David Lighty (13.1) and Jon Diebler (12.1) all contribute significantly to Ohio State's No. 20 ranked offense. The big cheese this season, however, is freshman Jared Sullinger. The forward averages a team-high 17.5 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game, making him perhaps the most versatile and feared underclassman in the nation.
Keys to the game after the jump
When Penn State Has The Ball
- The Lions got Andrew Jones involved early and often in the upset wins over Michigan State and Illinois. He was able to get on the board early in both games and managed to stay consistent to finish in double figures. It would be big for Penn State's upset chances if the senior can contribute big on the offensive end again, perhaps with that newly found foul line jumper.
- Penn State needs to stay within itself today and run its offense. Columbus will be by far the toughest road environment the Lions have traveled to this season. They can't afford to get jumpy and rattled early on. With a team starting four seniors, you'd think that would be less of an issue, but we'll see.
- It's important for everyone on the floor for Penn State to hit the offensive glass. If there's one thing this team can do, it's miss shots. The Lions would do well to give themselves as many second chances as possible as they did against Michigan State and Illinois. It'll be a tough assignment, because Ohio State rebounds very well, but Penn State needs to do its best in this department to have a chance to win.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
- Michigan got Jared Sullinger out of his game earlier this week, holding him to 12 points and seven boards. Not surprisingly, the Wolverines just missed out on the upset 68-64. If Penn State can rattle the freshman as Michigan did, they'll be in good position to pick off the Buckeyes at home. The Lions have played solid interior defense this year, so this key plays to its strength.
- Jon Diebler and David Lighty both shoot north of 45% from 3-point territory. They're going to hit their shots, but Penn State needs to minimize the damage from the arc by making sure they rotate and get a hand in the face of every shooter. Perimeter defense has been a weakness for this team. It'll have to be stepped up a notch.
- Rebound, rebound, rebound. You can't give Ohio State second chances or the Bucks will run you out of the building. Penn State needs to make sure that if it plays 20-30 seconds of good defense and forces a miss that it's able to clear.
Obviously, it's hard to see Penn State winning this one, but if there's a road map to victory, Michigan offered it on Wednesday. Keep Jared Sullinger from going off and you have a chance. Despite the freshman's quiet night, the Buckeyes shot 50% on the evening. Keep them below that, and then an upset bid become a real possibility. Ohio State has to lose some time. Why not today?