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Game 20: Ohio State Preview

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Another ranked conference foe invades the Bryce Jordan Center on Coaches vs Cancer day.

Gregory Shamus
Who: #14 Ohio State (14-4, 4-2)
When: Saturday, 12:00pm
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: ESPN2

"Continue to get better."

That's about all Penn State can hope for these days.

After losing their seventh straight conference game in unspectacular fashion, the Lions continue their hunt for a victory at home against #14 Ohio State. The Buckeyes will be looking for a road win to keep pace with the leaders at the top of the Big Ten.

While this fact might not be prevalent in the media, I'm not sure there's a more dominant streak currently out there, at least between major conference foes. The Ohio State Buckeyes have beaten Penn State 17 straight times. You would have to go all the way back to January 2004, Ed DeChellis' first season, to find a Nittany Lion victory over the Buckeyes. It has not mattered where these teams played or how competitive the games were, Ohio State has always emerged victorious.

There isn't much reason to believe tomorrow will be any different.

This isn't the worst match-up this series has seen, but there is one big reason to be afraid. Aaron Craft. The best on-ball defender this league can offer will be set free to feast on the Lions depleted backcourt. DJ Newbill, who continues to admirably struggle running the point (8 turnovers vs IU), will once again be thrown to the wolves, but he's been through a lot worse before. Newbill's incredibly tragic past puts playing out of position into perspective real quick.

If Newbill, Jermaine Marshall, and Nick Colella are able to get the ball into the frontcourt, they will then have to set the offense to face the Big Ten's 2nd best defense (slightly behind Wisconsin) in conference play. The Bucks yield just 0.91 PPP and are solid in all phases. They force turnovers and steals, block shots, don't foul, and keep you off the glass. For Penn State, none of this is encouraging consider how hard it has been to find points.

However, Ohio State hasn't particularly been as efficient offensively as some of their past teams. DeShaun Thomas is still one of the most gifted scorers in the game (20.5 PPG), but his supporting cast hasn't been reliable. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. is the only other Buckeye averaging in double-figures at 10.2 PPG. Aaron Craft hasn't improved his numbers from last year as he still averages about 9 PPG on just 38% shooting. They don't have their usual 7-footer that can dominant inside since Sullinger left for the NBA, as neither Amir Williams or Evan Ravenel have showcased much scoring ability. Thomas is option #1, 2, and 3 for Ohio State, but Penn State doesn't have a stopper that can be expected to even contain him one-on-one. Expect to see some different looks from Penn State defensively as they try anything to slow down Thomas and the Buckeyes.

KenPom forecasts a 73-56 win for Ohio State and that seems about right. If Penn State reaches 60, it will be somewhat of a moral victory.

It's Coaches vs Cancer day at the Bryce Jordan Center, so look for coaches in sneakers and Nittany Lions in gray uniforms, as everyone 'bands together' to fight cancer. It'll be an emotional day for Penn State, since DJ Newbill (if you read the linked article above, which you absolutely should) lost his mother to cancer back in September.


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