|#22 Ohio State Buckeyes (22-6, 9-6)
|Bryce Jordan Center
|Big Ten Network
|Ohio State -6
|Land-Grant Holy Land, Eleven Warriors
After a needed week off, the Lions return to the BJC for a special Senior Night and an ESPN2 rematch with the ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Just a month ago, it seemed the wheels had fallen off the Buckeye Bandwagon as the former #3 team in the country had lost 5 of 6, topped off by the shocking PSU upset in Columbus. But Thad Matta's crew has rebounded nicely from their midseason slump, winners of six of their last seven.
As Penn State celebrates Tim Frazier's career in State College, one can only hope his senior night goes better than the last great PSU guard to host his own senior night against OSU. Talor Battle's evening was thwarted by a 10-12 three-point performance from Jon Diebler in a humiliating 21-point drubbing. I can safely say that won't happen again tonight.
But will PSU be able to upset OSU yet again after losing 18-straight before the shocker? It doesn't seem likely, but stranger things have happened.
Scouting The Opposition
Ohio State will be looking for redemption in the BJC after taking the first loss as hard as they did. They don't have a shot for the Big Ten regular season conference crown after Michigan's win last night, but it seems like the Buckeyes are finding their groove again just as the postseason comes around the corner.
As usual, the Bucks' defense fuels their entire team. One of the elite defensive units in the country, the Buckeyes dominated a quality Minnesota offense the last time out, holding the Gophers to just 46 points for the game and 18 in the second half. When you can string together stops and turnovers like the Buckeyes, it's not surprising to see them turn a 12-point deficit into an 18-point victory. Penn State struggled to take care of the ball in their first matchup. They must do better tonight to stay in the game.
On the flip side, the offense continues to remain a work in progress. LaQuinton Ross is the leading scorer for the Bucks, but he's not as explosive yet as some of Thad Matta's past scorers. Aaron Craft has tried to evolve his offensive game and can hit a big shot now and then, but we know his bread and butter comes on defense. Sam Thompson has had a nice little streak going, scoring 30 points in his last two games, although the junior is just a 5.6 PPG career scorer. The three-point shooter to locate on the perimeter is senior guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. He is no Jon Diebler.
For Penn State to come up with another big win, they'll need healthy contributions from their front line - Donovon Jack, Brandon Taylor and Ross Travis, especially if the backcourt struggles against Craft/Shannon Scott as they look for their redemption.
Aaron Craft vs DJ Newbill. As enjoyable as Newbill's game-winner was after crossing up Craft, the Bucks' senior leader will be itching at the chance to lock-down Newbill's game on offense. Look for the pesky defender to be in Newbill's grill every chance he gets. We know how much of a struggle it is for Penn State to win if Frazier/Newbill can't produce at their usual volume.
Two in a row against Ohio State just doesn't compute in my mind, but neither was winning a game in Columbus. I still gotta take the Bucks in a close one, 66-61. Regardless of the outcome, I just hope Tim Frazier balls out on his bobblehead night. He's been too much fun to watch over his career not to. Don't forget to vote for him for the Senior CLASS Award!