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Penn State vs. Ohio State Preview: Lions' Last Upset Shot Comes On Senior Night

D.J. Newbill will have one last chance to lead an upset charge over a top-25 team, and he'll have to do it against one of his favorite opponents.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Who: #23 Ohio State Buckeyes (21-8, 10-6)
When: 6:00 p.m. ET
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
KenPom Rank: 16
Vegas Line: OSU -5
Enemy Blog: Land-Grant Holy Land

If you're in State College, get your ass to this game. It's your last chance to see D.J. Newbill at the Bryce Jordan Center. Granted, there might not be a a team for Penn State to play against due to the massive ice storm currently ravaging Pennsylvania, but D.J. Newbill will probably be there. So you should go.

Newbill will likely end his three-year career at Penn State without playing in a major postseason tournament, but his importance to this program goes far beyond the win/loss column. D.J. came to Penn State looking for a home after transferring from Southern Miss in 2012, and he found one in this coaching staff and this community. He lost his mother to cancer before she ever saw him play a game in State College, and he has since responded by posting some of the best individual numbers in school history - he'll surpass 2,000 career points (freshman year included) tonight - and representing his university as well as any athlete who has ever stepped foot on the Penn State campus. Bill wrote about him for SLAM a couple of summers ago, and if you haven't read it already here's your chance. So please, if you have the means, get to the BJC to watch D.J., and Ross Travis, and Alan Wisniewski, and Kevin Montminy one last time.

/wipes tears

Anyway - Ohio State, as you may recall, demolished the Nittany Lions 75-55 in Columbus less than a month ago. The Buckeyes will be dancing in the NCAA Tournament, but suffering a defeat tonight might drop them a seed line considering how poor their away record (3-6 with wins at Minnesota, Northwestern and Rutgers) has been this season.

Scouting The Opposition

D'Angelo Russell probably won't win B1G Player of the Year (Frank Kaminsky) or National Freshman of the Year (Jahlil Okafor), but he's damn good. He went for a "quiet" 17-7-6 to set the pace for his squad in the first game between these teams, but it was Sam Thompson who led Ohio State with a season-high 22 points in the win. Thompson has scored in double figures in every game since, and considering his form and the return of sharpshooter Marc Loving to the rotation, the Buckeyes will have plenty of firepower to offer. It's another opportunity for Penn State's improved defense, allowing just 0.95 ppp on the year, to make a statement against one of the few teams that's burned them already this season.

What To Watch For

Ohio State boasts a strong defense themselves, however, so Penn State will need to find buckets from one/both of Geno Thorpe and Shep Garner once again. The underclassman duo combined for 31 points in Saturday's loss to Iowa, and Garner's hot start from beyond the arc catalyzed the Nittany Lions early on. Russell and Shannon Scott form one of the nation's best defensive backcourts, so this will be a huge challenge for the young pairing. They'll have to improve on their numbers from last time out; Garner scored nine on 11 shots, and Thorpe went scoreless in 21 minutes.


Senior night against Ohio State has been a mixed bag for Penn State in recent years. The BJC was packed to capacity for Talor Battle's senior night in 2011, only to see Jon Diebler steal the show with a gazillion three-pointers. Tim Frazier got his revenge for that game last season as he and Newbill completed the season sweep against Thad Matta's crew. This Penn State team has been underwhelming, for sure, but it feels like they're due for a little magic. It might take 40 points from Newbill, but I just have a good feeling about this game, so eff it - Penn State 75, Ohio State 74. Don't @ me.