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Penn State at Ohio State Preview: Resurgent Buckeyes Seeking 10-0 Start

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Penn State faces a tough task as they visit Columbus.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After breaking an 18-game losing streak to Ohio State in 2013-14, Penn State has lost their last five match-ups, including a 71-70 defeat at the BJC last February. This year, the Buckeyes looked to be a team in transition following back-to-back NCAA tournament misses and a 17-14 (7-11) season in 2016-17, and the firing of Thad Matta, but have turned it around rather quickly.

Opponent Summary

Who: When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Who: When: Where: TV: KenPom Rank: Record: Vegas Line:
Ohio State Buckeyes Thursday, January 25, 8:00 PM Value City Arena, Columbus, OH BTN 11 18-4 (9-0) OSU -10

Penn State will need to put up their best performance of the year to come away with this win. They are up against a hot team, playing in a hostile environment, and likely again without glue-guy Josh Reaves.

Scouting the opposition

Hired away from Butler, Chris Holtmann and Ohio Sate have had near instant success, ripping through the first nine games of their Big Ten schedule unscathed, and already surpassing their total wins and conference wins from last year at 18-4 (9-0). He’s been able to get the full potential out of Matta’s recruits, with four upperclassmen in the starting lineup and another playing significant minutes off the bench.

Keita Bates-Diop will get the most attention tonight, and he deserves it averaging 19.7 ppg with 8.8 rpg. He’s effective seemingly from anywhere, and can get hot from 3-pt range as he did shooting 6-8 from range versus Maryland earlier this month. He’s a Player of the Year candidate in the conference and nationally, and will be a difficult match-up for Lamar Stevens.

The balance on the roster is what has made Ohio State so good this year, it’s not just Bates-Diop who’s performing at a high level. Guards Jae-Sean Tate and CJ Jackson each average double-digits scoring, as does true freshman forward Kaleb Wesson. Wesson is coming off a Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor, and should be interesting to watch as he goes against Mike Watkins. Jackson, along with Kam Williams are the greatest threats from beyond-the-arc, shooting 47% and 40% respectively.

What to watch for

Foul Trouble - Especially when it involves Watkins or Stevens, early fouling can be crippling for Penn State. As capable as Ohio State is around the rim on offense, Penn State will need to be careful.

Sh3p Garner - While it wasn’t enough for the win at Northwestern, Shep’s shooting performance helped carry the offense and keep Penn State in front throughout the first half. He’ll need another strong showing tonight if the Nittany Lions are to have a chance to win late.

Get the ball to Mike Watkins - The talented redshirt sophomore is shooting 70.8% from the field which is good enough for 2nd in the nation. Against Northwestern he only shot the ball twice, going 2-2 (he was 4-4 from the FT line). He’s capable of much more offensively, and I hope tonight is the night he becomes the focus of the offense.

Prediction

It’s hard to predict Penn State winning this one, on the road against a very good Ohio State team. Were it at home, it may be a candidate for a surprise upset, but I don’t see the Nittany Lions coming away with the win in Columbus. Should Josh Reaves return, this game stays close into the final minutes, otherwise Penn State will be facing a double-digit deficit for most of the second-half. Ohio State 73, Penn State 60