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Penn State at Ohio State Basketball Preview: Can The Nittany Lions Make It Two In A Row?

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After (finally) capturing their first conference victory of the season, can the Nittany Lions make it two in a row when they travel to Columbus on Thursday night?

2018 NIT Championship Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, our long, national nightmare is over. The Penn State Nittany Lions are no longer winless in Big Ten play! Can Pat Chambers and company make it two wins in a row?

On Thursday night, the 8-14 Nittany Lions will travel to Columbus to battle the 14-7 Buckeyes. Ohio State, much like Penn State, has struggled since the calendar flipped from 2018 to 2019. This sets up a matchup between two teams desperate for a win on a Thursday night.

Scouting the opposition

Ohio State got off to a 12-1 start this season, found themselves ranked in the top 15, and they appeared to be well on their way to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. The past month, however, has not been kind to the Buckeyes. Chris Holtmann’s squad is just 2-7 in their last nine games, including a five game losing streak.

A big reason for Ohio State’s struggles have come via offensive woes. The Buckeyes 45.9% field goal percentage ranks 113th nationally and their 73.2 points per game is 176th nationally. During their current 2-6 stretch, the Buckeyes have averaged just 65.4 points per contest.

Outside of sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson, 15.3 PPG and 52.5% field goal, the Buckeyes do not possess any major offensive threats. In fact, Wesson is the lone Buckeye shooting better than 45% from the field this season.

Defense has been a different story for the Buckeyes. They enter Thursday’s contest 33rd nationally in scoring defense (65.1 PPG) and 46th in opponent field goal percentage (40.8%). Their defense has been even better at home where they are allowing just 61.4 PPG.

Despite their recent struggles, Ohio State’s remain scheduling will give them an opportunity to earn their way back into NCAA Tournament contention. This should lead to the Nittany Lions seeing a motivated Buckeyes squad on Thursday night.

What to Watch For

Can the Nittany Lions begin to build momentum? - Penn State’s 0-10 start to conference play was well documented, but that is now in the past. Following a 59-52 victory over Northwestern on Monday night, can the Nittany Lions begin to build some momentum? Could they use that victory as a catapult to a strong finish to the season? We will start to find that out on Thursday night in Columbus.

Will Lamar Stevens Lead the way again? - Lamar Stevens led Penn State in minutes played (38), points (18), rebounds (7), and assists (6) in Monday night’s victory over Northwestern. The senior forward is Penn State’s best player and he played like it against the Wildcats. He needs to do it again on Thursday night.

Will we get another instant classic? - The last two meetings between the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes have been instant classics. One could argue that Penn State’s run to the NIT Championship last season started with Tony Carr’s buzzer-beating three to defeat the Buckeyes in Columbus last January. Then in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals, Josh Reaves threw down a dunk in the closing seconds for Penn State’s second consecutive dramatic victory over Ohio State.

Prediction

Both of these teams are desperate for a win. Penn State to try and maybe salvage some respectability, and Ohio State to try and revive their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Buckeyes are slightly better than their 14-8 record and the home team, giving them the edge. Ohio State 68, Penn State 61