Penn State basketball let another one slip away when Miami beat the Lions on Wednesday. Like the game against LSU, turnovers ended up being the difference maker in a game where the Lions had control of the flow for long stretches.
Now they welcome Jamari Wheeler and the Buckeyes to Bryce Jordan, a place the former Nittany Lion used to call home. Ohio State has not looked like the juggernaut everyone expected them to be before the season, but they just finished beating No. 1 Duke in their own Big Ten/ACC challenge contest earlier in the week.
How the Nittany Lions fare in this game is, and will continue to be, a factor of how they are able to take care of the ball. The seeds of an offensive identity are starting to show signs of growth, as the Lions are consistently moving the ball, with players moving to position to ensure open looks from outside and an available John Harrar inside.
So to add insult to injury, the Lions now have to faced aforementioned Wheeler, whose claim to fame has always been his ability to steal the ball.
Scouting The Opposition
The Buckeyes run through EJ Liddell, who does everything for Ohio State. He’s their leading scorer, leading rebounder, leading blocker, leading turnover of the ball-er, you get the point. The other two major categories, steals and assists, are of course led by Wheeler, who’s handling point guard duties for the Buckeyes in his final year of eligibility.
Guys like Zed Key and Justin Ahrens are still around and could prove to be just as problematic for Penn State as they have been in the past, and Meechie Johnson is having a great season so far after seeing limited time last season.
But, as effective as the rest of the cast has been for Ohio State, they are still reliant on Liddell to run their offense, and shutting him down will be of utmost importance if Penn State hopes to keep this game in hand.
What To Watch For
Aside from the obvious (read: Turnovers and shutting down Liddell), it’s officially Jevonnie Scott and Greg Lee watch time. Lee was seen without a boot on Wednesday, which means he may start to work his way back into the court in due time, while Scott has been eligible and working his way back up to playing form in the past couple of weeks. It’s unlikely we’ll see either in this game, but the Lions need depth, and both of those guys are going to provide it, and the wealth of experience that comes along with it, as soon as they are able to see the floor.
While Wheeler himself is still quite adept at taking the ball away, Ohio State as a team is not that great at generating turnovers. They’re 289th nationally in turnover rate, which is still worlds better than Penn State’s 355th ranking, but what it does say is that if the Nittany Lions can get out of their own way with the unforced errors, they won’t face tremendous opposition from the Buckeyes.
Another thing to look at is how the Buckeyes handle Harrar. Teams have grown to understand that Harrar doesn't perform so well when he’s put on and island outside the paint, and Liddell’s propensity to shoot from outside can cause a lot of problems for the Lions if Harrar is tasked with having to guard him outside. Will Shrewsberry put Seth Lundy (or maybe even Myles Dread) on Liddell instead? We shall see.
Vegas sees another close game in the making. I will agree. Whether it’s a close win for Penn State or the other way around will heavily depend on whether they’re coughing the ball up at the rate they have been so far. Unfortunately, you don’t fix turnovers in a week. Ohio State 67, Penn State 64
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