University Park, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Penn State Nittany Lions will try for the regular-season sweep of the Ohio State Buckeyes, as the Big Ten Conference rivals square off at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday night.
Ohio State, presently ranked No. 22 in the AP poll, streaked out to a 15-0 start and had been considered among the best teams in the country, but the Big Ten slate has proven difficult to navigate, and the Buckeyes currently sit at 22-6 overall, which includes a 9-6 league ledger. OSU has however, started to play better of late, winning three straight and six of its last seven. The Buckeyes thrashed visiting Minnesota last Saturday, 64-46, and they have allowed fewer than 50 points in two of their last three and three of their last five games overall. Ohio State has won its last three road games.
Penn State brings a 13-14 record into this contest, and its 4-10 conference mark has it in the Big Ten basement. The Nittany Lions have lost two straight and four of their last five bouts, the most recent of which being an 80-67 decision at Nebraska last Thursday. PSU is just a game over .500 at home this season, and it has lost its last two in front of the hometown faithful.
Penn State shocked Ohio State in Columbus back on Jan. 29, 71-70, in overtime, but the Buckeyes still hold a commanding 29-13 lead in the all-time series. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta is 17-1 against the Nittany Lions in his career.
As mentioned, Ohio State's defensive effort has been stellar of late, and all season for that matter. The Buckeyes came into the week ranked sixth in the country in average yield (58.1 ppg), and they are holding the opposition to low shooting percentages (.398 overall, .298 3-point) as well. They have also done a nice job of forcing mistakes, with foes turning the ball over an average of 14.3 times per tilt. Offensively, OSU is putting up a little more than 70 ppg, thanks to shooting efforts that hover just above 45 percent overall and 34 percent from beyond the arc. LaQuinton Ross (14.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (11.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) are the only two double-digit scorers on the roster, although support comes from guys like Aaron Craft (9.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.6 spg), Amir Williams (8.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.8 bpg), Shannon Scott (7.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.5 apg) and Sam Thompson (7.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg).
Thompson was high man for the Buckeyes in their recent rout of Minnesota, as he tallied 19 points, while Smith, Jr. had 13 and Scott chipped in with 10. Ohio State trailed 28-18 at halftime, and it missed 11 of its 14 3-point attempts in the game, but the team came storming back to outscore the Golden Gophers over the final 20 minutes, 46-18. Minnesota shot just 35.4 percent from the field, which included a 4-of-17 showing from downtown. OSU logged a 15-8 edge in points from the foul line, as well as a 35-25 rebounding advantage.
Penn State does a decent job putting the ball in the basket, averaging 73.3 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .434 overall and .322 from 3-point range. Unfortunately, its defensive performance is lacking big time, with foes connecting on close to 36 percent of their long-range launches in netting 72.6 ppg. The Nittany Lions boast two of the Big Ten's top-10 scorers in guards D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier, as the duo combines for 33.4 ppg. Both are active in other areas as well, with Newbill grabbing 5.2 rpg, and Frazier dishing out 5.9 apg.
In the recent loss to Nebraska, Penn State's talented backcourt tandem accounted for both of the team's double-digit scorers, as they each scored 17 points and came away with four rebounds. Frazier handed out five helpers, but the Lions made good on only 34.9 percent of their total shots, which included a 6-of-18 showing from long range. As for the Cornhuskers, they put five players in double figures while using a massive 37-of-48 effort at the free- throw line to earn the victory.