Penn State at Ohio State Preview: Nittany Lions Seek Fourth-Straight Win Over Buckeyes

By Chad Markulics on February 7, 2019 at 10:30 am
Feb 2, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes forward Kaleb Wesson (34) goes to the basket while defended by Rutgers Scarlet Knights forward Shaq Carter (13) during the first half at Value City Arena.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

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Ohio State
Ohio State Buckeyes
14-7 (4-6 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
7:00 p.m. ET - Monday, February 4th
Value City Arena
Columbus, Ohio
Watch Info: ESPN/WatchESPN
KenPom Rank: 33
Vegas Line: OSU -7.5

Penn State was finally able to exorcise some demons in Evanston on Monday, as the Nittany Lions went into Welsh-Ryan Arena and emerged with their first Big Ten win of the season. They'll have another shot to play road spoiler on Thursday evening as they visit Ohio State, a team that surely recalls what Penn State did to them last season.

The Buckeyes suffered three uniquely devastating losses at the hands of Tony Carr and the Nittany Lions last year. One a true buzzer-beater in Columbus, another a 30-point thrashing at the BJC, and the third a comeback capped by a game-winning Josh Reaves dunk in Madison Square Garden. Suffice it to say Chris Holtmann and crew will have revenge on the brain.

Revenge or not, this is a very important game for a Buckeye team trying to stay in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid in a crowded Big Ten. Going 1-6 in January would have seemingly set them behind the eight ball, but most bracketologists still have Ohio State in the field of 68. A home loss to a 1-10 team won't sit do them any favors though.

Projected Starters
Penn State   Ohio State
Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Soph. 1 C.J. Jackson - 6'1" - Sr.
Myles Dread - 6'4" - Fr. 2 Luther Muhammad - 6'3" - Fr.
Josh Reaves - 6'4" - Sr. 3 Musa Jallow - 6'5" - Jr. 
Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Jr. 4 Andre Wesson - 6'6" - Jr. 
Mike Watkins - 6'9" - RS Jr. 5 Kaleb Wesson - 6'9" - Soph.

Scouting Report

It all runs through Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State's man in the middle. The sophomore is having an outstanding second season in Columbus, averaging 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in just 24.9 minutes per game, leading his team in each category to go along with a 61.6% true shooting percentage. Wesson struggles with foul trouble at times, but when he can avoid it he's a force on the interior as Rutgers found out on Saturday - he posted 27 points on 10-12 shooting (including 3-4 from deep), four rebounds and five assists against a typically tough Scarlet Knight defense. 

In the backcourt, C.J. Jackson and freshman Luther Muhammad have been steady hands guiding a solid offense and fronting a tough defense. Jackson is averaging a career-high in points and steals in his senior season, while Muhammad has impressed with his poise and three-point shooting (44.8%) in his first season.

Kaleb's older brother Andre Wesson and Wake Forest transfer Keyshawn Woods will see the majority of minutes at the three and four, with the elder Wesson playing power forward more in the absence of Kyle Young. Young had been having a great sophomore season, shooting 73% from the floor before suffering a stress fracture in his leg against Maryland on Jan 18.

Keys to the Game

If Penn State can avoid its trademark cold spells on offense, this game can be won with strong interior defense. The Nittany Lions held Kaleb Wesson to 10, 7, and 5 points in their three wins over Ohio State last season, and the Buckeye big man wasn't in foul trouble in any of those games. Even more jarring is the fact that Mike Watkins was injured for the third contest in NYC, Wesson's worst game of the three.

Prediction

It's a de facto "must-win" game for the home team, who have a big February still ahead of them. That pressure coupled with the need for revenge might be a lot for a team that hasn't shown a ton of consistency in conference play, but Penn State's penchant for poor offense on the road means the Buckeyes shouldn't have too much trouble at home. Ohio State 75, Penn State 65.

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