Hoops Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio State Buckeyes

By Brad Peterson on January 5, 2021 at 11:41 am
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Justice Sueing (14) is guarded by Nebraska Cornhuskers guard Trey McGowens (2) during the first half of Wednesday's NCAA Division I basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus, Oh.
Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch
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Ohio State Buckeyes
8-3 (2-3 B1G)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
6:30 p.m. EST – Wednesday, Jan. 6
Schottenstein Center 
Columbus, OH
Watch Info: Big Ten Network
KenPom Rank: 20
Read: COVID Concerns Postpone PSU-WIS

Jim Ferry’s Nittany Lions (3-4, 0-3, #42 NET) will hit the hardwood Wednesday for their first game in a week after postponing the Wisconsin game scheduled for Jan. 3 due to COVID concerns in the program. It will be only the third game in 15 days for Penn State, who has yet to win in conference play, last losing 87-85 in OT to Indiana in Bloomington on Dec. 30. They’ll face an Ohio State squad (8-3, 2-3, #28 NET) also coming off a loss in their last game, getting hammered by Minnesota 77-60 at the Barn on Jan. 3. The Buckeyes have lost two of their last three, dropping a one-point decision at Northwestern 71-70 on Dec. 26 and routing Nebraska at home 90-54 on Dec. 30.

In the 2019-20 season, these two teams split their two games, with Chris Holtmann’s Buckeyes breaking the century mark in a 106-74 thrashing of the Lions behind a combined 43 points by the Wesson brothers, Kaleb and Andre. Izaiah Brockington led Penn State with 19 points in the loss. In the rematch at the BJC, Lamar Stevens’ 24 points helped exact revenge for the Lions in a 90-76 victory, with Myreon Jones chipping in 20 points.

In the six games prior to last year Ohio State and Penn State have played tight games, splitting the results 3-3, and only a 79-56 PSU win in 2018 ending with more than a four-point difference.

Projected Starters
Penn State Ohio State
G Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Sr. G CJ Walker - 6'1" - Sr.
G Myreon Jones - 6'3" - Jr. G Duane Washington - 6'3" - Jr.
G Izaiah Brockington - 6'4" - Jr. F Justin Sueing - 6'7" - Jr.
F Seth Lundy - 6'6" - So. F Kyle Young - 6'8" - Sr.
F John Harrar - 6'9" -  Sr. F EJ Liddell - 6'7" - So.

SCOUTING REPORT

Ohio State is led by Duane Washington, Jr., who averages 14.9 ppg and poured in 21 in the loss to Minnesota, hitting 5-7 behind the arc. As a team, the Buckeyes only shoot .310 from deep. Washington is their best threat behind the arc, hitting at a .375 rate. The junior guard is far from a standstill shooter as he will put the ball on the floor and get to the hoop. Senior CJ Walker will handle the point, leading the team in assists at 4.3 per game and chipping in nearly 9 ppg.

Junior Forward Justice Sueing may be the most versatile player for the Buckeyes, averaging 10.5 ppg and 4.5 rebounds. Sueing is an athletic wing with the size, 6’7”, to get to the rim and the touch to hit midrange jumpers. Kyle Young is a glue and effort guy who, at 6’8”, will hit the boards hard on both ends of the floor, play tough D and pitch in 7.5 ppg. The other starting forward, 6’7” E.J. Liddell is back from illness and the 2nd leading scorer on the roster at 13.9 ppg. Liddell and Young lead the team in rebounding, each grabbing 6.4 caroms per game.

The x-factor for Chris Holtmann is Harvard grad-transfer Seth Towns. The Columbus native has come back home for his last year of eligibility and has struggled to stay healthy. Towns is only averaging 9 minutes a game but is slowly rounding into form and at 6”8” is another versatile wing who can score.

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Hit from deep. Ohio State gives up 7 threes per game and allows opponents to shoot 35% from deep. The Lions' sharpshooters (Jones, Sessoms, Brockington, Dread, Lundy) will need to make their average of 10 threes and should get good looks as the Buckeyes don’t defend the arc well typically.
  • Box out hard. Ohio State outrebounds opponents by 5 per game, and Kyle Young is relentless on the boards so it will take a team effort to rebound. If PSU can at least keep the rebounding even it will neutralize second-chance opportunities for Ohio State.
  • Finish. The script so far this year has seemed to be fast starts, followed by a scoring drought and fading late to lose a tight game. Get off to a fast start before they are comfortable with PSU pushing the pace and then keep the foot on the gas and keep up the chaotic pace.

PREDICTION

Games between the Lions and Buckeyes have been closely contested for the past few years and this should be no different. This is definitely a game Penn State can steal on the road, but Ohio State is undefeated at home for a reason. If the defense can hold Washington in check and Ferry's shooters can knock down shots from deep, upsetting the #28 team in the NCAA’s NET rankings is possible. Jones and Brockington will each get 15 points, but it still won’t be enough to get Penn State off the schneid in conference play, losing another nail biter. Ohio State 78 Penn State 73.

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