Penn State vs. No. 4 Ohio State Preview: Struggling Lions Host Red-Hot Buckeyes

By Brad Peterson on February 18, 2021 at 9:45 am
Ohio State Basketball
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
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Ohio State Buckeyes
17-4 (11-4 B1G)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
8:00 p.m. EST – Thursday, Feb. 18
Bryce Jordan Center 
University Park, PA
Watch Info: Big Ten Network
KenPom Rank: 6 | Line: OSU -4.5

The Nittany Lions (7-10, 4-9, #38 NET) will look to bounce back from consecutive tough losses against one of the nation’s hottest teams Thursday night as Ohio State comes to town. Penn State has lost its last two games by a combined three points, the last coming in a 62-61 home loss to Nebraska on Sunday. The Husker’s Teddy Allen hit the game winner, the last of his team-high 14 points, with 12 seconds remaining to put Nebraska ahead for good. The loss all but ends Penn State’s hopes for a post-season bid. Myreon Jones led the blue and white with 18 points on 7-20 shooting. Myles Dread, starting in place of Seth Lundy, posted 14 points and Izaiah Brockington chipped in 11. The Lions’ shooting woes continued, only managing a frigid 32% for the game and 29% from behind the arc.

Ohio State (17-4, 11-4, #6 NET) has not lost in nearly a month, riding the momentum of a six-game winning streak. The Buckeyes trounced Indiana Saturday 78-59 as sophomore E.J. Liddell once again led the Buckeyes with 19 points. Justice Sueing (16), Duane Washington, Jr. (12), and CJ Walker (10) also reached double figures in the win.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Projected Starters
Penn State Ohio State
G Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Sr. G Duane Washington - 6'3" - Jr.
G Myreon Jones - 6'3" - Jr. F Justin Ahrens - 6'6" - 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

Chris Holtman’s squad is playing as well as anyone not named Gonzaga or Baylor right now. During the six-game winning streak, Ohio State’s offense has been hitting on all cylinders, averaging a robust 79 PPG. Liddell has picked up his scoring during the streak, leading the Buckeyes in scoring for five of the six wins with 17 PPG. Liddell had 22 in the Buckeyes win over Penn State in Columbus, so look for OSU to establish him again early. Liddell is a match-up nightmare due to his exceptional mobility for his size. He has very good hands, and can catch the ball on the move and he iequally comfortable playing with his back to the basket or stepping out and hitting 3s.

Guard Duane Washington, Jr., averages 14.6 PPG. He or Liddell have led the Buckeyes in scoring in all but three games this year. Washington hunts shots (he has taken nearly 70 more shots than anyone else on the OSU roster) and will press Penn State’s defense at all three levels.

Justice Sueing is the third cog in the Ohio State offensive machine, scoring 10.7 PPG. With CJ Walker now coming off the bench, Sueing has been acting as more of a playmaker and has stepped into the role well. He likes to go left so trying to force him right will be key to limiting his penetration.

Justin Ahrens has stepped into the starting line-up to give the Buckeyes someone to stretch the floor. Ahrens is a catch and shoot, driveway shooter and leads the B1G from behind the arc at 47%. Ahrens presence helps the Buckeyes spacing as whoever is guarding him must not come off to help at all times, leaving more space for driving lanes.

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Make some shots. Penn State has gone cold. Ice cold. In the last four games the team has only managed to shoot 34% (80-234) from the floor and 24.7% (25-101) from behind the arc. That has translated to a frigid average of 57.5 PPG. It has become an epidemic of poor shooting, and it doesn’t matter who is shooting or where the shot is from on the floor. Open 3s, layups, you name it, the Lions can’t get the lid off the rim. That must change if they have any chance in this game because the Buckeyes will score.
  • Force turnovers. When the two teams met in Columbus, Penn State forced 17 Buckeye turnovers. The Lions lead the conference, forcing 14.5 TOs per game. They will need to hit their average at a minimum to slow down OSU and try to help jump start their offense. There is no defense for live ball turnovers so getting some easy baskets will be critical.
  • Be aggressive, but limit fouling. At the beginning of the season every game was a foul-a-thon and opponents paraded to the free throw line over and over. The Lions have cut down on fouling, but seem to have lost some their aggressiveness, their swagger, in doing so. They will need to match OSU’s physical play, but limit fouling. The Buckeyes shoot an excellent 77% from the line for the year, and they made 20-21 in the first game against the Nittany Lions. This isn’t a team you want to send to the stripe.

PREDICTION

Ohio State is playing with confidence and their offense is a well-oiled machine right now. Unless PSU can find a way to get out of their shooting funk, this game has all the makings of being very lopsided, especially with the Lions’ post-season hopes on life support. Maybe they can pull off a shocker, but I just don’t see it.

Prediction: Ohio State 77, Penn State 62

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