Game Preview: Penn State vs Ohio State
Jake Starr, Matt McClure, Jeremy Ganes and Kevin McConlogue preview Penn State's upcoming matchup with Ohio State:
It took 339 days, but Penn State has won a game in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions defeated the Northwestern Wildcats on the road Tuesday night by a score of 59-52. Now, they hit the road again to take on rival Ohio State Thursday night at the Value City Arena.
The last time these teams met was in the 2018 Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals, where Penn State upset Ohio State 69-68. It was the third time the Nittany Lions got the best of the Buckeyes that season, after defeating them 82-79 on the road and 79-56 at home weeks later.
Penn State’s win against Northwestern snapped an eight-game losing skid, dating back to December. Junior forward Lamar Stevens led the team in scoring with 18 points, while freshman guard Rasir Bolton added 14. The win improved their record to 8-14 (1-10).
Bolton has been hot for the Nittany Lions as of late, scoring in the double figures in four of his last five games. He has provided production that Penn State desperately needed. Along with Stevens, who is averaging 18.9 points per game, Bolton is the only other player averaging double figure scoring with 11.8. points per game.
They face off against an Ohio State team that sits at 14-7 (4-6). Despite coming off of a home win against Rutgers, the Buckeyes have dropped six of their last eight games.
Ohio State is led by sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson, who is averaging 15.3 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game. Wesson is a physical threat in the paint, standing at 6 feet 9 inches. He plays his best in single coverage, where he can beat his man at the basket or stretch the defense with his perimeter ability.
The Buckeyes also find production from the guard duo of senior C.J. Jackson and freshman Luther Muhammad. Both possess the ability to knock it down from behind the arc but can also convert driving to the basket.
Penn State will have their hands full keeping these three in check. They will need junior forward Mike Watkins to play strong defensively against Wesson. The Nittany Lions have struggled this season shutting down opposing big men, and Wesson will provide a similar threat.
Penn State will also look for sophomore guard Jamari Wheeler and senior guard Josh Reaves to help lock down the defensive end. The Nittany Lions rank third in the Big Ten in total steals and steals per game, and these two players are a big reason why.
Both are averaging more than a steal per game and help force stops on the defensive end. Expect Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers to use Wheeler and Reaves to slow down Ohio State’s Jackson and Muhammad.
Offensively, Penn State must spread the ball around. Getting players other than Stevens involved has proven to be key for Penn State’s success this season. They must work the ball underneath to Watkins and sophomore forward John Harrar. Finding baskets in the paint will open up perimeter shots.
Penn State will attempt to win back-to-back games for only the second time this season on Thursday night. Ohio State is looking to avenge their three losses to Penn State from last season. The Buckeyes are 9-4 at home this season, while the Nittany Lions are 2-6 on the road.
Tune in at 7 p.m. on ESPN Thursday night to catch the game.
Preston Shoemaker is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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