Game Preview: Penn State vs. Ohio State
Pat Chambers and Penn State survived a survived a tough opening round test in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament Thursday night, defeating Northwestern 65-57. Tony Carr led the way with 25 points and knocked down six of Penn State’s 13 made threes as a team. Josh Reaves and Shep Garner also chipped in 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Tonight, the quest for a Big Ten title continues when the Nittany Lions will take on second-seeded Ohio State for the third time this season at 6:30 p.m. from Madison Square Garden. Penn State has already beaten the Buckeyes twice, including a 79-56 drubbing just two weeks ago in State College.
This time around, however, Penn State will be without arguably its most important player on the team in Mike Watkins, who will miss the entire Big Ten Tournament after suffering a knee injury against Michigan last week. Without Watkins, Penn State loses its defensive anchor and will have to rely a lot more on its pedestrian back-ups in Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce.
Watkins’ absence could be especially problematic tonight since Ohio State is one of the better rebounding teams in the country with Kaleb Wesson, Jae’Sean Tate and Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop. Penn State’s two best rebounders, on the other hand, are both perimeter players in Reaves and Lamar Stevens.
Wesson and Micah Potter are both two skilled offensive players and can score proficiently inside. These two will need to exploit Watkins’ absence inside to open things up for their perimeter shooters.
Ohio State will need to find a way to slow down Carr, who they had no answer for in the previous two matchups. The First-Team All-Big Ten selection is averaging 29 points, five rebounds and four assists in two contests against the Buckeyes this year.
Ohio State will likely rotate C.J. Jackson, Kam Williams and Andrew Dakich onto him throughout the game. The trio struggled in the first two matchups on both ends of the floor against Penn State’s bigger and more athletic guards, so maybe Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann will look to get the ball in the hands of Tate and Bates-Diop to initiate the offense.
One other thing working in Ohio State’s favor this time around is the extra rest. When these teams first played earlier in the season, Ohio State was playing its fourth game in nine days, while Penn State was playing on four days rest. Similarly, Ohio State was playing its third game in nine days, while Penn State was on three days rest during the second matchup. This time the Buckeyes have had a full week off, while Penn State just played last night.
The Buckeyes will need their star in Bates-Diop to bounce back from his 10-point, 4-11 shooting performance in Ohio State’s last matchup with Penn State. The Nittany Lions, on the other hand, have been lights out on the defensive end as of late and will need to continue that tonight.
Penn State will also need to stay hot from the perimeter to beat Ohio State a third time, but this will be difficult against an Ohio State team that is the 14th most efficient defense in the country.
Ohio State may not have an answer for Carr and Penn State has several long, athletic defenders like Reaves and Stevens that they can limit Bates-Diop with. However, on the other end, Bates-Diop with his 7-3 wingspan, along with Tate, have the ability to lock down Penn State’s other perimeter threats.
The Wesson matchup against a Watkins-less Penn State team is key. He has become more of a difference maker offensively as the season has progressed and could be in for a big night.
A thin Penn State frontcourt and a rested Ohio State team will finally get the Buckeyes past the Nittany Lions and send them to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Prediction: Ohio State 65, Penn State 57
Will Desautelle is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.