Game: Penn State (10-10, 1-6 Big Ten) at 24 Ohio State (16-4, 3-4 Big Ten)
Date: January 29, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
TV: Big Ten Network
After finally breaking through in the Big Ten, the Penn State Nittany Lions will now look to make it two straight wins when they travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State, ranked among the top teams in the country just a few weeks back, have recently lost four out of five games and our now ranked 24th in the nation.
The last time the Nittany Lions took the floor, they were able to defeat the Nebraska Cornhuskers and get off the snide in the conference. After trailing for much of the game, Penn State controlled the game late and pulled away for the 58-54 home victory. The Nittany Lions had made a habit out falling apart at the end of games, but that wasn’t the case against the Cornhuskers. Point guard Tim Frazier played a big role in that victory, putting up 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
The core of Penn State is its backcourt, led by the duo of Frazier and D.J. Newbill. That combination has become one of the best in all of the nation. Newbill leads the team this season with 17.2 points a game. Frazier is right behind him, putting up 16.5 points a game. Fellow guard John Johnson, who’s played in eight games since being given eligibility after his transfer from Pittsburgh, provides solid production off the bench.
Down in the paint, the Nittany Lions have been getting controlled by the more-talented teams in the Big Ten. Though Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis and Donovon Jack can each put up good production at times, problems down low, especially on the glass, tend to be the downfall of the Nittany Lions.
Jack is has the ability to be an x-factor in any game though with his ability to both play the post and shoot from the outside. He leads the team in three-point percentage, knocking down 43 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
Tonight’s game presents a very tough challenge for the Nittany Lions, especially since it’s being played in a tough road environment. Although Ohio State has been down recently, the Buckeyes are still a very talented team. They started the season by winning 15 games, before an overtime loss at then-No. 5 Michigan State stated a four-game losing streak, that also included a loss to No. 20 Iowa and upset defeats against Minnesota and Nebraska.
The Buckeyes are a veteran group who know how to win at the highest level. Junior forward LaQuinton Ross leads the team with 14.1 points a game. He’s second on the team with 5.6 rebounds a game and his talent level presents a match up problem for most opponents down low.
In the backcourt, it’s a duo of senior guards that lead the way. Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. combine for over 20 points a game. Craft, who’s known more for his defense and playmaking ability, leads the team with 4.9 assists per contest. Though he may not put up a lot of points, it’s his leadership that helps the Buckeyes win.
Though Ohio State doesn’t rank highly in any of the main statistical categories nationally, don’t let that fool you. There’s already a history of winning with this squad and the potential to make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament.
If the Nittany Lions hope to pull off the upset tonight, they are going to have to play one of their best games of the season. Penn State has been able to start fast in several games this season. That’s something that’s important on the road, as it could take the crowd out of the game early. Ohio State has proven recently that it’s beatable, the Nittany Lions just need to keep the game close and hang around until the end in order to have a chance.
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