The next to last game of the Buckeye basketball regular season will take place tomorrow night when Ohio State travels to the Happy Valley to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions. The two teams met earlier this season on January 15th in a game that saw Ohio State hang on to beat the feisty Penn State squad. While it seems at this point that Penn State will just miss the NCAA Tournament once again (barring a run through the Big Ten Tournament), a win over the Buckeyes would certainly be an outstanding conclusion to their home season. The Lions are poised to finish with an overall record of at least 15-15 for the 2010-11 campaign, and the season has brought a number of exciting wins along the way.
The signature win for Penn State this year was a home win against Wisconsin, a game that occurred just two weeks after Ohio State received their own scare in Columbus. In the win over the Badgers, Talor Battle led the way as usual with 22 points, 20 of which came after halftime. The game was a low-scoring affair with a final of only 56-52, but clearly Penn State can be a dangerous team when playing at the Jordan Center. In Big Ten play the Lions are 6-2 when playing at home, compared to 2-6 while on the road.
Penn State has demonstrated a fairly consistent ability to shoot a good percentage from the field, knocking down over 50% of their shots on four separate occasions in the Big Ten season, and shooting under 40% on only one occasion. Talor Battle has posted games of 31 and 28 points, and Ohio State will need to contain Battle to prevent the senior guard from leading the way to an upset in his final home game. Senior forward Jeff Brooks has also put up solid numbers, averaging over 13 points per game on the season to go along with 6-7 rebounds per outing.
While a pre-tournament lapse in focus is possible for Ohio State, especially if the team is looking ahead to the grudge match with Wisconsin next Sunday, it is more likely that the team will be locked in and ready to go. After sitting in foul trouble for a large portion of yesterday’s game against Indiana, Jared Sullinger should be eager to assert himself once again in the post. Aaron Craft seems to be getting increasingly aggressive on the defensive end, and assuming he draws the assignment of checking Battle for long stretches, watch for some back-and-forth play between the two, matching superb offense against superb defense.
Tuesday’s game will tip-off at 9:00pm on the Big Ten Network, and we’ll be here with the liveblog to chat it up, so be sure to stop by!