University Park, PA (Sports Network) - The only team still without a win in Big Ten Conference play, the Penn State Nittany Lions will try once again to turn the trick as they play host to the 14th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday afternoon.
Ohio State comes in sporting a 14-4 overall record, which includes a 4-2 league ledger, and the team is hoping to start building up a head of steam as it looks ahead to the final month or so of the regular season. The Buckeyes knocked off visiting Iowa on Tuesday night, 72-63, to improve to 11-1 at home, but they haven't been able to string together more than two wins in a row since mid-December. OSU is just 1-3 in true road games this season.
After alternating wins and losses over its first eight games, Penn State went on a four-game win streak to wrap up its non-conference schedule. Unfortunately, that positive run would come to an end as all seven of the team's Big Ten bouts leading up to this contest have ended in defeat. The Nittany Lions were most recently in action three days ago at former No. 1 Indiana, and as expected the Hoosiers proved to be the superior team in what wound up as a 72-49 final. PSU is 7-5 at home this season, and coach Pat Chamber's club has lost its last four at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Ohio State owns a 31-13 lead in the all-time series with Penn State, and has dominated the relationship of late by winning the last 17 meetings. The Nittany Lions' last win over the Buckeyes was a 64-47 decision at home back in 2004.
Ohio State is fortunate to have one of the favorites to win Big Ten Player of the Year honors on the roster, as Deshawn Thomas is averaging 20.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 47.5 percent from the field overall, which includes a stellar 41.9 percent showing from 3-point range. How valuable is Thomas to just about everything coach Thad Matta has his team doing? Well, when you consider that the team's second-leading scorer, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., is netting only 10.2 ppg, it's painfully obvious that if Thomas were to miss any extended action the Buckeyes could be in serious trouble. As it is, the team is lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 73.2 ppg, while holding the opposition to just 58.2 ppg. OSU is shooting 46 percent from the field, compared to 38 percent for its enemies, and the Buckeyes do a nice job of converting their long-range launches (.370). Not surprising, Thomas was high man for Ohio State in its recent win over Iowa, the junior forward going 6- of-11 from the floor in netting 16 points. He grabbed seven of the team's 34 rebounds, and he was joined in double figures by Smith, Jr. and Aaron Craft with 12 points apiece, and Evan Ravenel who chipped in 11 points off the bench.
Penn State too has just a pair of double-digit scorers, but even D.J. Newbill's 15.5 ppg and Jermaine Marshall's 15.0 ppg don't make up for the fact that those figures are twice as much as anyone else on the roster, thus meaning the team averages a low 61.5 ppg. That figure drops down to a mere 54.7 ppg against Big Ten foes. PSU has put forth more than its share of sub par shooting efforts this year, knocking down its field goals just 39 percent of the time, with its 3-point accuracy coming in at a paltry 27.8 percent. Defensively, the Lions permit a little more than 67 ppg, with foes shooting 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. PSU is +3.8 in rebounding margin, but is guilty of 13.3 turnovers per outing. Newbill hit for 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds, both of which led the team, but he was guilty of eight of its 18 turnovers as Penn State fell hard at Indiana earlier in the week. Marshall tacked on 12 points and six boards for the Lions, who made good on only 33.3 percent of their total shots, missing 13-of-15 3-point tries along the way. It certainly didn't help that the Hoosiers drained 11 treys. Both teams committed 18 turnovers on the night.