Penn State Men’s Basketball Preview vs. Ohio State
Penn State played four games in nine days after a 22-day hiatus due to COVID-19 issues related to their program.
In that stretch, the Nittany Lions finished 3-1, with their lone loss coming to then No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers at home.
Coach Micah Shrewsberry’s team managed to get wins against the Indiana Hoosiers, Northwestern Wildcats, and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
A huge contribution to the team’s recent success falls on their defense. In its last 11 games, Penn State has managed to hold eight of their opponents to 10 points under their season scoring averages.
Diving deeper on the defensive scheme, junior forward Seth Lundy has made his presence known on the defensive end. Not only does he lead the team with 14.1 points per game, but he has been tasked to guard the best each opponent has to offer.
For example, against the Boilermakers. Lundy had to watch John Wooden Award Watchlist player Jaden Ivey, who averages 16.2 points per game, was only held to 12 points in Penn State’s loss. Recently, Lundy did his job when Rutgers’ forward Ron Harper Jr., who averages 15.7 points per game on 43.4% shooting, was limited to seven points while shooting 2-9 from the floor.
On offense, Siena transfer Jalen Pickett has stepped up to be the offensive catalyst for the Blue and White. In conference play, the senior averages 17.5 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game and 4.2 assists per game, making him the only player to complete such a feat.
Alongside Pickett is the big man: senior John Harrar. The forward averages a double-double of 11.1 points per game and 10 rebounds per game, joining Illinois’ center Kofi Cockburn as the only conference players to average a double-double.
Looking over to Ohio State, the Buckeyes are coming off a 10-point loss to the Wisconsin Badgers, making coach Chris Holtmann’s team lose two out of their last three games. In the box score, the scoring seems balanced with five players reaching the double-digit mark in points.
However, their Achilles’ Heel was a category the team usually finds success in: the three-pointer. Against the Badgers, the Buckeyes only shot 15.8% from beyond the arc, which is an over a 50% decrease in their season average for a three-point percentage.
Their attack starts with forward EJ Liddell, who averages a team-high 19.9 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game, and 3.1 blocks per game. Liddell is one of two players to average double-digit points, with the other being guard Malaki Branham, who averages 10.4 points per game.
The last time these two teams met, it was Penn State’s Big Ten conference opener and the return of former Nittany Lion Jamari Wheeler back to Happy Valley after transferring to Columbus. Wheeler had the last laugh with a 76-64 win over Penn State.
A big contributor to the Buckeyes win was the three-ball, especially from forward Kyle Young, who went 4-4 from downtown. Penn State had three scorers in double digits, but the rest of the team scored only 16 points to back that up.
This time around, Penn State has a full roster, with Greg Lee and Jevonnie Scott being activated. Lee made his first appearance against Michigan State in East Lansing, while Scott stepped onto the court for the first time in the team’s last game against the Scarlet Knights.
Their height aids in the rotation of big men that Shrewsberry likes to throw out there, but with Scott’s heftier build of 6-feet-7-inches and 252 lbs., he can find himself clearing out the more physical players Ohio State has to offer.
History does not favor the Nittany Lions, with the Buckeyes taking the overall series with a 42-19 record and a 22-6 advantage at home against Penn State. With how Penn State has played as of late, the team will not back down.
Prediction: Ohio State 63, Penn State 57
Jonathan Draeger is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.