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What To Watch: OSU @ Penn State

We have our preview and a prediction for Saturday’s game as No. 14 Ohio State visits Penn State (noon, ESPN2).

matta 1 25 13 video

In the board above, we have audio of comments from OSU coach Thad Matta. Click here for video of comments from Deshaun Thomas and Evan Ravenel from NBC 4 Columbus.

Here is our What To Watch feature for Saturday’s game against Penn State:

Opponent: Penn State

* Where: Bryce Jordan Center (Capacity: 15,261); University Park, Pa.

* Date, Time: Saturday, noon

* TV: ESPN2 (Announcers: Bob Wischusen and Dan Dakich)

* 2012-13 Records: Ohio State, 14-4 overall, 4-2 Big Ten; Penn State, 8-11 overall, 0-7 Big Ten

* Poll Rankings: Ohio State, 14th in AP poll and 15th in USA Today coaches poll; Penn State, unranked.

* RPI Rankings: Ohio State, 26th; Penn State, 184th.

* Key Players (2012-13 Stats): Ohio State – F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7, jr., 20.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg; G Aaron Craft, 6-2, jr., 8.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.9 spg; G Lenzelle Smith Jr., 6-4, jr., 10.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.8 apg; F LaQuinton Ross, 6-8, so., 8.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg; C Amir Williams, 6-11, so., 4.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg; F-C Evan Ravenel, 6-8, sr., 6.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg; F Sam Thompson, 6-7, so., 7.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg; G Shannon Scott, 6-2, so., 5.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 1.9 spg. Penn State – G D.J. Newbill, 6-4, so., 15.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.9 apg; G Jermaine Marshall, 6-4, jr., 15.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg; F Ross Travis, 6-6, so., 7.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg; F Brandon Taylor, 6-7, fr., 6.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg; F Sasa Borovnjak, 6-9, jr., 5.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg; G Nick Colella, 6-3, sr., 3.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg; G Tim Frazier, 6-1, sr., 16.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.3 spg (Frazier is injured and out for the season).

* Quality Of Opponent: Somewhat dangerous. Penn State hasn’t won a game since beating Duquesne on Dec. 29 (84-74). The Nittany Lions lost their leader, Frazier, when he went out with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. He was this team and led them in nearly every category a year ago. Newbill has filled in admirably at the point since that injury.

PSU coach Patrick Chambers was a winner at Boston University and he seems like a real bulldog. He will have his team ready to play and they are desperate for a breakthrough win. They haven’t beaten Ohio State in almost nine years as well. They gave Michigan State a tough game last week at home before MSU pulled out an 81-72 win. But that is one of four conference home losses, which have been decided by an average of 13 points (Indiana, Northwestern and Nebraska have also won there).

* OSU-Penn State Series: Ohio State leads the all-time series with Penn State 28-12, including 10-7 in games played at Penn State. Ohio State has won the last 17 games in a row in this series, dating to a loss at Penn State in January 2004. The Bryce Jordan Center opened in January 1996. OSU is 8-5 all-time in games there and has won in its last six trips.

Last year, Ohio State rolled to a 78-54 win in Columbus. Jared Sullinger had 20 points and 13 rebounds for OSU. William Buford had 15 points, Aaron Craft had 11 and Deshaun Thomas scored nine. Tim Frazier had 16 points and Jermaine Marshall scored 14 for PSU.

Since his arrival at OSU in 2004-05, Thad Matta is 16-0 against Penn State.

* Fun Facts: This is the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season … Matta’s teams are also 195-21 against unranked opponents. Over the last three years, OSU is 65-1 against unranked opponents with the lone loss at Illinois last January (79-74) … Thomas, coming off a 16-point effort against Minnesota, hasn't been held below 14 points all season, and he's been between 16 and 28 points in each of his last 11 games. He goes into this game with 1,266 points and 30th on the OSU career scoring list. The next player on the list is Jared Sullinger at No. 29 (1,282) … With four steals against Iowa, Craft moved out of a tie with Jay Burson for first place on OSU’s career steals list. He now has 208 career steals. He is also fourth all-time in assists at 443. Craft was featured with a seven-page spread in this week’s edition of Sports Illustrated … Ohio State is 1-3 in road games this season with a win at Purdue and losses at Duke, Illinois and Michigan State.

* Match-Ups To Watch: Watching Penn State play, it is apparent that without Frazier the Nittany Lions are running everything through Newbill. My guess is that Craft, Scott and Smith will rotate on him and make it hard to get the PSU offense started.

* What’s At Stake: This is pretty simple. Penn State is winless in Big Ten play and down near 200 in RPI. This is a must-win for Ohio State. The Buckeyes can’t afford a bad loss in their NCAA resume or if they plan on contending for the conference title.

* What They’re Saying: Ravenel on going on the road at Penn State: “We have to come out ready to play. Like Coach says, they always get a home win over a top-25 team at their place. He doesn’t want it to be us. We don’t want it to be us, either. Coach emphasized that those guys play hard. They haven’t won a game in the league, but they have been in games. Teams have had to go in there and work hard for those wins.”

Thomas on Penn State: “They play hard. They are a scrappy team. They are known for knocking off ranked teams. We don’t want it to be us. They have two great scorers. They are a team fighting for position. They will listen to their coach and do anything they can to get a win.”

Thomas said he got six stitches in his head after being elbowed twice on Tuesday: “I thought (Iowa’s Melsahn) Basabe had hit me, but they said it was Shannon (Scott), my own teammate. There was blood everywhere. (Big Ten Network’s) Jimmy Jackson said it was both of them. I got elbowed in the head and there was blood everywhere. It’s cool. That’s first time ever I got stitches. They numbed it and it didn’t hurt.”

Matta on similarities between Iowa and Penn State: “They are very similar in terms of the scrappiness they play with and the changing of defenses with pressing and zone and switching back to man-to-man. Offensively, conceptually some of the things are similar with what they are trying to do.

“They’ve shown (some presses). They’ve shown a run-and-jump and a 1-2-2 drop back to zone. They’ve shown a guy on the ball. Sometimes it’s not as much. When they were behind to Michigan State by eight in the second half, they were running and jumping. They’ve shown a lot of different things.”

Matta on playing tight games at Penn State: “I don’t know if I could pinpoint one thing as to why that would be. You look back and we’ve had some pretty tight games here with them, too. It is what it is. It’s usually not your sold out, crazy place. The students there are awesome and do a good job. I do like the way we have come out of there when we’ve been there.”

* Next On The Docket: Ohio State hosts Wisconsin (13-6, 4-2) Tuesday at 7 p.m. (ESPN). The Badgers have lost two in a row after a 4-0 Big Ten start. They host Minnesota on Saturday.

* How We See It: Ohio State has struggled with its last two Saturday afternoon games, losing at Illinois and at Michigan State. The Buckeyes stumbled out of the gates in both of those losses. The Buckeyes will want to come out energized and ready to go against a Penn State team licking its wounds from a rough loss at Indiana Wednesday night (72-49).

Without Frazier, everything has been a struggle for Penn State. The Nittany Lions are 296th nationally in scoring (61.5 ppg) and 326th in field goal percentage (.390). This is not a team that, all things being equal, that Ohio State should have a real problem with.

But they play these games on hardwood. In the Jan. 16 loss to Michigan State (81-72), Penn State was still within two points of the Spartans with just over 11 minutes left. I think Chambers is slowly putting some nice pieces in place. If Frazier comes back next year, they could be a halfway decent team.

For Ohio State, this is a game where Thomas needs to assert himself early and often. It was good to see the wings like Smith, Thompson and Ross add some scoring against Iowa. That would be welcome here as well.

I’ve got it: Ohio State 79, Penn State 64

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