In game No. 1, the Nittany Lions nearly handed the Buckeyes their first loss off the season. It took a late three-point play from freshman Jared Sullinger and some impressive defense from classmate Aaron Craft on PSU senior Talor Battle to seal a 69-66 victory in Columbus.
The rematch came 12 days ago, and the result was a 21-point OSU victory as Jon Diebler set a school record with 10 three-pointers as the Buckeyes blew the Nittany Lions off their own court on senior day.
Now, in the final Big Ten game before the NCAA Tournament, those two teams will meet in Indianapolis for the league tournament crown. And after being embarrassed in State College, the Nittany Lions are hoping to play more like the team that almost pulled the upset in Columbus earlier this season.
"I think we were a little too amped up about it being senior night," senior forward Jeff Brooks said. "When we went to Columbus we were a little more humble, a little more hungry to win. We had something to prove. I felt like when we were at home we felt like it was going to be given to us because it was senior night. (Today) gives us a little bit of motivation."
The Nittany Lions enter the game with plenty of motivation on their own. After having won three games in as many days, they are hoping to earn the conference's automatic NCAA Tournament bid. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are hoping to cement their status as the top overall seed in the tournament and add a tournament championship to their outright Big Ten title.
While the prevailing sentiment might be that the Buckeyes will not be as mentally prepared for the game as their opponents, senior forward David Lighty downplayed that thought.
"Next week is next week," he said. "We can't worry about that. We want to win a Big Ten tournament championship tomorrow. This is mission two and we're one step closer to completing it so hopefully we can come out and be ready to play tomorrow."
OSU will appear in the title game for the third straight season while PSU will be making it first such appearance.
"This is three in a row so I'm definitely happy," OSU senior forward Dallas Lauderdale said. "We've been here before and we know what to do as far as resting our bodies and the mentality that we have to take. Both teams are going to be tired but it's whoever has the mentality of telling their mind that they're not tired that will win the game."
In the Nittany Lions locker room, a number of players sported ice packs after their win against Michigan State.
"This is just preventative but we're ready to go," said forward David Jackson, who had ice taped to both of his knees after playing 25 minutes. "Any time you're playing for a championship, you can't be tired. We can be tired all we want after the game when we have some down time. We've just got to dig deep and give it everything we've got."
Both Jackson and Brooks could draw the challenge of stopping OSU freshman Jared Sullinger, who has averaged 17.0 points and 15.5 rebounds in his last two games. Asked if he would be charged with stopping the first-team all-Big Ten player, Brooks said, "I hope so. He's a good cat.
"I just like the challenge. He's a great basketball player. I'm pretty confident in myself, trying to put a body on him and see what he has and things like that. I think one of the best things I've been doing so far in this tournament is defending. If I have to guard Sullinger tomorrow, that's what it's going to be."
Brooks had 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and added five rebounds in his team's close call at OSU. In the rematch, he was just 3 for 13 from the field and finished with six points and four rebounds.
Jackson said the task for avoiding a repeat of his team's last performance against the Buckeyes is simple.
"We can't give Jon Diebler 10 threes like we did last time," he said. "He got a lot of open looks. He's a great shooter, so we're going to have to try to really contest shots and do a good job with Sullinger inside.
"They played a really good game and we didn't. We're looking to reverse our fortunes this time and we're going to be ready for (Sunday). "