It's no secret that Ohio State has been inconsistent this season and routinely played down to the level of its competition.
Both of those facts have Thad Matta worried about his team entering the Big Ten Tournament. The seventh-seeded Buckeyes will be facing No. 10 Penn State, a team they beat by 20 points earlier this season.
"I think that’s been one of the things with this basketball team is that level of consistency," Matta said. "Just looking back over the years of going to the conference tournaments and kind of what we’ve done leading up to it, it’s a little bit different with this team. There’s not as many givens in terms of exactly how we’re going to play and what we’re going to do.
“I think from my perspective it’s always been one game at a time. You focus on one thing and that is beating Penn State."
The Nittany Lions (16-15, 7-10) have been playing better lately, winning five of their last eight games in the conference including victories over Iowa and league champion Indiana. They're a long way removed from teh 66-46 loss to Ohio State in Columbus, a game that came in the midst of a four-game lossing streak.
That game can do little to get the Buckeyes ready for the rematch. Not only was it more than a month ago, Penn State was without Josh Reaves in that contest while Ohio State had Jae'Sean Tate. Reavesis expected to start at guard for the Nittany Lions while Tate is sidelined until next season after shoulder surgery.
Penn State is led by Brandon Taylor, who Tate guarded in the first meeting, and his 16.3 points per game, while Shep Garner chips in 14.5 a contest.
“I think Garner and Taylor, those guys are scoring a very, very high level," Matta said. "I think from the standpoint of the other guys are falling into their places. The big wins they’ve had over Iowa, Indiana out there they just sort of outworked them and made plays down the stretch. I think from that perspective we’ve told our guys that and they understand Penn State is a much better basketball team than when we played in late January."
The Buckeyes are hoping they're better as well. While Matta insists they are taking things one game at a time, the team is hoping to claim more than just a win over Penn State in Indianpolis. A victory tonight would pitt them against Penn State for the third time in five games.
Complicating matters further for the Buckeyes is the fact that just two starters have experience in the Big Ten Tournament.
"The tougher team is going to win," freshman JaQuan Lyle said of his first Big Ten Tournament. "I just talked to (Evan Turner) on Facetime and he just said that, you know, the Big Ten Tournament is a grind. It’s a four-day stretch and he said you have to go in ready to play all four days. You can’t go in with the mindset that you’re going to pay two days, you have to go in with the mindset that you’re going to play four days. Your body is going to be fatigued but you just have to fight through it.”
That fight starts at 6:30 with Penn State.