Penn State destroyed OSU 64-47 on Jan. 10 in State College. Since that point, though, PSU (9-16, 3-11) has only won once. Of course, OSU has also experienced some season-long struggles. The Buckeyes (13-14, 5-9) have their work cut out for them to finish at or above .500 just to qualify for the NIT.
"We're definitely better on paper and I think we're definitely better on the court," said OSU forward Terence Dials. "We just didn't show up that day. It's tough. I know I had one of my worst games of the season. I just want to come out here and play hard. It was an embarrassing showing. Hopefully we'll come out and give our fans something to see.
"We watched the film of that game a couple of times. We missed a lot of easy shots and we turned the ball over. Hopefully we can knock those shots down this time."
For senior center Velimir Radinovic, he is down to two regular season games at Value City Arena. (The Buckeyes host Big Ten-leading Illinois at 4 p.m. Sunday.)
"I'm looking forward to finishing out my career here at home," Radinovic said. "Hopefully we can finish out here on a high note. If we have any postseason aspirations, these are two games must-win games. I hope the rest of the team approaches it as such.
"We want to show we're a better team. I don't know how much revenge it is (against Penn State). We shot ourselves in the foot in that game. I think we've made some improvements over the last few games. If we come out and have a solid effort and play better defensively, we should be OK."
OSU coach Jim O'Brien discussed his team's opportunity and predicament.
"Absolutely we have something to prove," he said. "This is a very important game for us if we're interested in extending our season. The reality is we will have to win the Big Ten tournament to get to the NCAA. If we don't do that, we have a chance to extend our season with the NIT and play some more games. But to do that, winning these two games here at home is very important.
"Our focus right now is to get the game (against Penn State). We know Sunday will be very difficult."
In the first meeting at PSU, freshman guard Marlon Smith scored 23 points. The Lions led just 27-26 at halftime before putting the game away with a 14-2 run to start the second half. OSU shot a dismal 36.4 percent (20 of 55) from the floor, including 0 for 13 on three-pointers, and committed 19 turnovers. Radinovic was the only OSU player in double figures with 16 points.
O'Brien reflected on his team's ill-fated trip to State College.
"There's no doubt in my mind we were our own worst enemy in the last game we played against them," O'Brien said. "It was a long time ago, but all you have to do to refresh your memory is look at the tape. They played pretty well, but we really hurt ourselves and didn't play very well."
Penn State's only win since beating OSU was a 63-61 overtime win over Northwestern Jan. 28.
The Lions have lost their six previous conference road games by margins of 18 (Michigan State), 43 (Illinois), 19 (Iowa), 13 (Northwestern), 23 (Michigan) and 23 points (Wisconsin).
"They're still playing the same guys," O‘Brien said. "They started the (Big Ten) season well. They were 2-0 and in first place after the first week. But since that time they have really struggled. I don't think they've done very well on the road. They're probably a little tired because they haven't played a lot of guys."
O'Brien Again Debunks St. John's Rumor
As we reported Saturday, O'Brien said he had not been contacted by St. John's and was not actively seeking the head job with the Red Storm. But a media member asked him to comment on Internet reports linking his name to the job.
"When was the last time you could believe anything you read on the Internet?" O'Brien retorted.
"Everybody can form their own list and put names on it. I would suspect that three-quarters of the names on those lists haven't been contacted by anybody. It's all speculation. I have had no contact with anybody from St. John's and nobody has called me to see if I'm interested. All we're doing is coaching our team and I'm very happy at Ohio State. Anybody who puts my name on a list like that is just speculating," he said.
A reporter then asked if that meant he had no interest in the SJU job. O'Brien replied, "I'm just coaching Ohio State right now and anything other than that is speculation."
Not satisfied with that answer, the reporter again asked if that meant he had no interest in that job.
"I answered your question," O‘Brien said. "I'm very, very happy to be coaching at Ohio State."
* OSU leads the all-time series with Penn State 14-13, including 9-4 in Columbus.
Junior center Jan Jagla leads Penn State with 13.6 points a game. Smith is second in scoring with 12.7 points a game. Jagla also is the squad's top rebounder with an average of 7.9 a contest.
* Ed DeChellis is in his first season as the coach at Penn State. His seven-year career at East Tennessee State produced a record of 105-93 prior to his first year as the Nittany Lion mentor. He is 9-16 and 3-11 in Big Ten play.
* O'Brien revealed that if OSU does get selected to host a game in the NIT it would likely have to play a first-round game in St. John Arena due to building conflicts at VCA.