Today around noon, Ohio State (22-3, 10-1 Big Ten) arrived in Happy Valley - State College, Penn. for tonight's 7 PM nationally televised game against Penn State (10-13, 1-9 Big Ten). It's the first of two meetings in the next eight days between the two clubs heading in opposite directions.
While the Buckeyes sit atop the Big Ten standings along with Wisconsin, as preseason prognosticators predicted for this point in the year, the Nittany Lions have fallen woefully short of expectations. Some predicted a top four or five finish in the conference, but injuries, depth and inconsistency has led to a disappointing season.
Though Ohio State may hold the extreme advantage on paper, this is anything but a mortal lock for the Buckeyes, who historically have struggled with the underdog Nittany Lions.
Last season in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, Penn State led for 35 minutes and by as much as nine points. It wasn't until the 4:54 mark of the second half, did Ohio State take the lead for good in an eventual 63-56 win. In March of 2000, Ohio State was the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and Penn State handed the Buckeyes a 71-66 loss in the quarterfinals.
Offensively, Penn State has been a three-man show this season. Geary Claxton, a 6-5 junior, leads the Nittany Lions with a 16.4 point-per-game average. Claxton also leads the team in rebounding at 8.4 a game.
Sophomore Jamelle Cornley, a 6-5 forward from Columbus Brookhaven High School, had a coming-out party against his hometown Buckeyes in three meetings last season. Cornley scored 52 points and grabbed 22 points in three games against Ohio State, averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in those three meetings. The task will be quite tougher for Cornley this season, who will have to deal with 7-1 Greg Oden instead of 6-9 Terence Dials.
The third scoring option for Penn State is guard Danny Morrissey, who averages 10.8 points a game and is shooting 43.5 percent from 3-point range.
Recently it's been freshman point guard Mike Conley leading the Buckeyes. While Oden is grabbing all the headlines (and a few rebounds as well), it's been Conley that has stepped up along with junior Jamar Butler. Conley is averaging 10.4 points and 6.3 assists per game. He's shooting 52.7 percent from the field and has raised his average to 33 percent from 3-point range. Butler, meanwhile, has slowly raised his average to 8.6 points per game and has raised his shooting percentage to 41 percent and 40 percent from outside the arc.
Oden continues to lead the team in scoring and rebounding, as well as blocked shots. His averages of 15.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game are despite playing with a brace on his right hand, which will likely remain for the rest of the season.
What: Ohio State (22-3, 10-1 Big Ten) vs. Penn State (10-13, 1-9 Big Ten)
Where: Bryce Jordan Center; State College, Penn.
When: Tonight, 7 PM ET
TV: ESPN (Terry Gannon and Stephen Bardo)
Series: Ohio State leads 21-13 (OSU has won the last seven meetings)
PG Ben Luber (6-0 Sr.) - 5.7 ppg, 3.7 apg
SG Danny Morrissey (6-3 Soph.) - 10.8 ppg, 47 percent FG
SF Geary Claxton (6-5 Jr.) - 16.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg
PF Jamelle Cornley (6-5 Soph.) - 14.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg
F Brandon Hassell (6-11 Jr.) - 6.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg
PG Mike Conley (6-1 Fr.) - 10.4 ppg, 6.3 apg
SG Jamar Butler (6-2 Jr.) - 8.6 ppg, 39.8 percent 3-pt FG
SF Ron Lewis (6-5 Sr.) - 11.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg
PF Ivan Harris (6-8 Sr.) - 8.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg
C Greg Oden (7-1 Fr.) - 15.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg