You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. There are some cases, quite honestly, that's a good thing.
While some sequels are a poor representation of the original and should have stopped after one or two, the Buckeyes are plenty eager for a redo. This second chance against the Nittany Lions tonight at 8 PM could be worthy of an Academy Award by comparison to the collapse that happened in the second half in State College last Wednesday.
Graced with a hard earned 24-point second-half advantage against Penn State, Ohio State was outscored 36-14 over the last 15:53. The 50-26 lead evaporated with the Buckeyes making just six field goals over the last 15 minutes, and Penn State had a potential game-winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer before the Buckeyes left with a 64-62 victory.
The executive producer of the 2006-07 production of the Buckeyes, doubling as head coach Thad Matta, scripted a slightly better result on Sunday for Ohio State. Faced with a trip to "The Barn," Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Ohio State turned in one of their better performances of the season - and 85-67 thumping of the Golden Gophers, sure to be nominated for an Emmy.
Was it fool's gold?
Ohio State (24-3, 12-1 Big Ten) might be eager to find out. With merely three regular season games remaining in the debut showing of the "Thad Five," the Buckeyes can earn their second consecutive outright Big Ten Championship by knocking off Penn State and following it up Sunday with a victory over Wisconsin. The Badgers put Ohio State in a position to potentially win the conference outright on their home floor by virtue of the loss Tuesday evening against Michigan State.
It's the third time this season the Buckeyes have played an opponent twice within a week's time, thanks to the Big Ten's quirky conference scheduling. This time, it's expected to be a more friendly finish for Ohio State against Penn State (10-15, 1-11 Big Ten). In the meeting last Wednesday, 6-5 forward Geary Claxton scored 19 points for the Nittany Lions as he was 6-of-12 from the field.
"Penn State is a good basketball team with capable players that do a good job," said Matta. "When shots are going in like they did the second half against us they are a very capable basketball team."
Ohio State got just 4 points from freshman center Greg Oden in the second half against Penn State. Although the point guard combination of Mike Conley and Jamar Butler had 12 assists for the Buckeyes, they also combined on a rare seven turnovers.
The Buckeyes have committed fewer than 10 turnovers in four of their last five games. Ball-handling has been a staple of Matta's emphasis offensively.
None the less, the Buckeyes want to establish Oden again tonight against Penn State. He had 19 points and nine rebounds Sunday against Minnesota.
"We run the offense through him," said Conley.
A win against the Nittany Lions would preserve a bit of luster to the game Sunday on national television. Despite Wisconsin's loss to Michigan State, their No. 1-ranking in the AP Poll and Ohio State's No. 1-ranking in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll marks the first time two No. 1's have faced one another. It's still technically one versus two - or one versus one, depending on how you look at it.
"Growing up as a fan of the Big Ten as I did, it speaks volumes about the Big Ten," said Matta. "Having the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country is what I signed up for here."
But the match-up will have to wait a few more days.
Not so fast my friend, say the Buckeyes.
"Coach says we are in the driver's seat and control our own destiny," Conley said. "We just need to stay focused and concentrate on our goals, take each game one at at a time and hopefully come out with wins."
"We aren't concentrated on being No. 1 or No. 2, our focus is on Penn State," added Butler.
What: Ohio State (24-3, 12-1) vs. Penn State (10-15, 1-11)
Where: Value City Arena; Columbus, Ohio
When: Tonight, 8 PM ET
TV: ESPN Plus; Channel 10 locally (Tom Hamilton and Bill Hosket)
Series: Ohio State leads 22-13 (Won last eight meetings)
PG Ben Luber (6-0 Sr.) - 5.7 ppg, 3.7 apg
SG Danny Morrissey (6-3 Soph.) - 10.2 ppg, 43.4 percent 3-point FG
SF Geary Claxton (6-5 Jr.) - 16.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg
PF Jamelle Cornley (6-5 Soph.) - 14.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg
F Brandon Hassell (6-11 Jr.) - 6.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg
PG Mike Conley (6-1 Fr.) - 10.1 ppg, 6.4 apg
SG Jamar Butler (6-2 Jr.) - 8.5 ppg, 40.3 percent FG
SF Daequan Cook (6-5 Fr.) - 11.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg
PF Ivan Harris (6-8 Sr.) - 8.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg
C Greg Oden (7-1 Fr.) - 15.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg