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Penn State Basketball Heads to Columbus for Crucial Tilt with Ohio State



Penn State basketball
Feb 18, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) drives to the basket while Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Dawson Garcia (3) defends during the second half at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In what can easily be called the biggest game for Penn State basketball since the 2019-20 season, the Nittany Lions (16-11, 7-9 Big Ten) head to Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. The game will be nationally televised on FS1 with a 6:30 PM (EST) tip-off.

Scouting the Opponent

This has not been a typical season for Ohio State (11-16, 3-13 B1G), a team that has made the last five NCAA tournaments. They are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, their last win coming over a month ago at home against Iowa. Ohio State got a further blow on Wednesday afternoon when it was announced that junior forward Zed Key, who was averaging 10.8 PPG this year, would miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.

One of the lone bright spots for the Buckeyes has been freshman forward Brice Sensabaugh, who is Ohio State’s leading scorer at 16.5 PPG. He is a projected top-20 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Ohio State currently sits at No. 64 in the NET rankings, meaning if the Nittany Lions were able to win, it would count as a Quadrant I victory. 

Keeping Momentum (and Hope) Alive For Penn State Basketball

Penn State comes into this game winners of their last two. They picked up a Quadrant I win over Illinois last Tuesday at the BJC and then their second road win of the year at Minnesota on Saturday. The Nittany Lions will look to keep the momentum rolling Thursday night, however this will be easier said than done despite Ohio State’s struggles. Penn State has not won in Columbus since the 2017-18 season.

The last time these two teams met was on a neutral site for last year’s Big Ten Tournament. Penn State overcame an 11 point deficit in the second half to stun the Buckeyes. Before that meeting, Ohio State swept the two-game regular season series. If Penn State is able to win, they will keep themselves in the conversation for an NCAA tournament berth. While a loss won’t necessarily eliminate them, it will make an already uphill battle that much more steep.

Pickett Shines, Brings Penn State Basketball Close to Record

Jalen Pickett is coming off arguably the most successful week a Penn Stater has ever had on the basketball court. He collected Naismith National Player of the Week, Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week (USBWA), and ESPN National Player of the Week honors, among others, in addition to being named the Big Ten Player of the Week. Pickett was in some truly rarefied air.

Per OptaSTATS, Pickett, LeBron James and Steph Curry are the only three players in NCAA Division I or the NBA in the last 25 years to have had a two-game span with 70+ points, 15+ assists, 10+ rebounds, 65.0+ FG% and 90.0+ FT%. Not bad company, being mentioned among this generation’s two greatest players. He averaged 36.5 PPG, including 9 three pointers. Those three pointers have brought Penn State within two triples shy of the single-season program record for three pointers.

The record is currently held by the 2017-2018 NIT Championship team, which hit 294 three pointers. Given the Nittany Lion’s style of play, that record is more than likely to fall in Columbus on Thursday night. 

Penn State Basketball Keys To Victory

Start Hot, Stay Hot

It is a secret to no one that the Nittany Lions live or die by the three ball. They have really struggled with the three ball on the road this year. If they want to walk out of Columbus with a win, they are going to have to buck that trend and shoot lights out.

Shut Down Sensabaugh

With the Buckeyes losing other key scoring options to injury, the offense is going to run through Brice Sensabaugh. It is not going to be an easy task to shut him down, especially considering the Nittany Lion’s struggles in the interior all year. Penn State is going to have to employ some double teams and creative defensive looks to shut down the stud freshman. 

Jalen Pickett

Not much more to say here besides Jalen Pickett. If Jalen Pickett is able to continue the run of play he has been on, he can will this team to victory against just about any opponent.

Prediction For Penn State basketball At Ohio State

The Nittany Lions have been awful on the road all year, even struggling with a really bad Minnesota team in Minneapolis on Sunday night. However, Ohio State is awful and it seems that Penn State is perhaps rounding into form at just the right time for the stretch run. It’ll be a nail biter, but Pickett wills this team to another road victory and gives Penn State a real chance to dance.

Final Score Prediction: Penn State 77, Ohio State 72


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Jaret is a Penn State alum who covers Penn State sports for Basic Blues Nation. He is very passionate about the Nittany Lions and loves sharing his passion for the school through writing.


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