Ohio St.-Penn St. Preview
By BRETT HUSTON
(AP) -- Ohio State wasn't exactly thrilled with how it played in its latest game, needing to hold on at the end after blowing most of a 24-point lead.
It hasn't had much to complain about for nearly a decade when it's faced Penn State.
The 14th-ranked Buckeyes head to Happy Valley on Saturday looking for their 18th straight win against the Nittany Lions, who are still searching for their first Big Ten victory.
Ohio State (14-4, 4-2) had scored 56 points or fewer in three of its last four games heading into Iowa's visit to Columbus on Tuesday, but it seemed well on its way to an easy win up 24 with less than 13 minutes remaining.
But an eight-minute stretch without a field goal made things interesting, and the Buckeyes' lead was cut to four before they held on to win 72-63.
"We have been this way before in terms of searching for an identity," coach Thad Matta said. "I have been in games like this before, where we have our moments. We are searching for consistence. I'll take consistency over greatness."
Matta's team has been consistently great versus Penn State (8-11, 0-7) since even before his arrival in Columbus in 2004. The Buckeyes' last 16 victories against the Nittany Lions have come with Matta at the helm, though, and they've won the last three by an average of 18.7 points.
The Big Ten's lone winless team has lost its last 11 games against ranked opponents after Wednesday's 72-49 defeat at No. 7 Indiana. Penn State shot 33.3 percent against the Hoosiers and is shooting 34.5 percent - 24.0 from 3-point range - in its last six contests.
"It might not show it on the scoreboard, but I thought we did everything we could do in our ability," coach Patrick Chambers said.
Like most of Ohio State's opponents, Penn State's primary concern will likely be trying to contain Deshaun Thomas.
The Big Ten's scoring leader was held under 20 points for the first time in six games against Iowa (16), but he's added some impressive range to his game lately. Thomas is 15 of 30 from 3-point range over his last four contests, giving a big boost to a Buckeyes team that's 12-1 when it hits at least 30 percent from beyond the arc.
Ohio State's biggest issue has been finding a consistent second scorer, and Lenzelle Smith Jr.'s recent performances have left plenty of questions about whether he can assume that title. The junior guard averaged 11.6 points on 47.1 percent shooting in his first 13 games, but has averaged 6.4 points while shooting 32.4 percent in his last five.
Penn State, meanwhile, has two scorers - Jermaine Marshall (15.7) and D.J. Newbill (15.0) - combining for 56 percent of its points in conference play.
With few other options, they're also trying to do too much. Marshall and Newbill are averaging a combined 7.1 turnovers and 5.9 assists in league play, and they gave it away 11 times against the Hoosiers.
Led by Aaron Craft, Ohio State's 1.29 assist-to-turnover ratio is one of the nation's best, while Penn State's 0.68 mark is among the worst.
Updated January 25, 2013