Penn State is not the Ohio State basketball team’s most intimidating opponent.
The Nittany Lions, who the Buckeyes will play Wednesday, come into the game with a 10-11 record overall and a 2-6 record in the Big Ten.
But the Big Ten has five teams ranked among the top 25, which is more than any conference in the nation.
Coach Thad Matta said that in the Big Ten this year, there are no easy games, no matter the record.
“I don’t think there’s a coach in the Big Ten that feels good about the next game that they’re playing and that’s just documented by who has beaten who,” Matta said. “Records or ranking or where the game has played really has not much relevance. You have to play in this league and know at the conclusion of one game you’re going to another battle the next game.”
The Buckeyes are 5-2 in the conference this year with both losses coming on the road.
Wednesday’s game against Penn State will be at home in the Schottenstein Center where the Buckeyes have an undefeated 14-0 record this year.
The Nittany Lions come into Wednesday’s game having lost four out of the their last five contests. The lone win in that streak came against Illinois, who the Buckeyes lost to Jan. 10.
Penn State point guard Tim Frazier is considered by many the best point guard in the Big Ten. The junior has averaged 18 points and more than six assists on the year.
Matta said containing Frazier will be a “challenge.”
“He makes them go, there’s no question about it,” Matta said. “The ball is in his hands a lot so it’s not on (sophomore guard Aaron Craft) or (sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith) or whoever is on him at the particular time. It’s going to have to be really all five guys somehow, someway give support and help him out.”
Smith said Matta told the team that Penn State is not to be taken lightly and the team needs to play a complete game.
“The first thing he told us is they probably play harder than any team we’re going to play this year,” Smith said. “Watching them a little bit on film, it’s obvious. They crash the boards … They’re going to play 40 minutes of good hard basketball.”
Smith said the key to beating Penn State is their focus and intensity on the defensive end of the floor.
“Whenever we find ourselves playing great defense, our offense just carries off,” Smith said.
Eleven games remain on OSU’s regular season schedule and six of those games come against opponents who are currently ranked.
Despite more high-profile matchups on the horizon, Matta said he’s not worried about his team looking past Penn State.
“It is strictly Penn State,” Matta said. “I want our guys focused on one thing and one thing only and that’s Penn State. If you find yourself looking too far ahead, it will come back and get you in the end.”
Tipoff for Wednesday’s game is set for 6:30 p.m.