What to Know before Buckeyes travel to face Penn State

COLUMBUS — Ohio State understands the threat Penn State poses.

The No. 4 Buckeyes aren’t going to sleepwalk into State College on Thursday night to take on the Nittany Lions. And they certainly aren’t going to overlook Penn State before moving onto the massive game against third-ranked Michigan on Sunday.

Chris Holtmann has a losing record against Penn State since arriving at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes haven’t beaten the Nittany Lions on the road since 2017. They know the dangers of playing Penn State — and they seem ready to finally get a road win there.

“We’ve got great respect for Penn State and the fact that we were down eight with a few minutes to go [in the last meeting],” Holtmann said Wednesday. “And let’s be honest, the last couple games we’ve played there haven’t been close. They’ve beat us handily. I think our guys are well aware of how good this Penn State team is.

” … So, to be honest with you, I think we have a great understanding based on what they’ve done to us there the last couple years and our absolute battle with them here.”

Holtmann and the Buckeyes are set to face off against Penn State at 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network.

Before the game, Lettermen Row has the Tip Sheet with what to know about the matchup as the Buckeyes prepare for a tough road test at Penn State.

Justice Sueing-Ohio State-Ohio State basketball-Buckeyes

Justice Sueing and the Buckeyes are rolling through the Big Ten. (Joseph Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports)

Playing with edge imperative to Buckeyes success

There are few — if any — teams in college basketball playing at the level Ohio State is right now. But that can change in a hurry, especially Thursday night with a tough test at Penn State, a team that is never easy for the Buckeyes to beat.

The key for this Ohio State team is to avoid complacency, something Holtmann is aware of but is not too worried about entering the final five games of the regular season.

“You just address it head-on,” he said. “You address it when you see it. You don’t try to make it up, but you address it when you see it. You address it in practice. I think you just be honest about it. You don’t necessarily go looking for it. But you’re aware of it when you’ve had the amount of success that we’ve had here in the last couple of months. You address it and you try to keep an edge to your group and your team.

“… We’ll see if we can play with edge on Thursday.”

Buckeyes looking to clean up turnovers after last Penn State battle

In the last matchup with Penn State on Jan. 27, the Buckeyes were trailing with just minutes to go and narrowly pulled out a win, the second in their current six-game winning streak.

That game wasn’t pretty for the Buckeyes, who managed to win despite turning the ball over 17 times. Holtmann is expecting better ball-security this time around against the Nittany Lions, something they have done a better job of since that night.

“We have to be more ball-strong,” Holtmann said. “We have to make better decisions. It’s a difficult matchup for us because, defensively, how they play, they play some actions differently. They always have. Their ball-screen coverage is a bit different than what is traditionally played in our league, which has worked for them. It’s just a different way of attacking. … We have to be stronger with the ball.”

Justin Ahrens-Ohio State-Ohio State basketball-Buckeyes

Justin Ahrens and the Buckeyes have to keep an edge about them. (Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports)

Buckeyes taking brutal schedule day-by-day

The Big Ten is undoubtedly the best conference in college basketball this season, creating a daunting gauntlet in league play that is hard to survive.

Right now, Ohio State is surviving as well as any team in the conference. But the Buckeyes aren’t ready to look ahead at what could be next. Holtmann and his coaching staff continue to take a day-by-day approach to this wild season.

“As coaches, you don’t just get to enjoy any win to the level you hope your players get to enjoy, really, because you’re constantly moving onto the next challenging game,” Holtmann said. “You try not to communicate to your players because they have the right to enjoy wins that are in front of them. When you’re in a league like this, you don’t really enjoy them very long because you’re constantly moving on to what comes next.”

“… While I can rattle off our remaining five games, I try not to think a whole lot about it because it’ll just put you in a place that you don’t want to be.”

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