Buckeyes Hope Trip to Penn State Will Reveal Identity
By Patrick Murphy
(Editor’s Note: Patrick Murphy is a new contributor for The-Ozone who will be helping us with coverage of the football and basketball teams, along with some other Ohio State sports. He is a former soccer player, a graduate of The Ohio State University, and a massive fan of the Columbus Crew. Check back for a full introduction on the Front Page some time next week).
COLUMBUS, Ohio— The question surrounding this season’s Ohio State basketball team seems to focus on exactly where their identity lies. A top ranked team to start the season – that has gone 1-4 against ranked opponents – does not seem to have established that personality expected 18 games into the season.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Coach Thad Matta joked when asked who this team is.
“Our identity would definitely start with the defensive end of the floor,” he continued more seriously. “I think when we’re locked in and engaged defensively we’re pretty good.”
Consistency is a word that continues to be thrown around regarding this group. More often it is a part of inconsistency. Fans have seen this team play great at times, but so far it has not come together for 40 minutes.
Against Duke, the Buckeyes played great basketball in the first half, but could not sustain it in the second. In the Kansas matchup, Ohio State looked good at times, but never enough to really scare the Jayhawks. While this team won against Michigan, they built a 21-point lead but only won the game by three at home.
That is without mentioning the loss at Illinois, where the Buckeyes did not have to worry about consistency, as they never showed up to play.
It would make sense for a game against a struggling Penn State team (8-11, 0-4 Big Ten) to be exactly what the doctor ordered to get things rolling for Ohio State, but this game on Saturday (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2) may not be a cakewalk for the No. 14 team in the country.
After allowing Iowa to get back in the game after building a big lead, the Buckeyes face another team that will work hard and put them in uncomfortable situations.
“(Penn State and Iowa) are very similar,” Matta said. “In terms of kind of the scrappiness they play with, the changing of defenses in terms of pressing, dropping back to zone, switching man-to-man
That press is something that is worrisome, as it frustrated Ohio State on Tuesday and was what allowed the Hawkeyes to get back into the game. It is something the Buckeyes expect to see from the Nittany Lions in their attempt to knock off a highly ranked team in their building.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Senior Evan Ravenel explains that Penn State, despite the struggles, will be ready for the Buckeyes.
“Coach always advises that Penn State always gets a top-25 win at their place and he doesn’t want it to be us,” Ravenel said. “We don’t want it to be us either.”
The big man knows that records can be thrown out of the window in Big Ten play when a team goes on the road because of how competitive the conference is this season.
“They haven’t won a game in the league but they’ve been in games, it’s not like teams have been blowing them out, they’ve had to go in there and play hard for those wins, “ he said.
“We’ve got to come ready to play our basketball, which is defend, playing hard, and execute on offense.”
Junior Deshaun Thomas echoed points from both his coach and his teammate when discussing what the Nittany Lions will bring to the game. “They play hard, I mean they’re a scrappy team,” he said. “They fight real hard, they’ve got two great scorers, and they’re a team that’s fighting for a position.”
Those two players Thomas mentioned are sophomore D.J. Newbill and junior Jermaine Marshall. Both of these guards are scoring more than 15 points per game and shooting above 40 percent from the field.
After that, Penn State becomes more limited after the loss of Tim Frazier for the season with a ruptured Achilles, but Ohio State will have to be careful they do not allow someone else to go off on them.
What is known for sure is that this will be another stepping stone in what has become an interesting season for the Buckeyes. On paper this game appears like an easy win for a top-25 team against a foe with a losing record, but if Ohio State cannot find the consistency they have lacked in many games this year, the Nittany Lions may be able to turn this into a dogfight, just as Iowa was able to.
Ravenel, though, believes this team is beginning to come together at a good time.
“I think now we’re coming to a point where, okay this guy can do this with the ball, that guy can do that with the ball. Now let’s get these guys in the situations to perform and make the team look good,” he said.
“I think we’re getting to a good spot with our team right now and we’re finding ourselves.”
This knowledge and trust of teammates, and the execution on both ends of the court will be what the Buckeyes need on the road in this conference, no matter the opponent. There has to be the consistency and there has to be the effort from everyone to get this win.
“We’re challenging (the players) to take more pride in their own game,” Matta said.
“To take more pride in statistically shooting the ball better, of taking better care of the ball, making free throws, rebounding, getting more rebounds in terms of minutes played. Those types of things.”
These are things that any team needs to do to be successful, but these are pieces of the game that can help form the Buckeye’s identity. If that can begin in Happy Valley, it could go a long way to making sure this season is a successful one.