NCAA Basketball

Resurgent Penn State takes on No. 13 Ohio State

The busier Penn State is, the better the Nittany Lions seem to play. They will put that theory to the test Wednesday night in a Big Ten game against No. 13 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.

Penn State (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten) finished off a stretch of four games in seven days with back-to-back wins, capped by an 81-78 defeat of Northwestern on Saturday.

The Wednesday contest with the Buckeyes (12-4, 6-4) replaces a game that was postponed on Jan. 6 due to COVID-19 issues with the Nittany Lions.

Penn State interim coach Jim Ferry said the team's busy schedule, which also included a 75-67 win over Rutgers on Thursday, did not allow time for self-pity after the Nittany Lions started 0-5 in league play.

"It's about having the mental toughness to be able to keep your confidence when you're losing games," he said. "In this league, people are losing games. The champ in our league might have five losses, six losses.

"We showed a lot of character and mental toughness to win these two games. Who wastes any time or energy thinking about what if we lose these games? If you do, you're probably in the wrong profession or sport. It's never been an approach of mine or these guys in the locker room."

The Buckeyes had their own demons, of sorts, to exorcise following a 67-65 home loss to Purdue on Jan. 19. Ohio State rebounded with a wire-to-wire, 74-62 win at then-No. 10 Wisconsin on Saturday.

"This team has been extremely engaged from the very start of the year," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. "A really, really engaged group. They bounced back from tough losses very well. They came back to work. They're competitive. They feel losses. I told them I didn't sleep for three days (after the Purdue loss). They came back the next day ready to work and had really good preparation."

The Buckeyes got a boost with the return of senior starting point guard CJ Walker, who missed four games because of torn ligaments in his right hand. He had eight points, three assists, two rebounds and a steal in 24 minutes of playing time.

"He's a tremendous talker defensively. He sees things and he competes," Holtmann said. "Sometimes he competes a little too hard defensively and he gets in foul trouble. What he did in the (Wisconsin) game is get to the paint and make really good decisions. That's what he does."

Penn State will try to stop Walker and the other guards from penetrating and flipping the ball out to Justin Ahrens, who has made at least three 3-pointers in four straight games. He is shooting 50.7 percent (34 of 67) from deep this season.

The Buckeyes' leading scorer on the season, Duane Washington Jr. (15.3 points per game), shot just 1 of 9 and finished with nine points against the Badgers. However, teammate E.J. Liddell compensated by sinking 7 of 12 shots and scoring 20 points in the victory.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 26, 2021

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