Penn St.-Ohio St. Preview
By BRETT HUSTON
(AP) -- Ohio State has had trouble dealing with top-level competition on the road, but it certainly hasn't had any issues winning the games it's supposed to.
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes look to continue their trend of steamrolling Big Ten bottom feeders in Wednesday night's visit from last-place Penn State, which will try to avoid becoming the 37th consecutive opponent to leave Columbus with a loss.
Ohio State (17-3, 5-2) didn't have Jared Sullinger for its 78-67 defeat at Kansas in mid-December, then came up short despite having everyone available for road games against Indiana and Illinois.
The Buckeyes bounced back from the Jan. 10 loss to the Illini by getting some revenge on the then-No. 7 Hoosiers with an 80-63 win Jan. 15. They kept their foot on the gas Saturday in Lincoln, forcing 27 Nebraska turnovers while rolling to a 79-45 victory.
Beating up on the Cornhuskers, who share the Big Ten basement along with Penn State (10-11, 2-6), should hardly come as a surprise. The Buckeyes have played four games against the league's five teams with losing conference records and won by an average of 31.8 points.
"I see this team growing inch by inch, week by week," coach Thad Matta said after Ohio State's second rout of Nebraska. "We've got to continue to hammer `em. We had three great practices leading into this game.
"They were talking on the bench about what can happen if we keep practicing like that. Hopefully, we can continue that."
The Buckeyes' growing track record of blowouts certainly doesn't bode well for the Nittany Lions, who haven't beaten a ranked team on the road since a 38-33 win over then-No. 18 Illinois on Feb. 18, 2009.
They've lost their last nine against Top 25 teams away from State College after falling 73-54 to then-No. 11 Indiana on Sunday. Penn State actually led the Hoosiers 29-27 at halftime before falling apart in the final 20 minutes.
"We had no answers for their runs, and maybe that was because of the atmosphere," first-year coach Patrick Chambers said. "We're a young team and we will learn from it and continue you to get better."
Chambers has his work cut out for him turning around the Nittany Lions, but his team has nowhere to go but up against Ohio State. Penn State has lost 16 straight to the Buckeyes, though they put a serious scare into Matta's then-No. 2 ranked team in a 69-66 loss at Columbus on Jan. 15, 2011.
The Nittany Lions shot 55.6 percent and outrebounded Ohio State 29-17, but Sullinger's 3-point play with 13.2 seconds left - he finished with 19 points - was the difference.
That pushed the Buckeyes' home winning streak against unranked opponents to 34, and they've since extended that to 50. Their overall 36-game run in Columbus is the nation's second-longest home winning streak behind Kentucky's 47.
If Penn State wants to have any chance of pulling a major upset, it'll need to not only contain Sullinger but William Buford as well. The senior guard averaged 17.3 points in Ohio State's three wins in the series last season, shooting 54.5 percent from 3-point range.
Avoiding turnovers - the Buckeyes force 18.5 per game, among the best in the nation - is also key, and so is getting scoring from someone other than Tim Frazier. The junior guard averages a team-best 18.0 points and conference-best 6.4 assists, but the Lions have lost the last five games in which Frazier has been their leading scorer.
They're 6-2, however, when he has at least eight assists.
Updated January 24, 2012