Ohio State is looking for a home-court advantage to get back in the win column when the No. 16 Buckeyes host Penn State on Sunday in Columbus.
The Buckeyes (10-4, 4-2 Big Ten) have lost two of the past three games, with both defeats on the road. The latest was a 78-68 setback at No. 13 Wisconsin on Thursday.
It was a game that the Buckeyes trailed by 13 points at the half and by 17 with four minutes left. They rallied to within six points, but couldn’t pull off the comeback.
“I think the first 20 minutes, we didn’t (play hard enough),” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “I think the second 20 minutes, we did. To win on the road against a good team, that’s what it demands. I think we’ve been able to quote-unquote get away with it a little bit, but it’s an area we definitely have to get better.”
Fortunately for the Buckeyes — who are 7-0 in Columbus — the game against Penn State (8-6, 3-3) starts a three-game homestand at Value City Arena. After facing the Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes will take on Indiana University-Purdue University on Tuesday and then Nebraska on Jan. 22.
While the Buckeyes are 2-2 in conference away games, one of the victories was at Penn State on Dec. 5, 76-64.
Under first-year coach Micah Shrewsberry, the Nittany Lions have come a long way defensively. On Tuesday in a 66-49 win over Rutgers, they held a Big Ten opponent under 50 points in regulation for the first time since Jan. 29, 2020, when Indiana mustered just 49 points against them.
Leading the way for Penn State has been Seth Lundy, who is often tasked with guarding the other team’s top scorer. He limited Rutgers’ leading scorer Ron Harper Jr. to just seven points on 2-for-9 shooting.
“At the start of the year, there probably wasn’t anybody in here that was waving the Seth Lundy all-defensive team flag,” Shrewsberry said. “Seth Lundy has guarded the best player, or one of the best players, on every single team this year. He’s making it tough on people. His athleticism, length, attention to detail — that attention to detail has really improved.”
Ahead for Lundy is Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell, who averages a team-best 19.9 points per game. Liddell tallied 18 points against Wisconsin, scoring 14 in the second half.
“He’s got to lead the way with his effort and his physicality,” Holtmann said of Liddell. “This team really needs that from him. I thought in the second half he responded to us challenging him about that and he gave us some really good minutes in the second half.”
The Buckeyes made just 3 of 19 shots from behind the arc against the Badgers. After the game, Liddell questioned his teammates’ commitment.
“Any loss hurts, but I feel like it would’ve been different if we would’ve gave full effort, everybody on the team … everybody on the bench,” he told The Columbus Dispatch. “I feel like if we didn’t come out the first half like we did, it would’ve been a different result. I just don’t like when we’re not playing up to effort, because we have a lot more to give.”