By Matt McCoy
To hear Thad Matta's comments about Saturday's OSU/Penn State game click HERE:
On paper, Saturday's Ohio State game at Penn State is a mismatch. The Nittany Lions haven't won since the calendar flipped to 2013. They're 0-7 in the Big Ten and they've lost those games by an average of 17 points. The Lions best player, do-everything guard Tim Frazier, is wearing a suit on the bench, after suffering a season ending achilles injury in November...but don't tell that to Thad Matta.
"Penn State knocks off a top 25 team every year at home," the Ohio State coach said. "They've done it notoriously every year."
In addition to that warning, Matta said he has concrete evidence of what happens when this Ohio State team is not in the right frame of mind.
"The greatest lesson we have, and we've talked about it every day since it happened, is the Illinois game," Matta said. "I don't know what happened in terms of where we were (mentally)."
The Buckeyes head to State College with a 14-4 record, but in only one of those four losses have they been blown out--at Illinois January 5 when Ohio State was hammered 74-55.
"I think the thing that I've always tried to do is get our guys to understand that this is about us," Matta said. "We determine how we play."
For whatever reason, Ohio State was not sharp that January afternoon in Champaign. The Buckeyes turned the ball over in each of their first two possessions, were down 10 by the 10:00 mark of the first half, and never had the deficit to single digits the rest of the way.
The obvious difference however is that Illinois has some talent. They were a top 25 when they spanked the Buckeyes. Penn State's best win was in their third game of the season, a 55-52 victory over Providence in the final game before Frazier's injury...and Providence is currently just 10-8--far from a juggernaut
Having said that, some of Matta's Ohio State teams that are better than this one, have had close calls versus the Nittany Lions. In 2007, when Greg Oden, Mike Conley and the Buckeyes made it all the way to the national title game, Ohio State escaped State College with a 64-62 victory. Just two years ago, in the Schottenstein Center, No. 1 Ohio State won a 69-66 squeeker when Talor Battle missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
Bottom line though: Matta has never lost to Penn State. He's 17-0. It's hard to imagine that this Buckeye team will lose Saturday but stranger things have happened...Ever hear the one about the all-american linebacker and the imaginary girlfriend?