Penn St.-Ohio St. Preview
As Ohio State moves on for the time being without the nation's top 3-point shooter, its best overall player continues to do all he can to help the team succeed.
Looking to build on his most complete collegiate performance, freshman D'Angelo Russell will try to help the No. 23 Buckeyes extend Penn State's Big Ten road skid to eight games Wednesday night.
With second-leading scorer Marc Loving (11.7 points per game) serving the second game of an indefinite suspension, Russell had 23 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes of a 79-60 win at Rutgers on Sunday.
"It was honestly one of the better performances I've seen in all my time in coaching," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
Averaging team highs of 19.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists, the 6-foot-5 Russell is among five freshman on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list and a serious contender for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Russell is averaging league bests of 21.7 points and 5.5 assists in Big Ten play.
"He always has purpose to what he's doing," Matta said. "He's specific with what he's doing, so when he does it in a game it's like, yeah, I just saw him do that yesterday for five minutes, and that's what great players do."
Though that individual performance at Rutgers solidified Russell as one of the nation's top players, he was more concerned with the outcome.
"More importantly, I'm just glad we won," said Russell, who has averaged 23.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists in the last six games.
While it's uncertain when Loving - shooting 53.2 percent from beyond the arc - will return from a school-imposed suspension regarding an unspecified off-court issue, Russell appears poised to carry the weight for a team that's won three of four.
Ohio State (18-6, 7-4) won 18 straight versus Penn State before losing both meetings last season. However, Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers knows continuing that series success will be more difficult with Russell in the mix.
"What I've seen, he plays well beyond his freshman status," Chambers said. "He does whatever the team needs for them to win.
"We've got our work cut out for us."
D.J. Newbill scored 25 points, including a 3-pointer to force overtime and a pull-up jumper with 2 seconds left in the extra session, to help the Nittany Lions record their first victory in eight games at Value City Arena, 71-70 over the Buckeyes last season.
Newbill, who totaled 48 points against the Buckeyes in 2013-14, is the league's overall leading scorer at 20.9 per game. However, he was held to 11 and matched a season worst with six turnovers in Saturday's 56-43 win over Nebraska.
The Nittany Lions (15-9, 3-8) have won three of five since opening Big Ten play with six straight defeats, but they've dropped seven consecutive league road games since a 59-32 win at Northwestern on March 6.
However, Penn State lost the last five away from home by an average of 4.2 points despite averaging 59.0 points and shooting 40.1 percent.
"We're looking forward to this challenge," said Chambers, whose team has held four of those previous five road opponents to 66 or fewer points.
Penn State's victory at then-No. 24 Ohio State last season is its only win in its last 18 road games against Top 25 opponents.