Ohio State will hopes its troubles are a thing of the past when the No. 21 Buckeyes face a Penn State team dealing with its own adversity on Saturday in University Park, Pa.
The Buckeyes (12-5, 2-4 Big Ten) ended a four-game losing streak with an 80-68 win over Nebraska on Tuesday. Coach Chris Holtmann announced before the game that sophomore guards Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad had been suspended indefinitely for “failing to meet program standards and expectations.”
Without the pair, the Buckeyes had only two scholarship guards available, junior C.J. Walker and freshman D.J. Carton. Walker had a season-high 18 points and Carton was one of five other Buckeyes to score in double figures (13 points).
“It just feels really good to be back on top and win,” Walker said.
Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions (12-5, 2-4) suffered their third straight loss Wednesday, 75-69 at Minnesota.
“We’ll keep working. There’s a lot to learn and we’re going to keep growing,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
It’s been a disappointing stretch for Penn State after starting 12-2 and breaking into the top 25 for the first time since 1996. The Nittany Lions lost 72-61 at Rutgers on Jan. 7 and four days later a 58-49 setback to Wisconsin ended a 13-game home winning streak in the Bryce Jordan Center.
“We’re hitting a little speed bump here, a little bump in the road for us and we just have to go back to work,” Chambers said. “Our goals are all still intact. We just have to keep getting a little bit better. I would call it ‘Big Ten tough.’ “
The Nittany Lions will be seeking to avenge a 106-74 loss at Ohio State on Dec. 7.
The Buckeyes were at full strength then, but Holtmann said after the Nebraska game that he was undecided when the suspensions to Muhammad and Washington would be lifted.
“I don’t know that there’s a specific message,” he said. “I’m not coaching for just one game. Ever. I’m not ever doing that. I’m not ever coaching just to win one game or put our best team on the floor for one game. They’re more important to me than that, and it’s more important to me than that. And if I ever get to the point to where I coach for just one game, I’m getting out. See ya. Peace out. Not doing it.”
Ohio State junior post Kaleb Wesson, who was suspended for three games by Holtmann last season, supported his actions.
“This is just a learning step,” Wesson said. “We went through the same thing last year. You learn from it, you move on.”
Penn State isn’t panicking either.
“Somehow, some way we’ve got to get together, try to regroup and get a win, stop this slide,” Chambers said. “A little resiliency, a little toughness; if we can do those things, we’ll come out on top.”
— Field Level Media