Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Penn State’s Talor Battle have plenty in common in doing just about everything for their respective teams. The one big difference is where their clubs are in the standings.
The Big Ten’s leading scorers meet for the second time this season as Turner and the ninth-ranked Buckeyes try to defeat the Nittany Lions for the 13th straight time Wednesday night.
Both players lead their teams in scoring, rebounding and assists, with Turner averaging 19.5 points and Battle 19.0.
Turner, though, has developed into a leading candidate for national player of the year honors. He averaged 24.5 points and 8.5 rebounds over two games last week to earn conference player of the week honors for a Big Ten-record sixth time.
“He’s been unbelievable,” coach Thad Matta said. “I think it’s a testament to who he is as a person and what this team means to him and what this university means to him.”
Ohio State (21-7, 11-4) is tied with No. 14 Michigan State for second place, one-half game behind No. 3 Purdue.
Penn State (10-16, 2-12), meanwhile, is in last place, and that’s a major reason why Battle hasn’t earned Big Ten player of the week honors once. He’s the only Nittany Lion with a scoring average in double figures.
Battle has played all 40 minutes in four of his last five games and Turner in four of his last six. Both played the entire game in the Buckeyes’ 75-62 home win on Feb. 30 as Turner had 27 points, 10 boards and six assists while Battle scored 24.
The Nittany Lions fought back from a 12-point halftime deficit to pull within 65-62 with under 2 minutes left before Jon Diebler’s 3-pointer triggered a game-ending 10-0 run.
Ohio State split two games last week, losing 60-57 at home to the Boilermakers on Wednesday and winning 74-67 on the road over the Spartans on Sunday. The Buckeyes used six players in both contests.
“Guys would rather play games than practice,” Matta said. “Hopefully we can get more guys in. But I really don’t (worry). I tell the guys we’ll worry about being tired in April.”
Turner, playing with the flu, led four players in double figures Sunday with 20 points and 10 rebounds and William Buford added 17 and 10.
“It showed we can score,” Turner said. “It’s not just me. It’s all the guys. They made a lot of good plays.”
Penn State has won two straight since its 0-12 Big Ten start, winning 55-51 at Michigan on Saturday. Battle had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“It’s just a testament to us not giving up,” Battle said. “With the season we’ve had and the record we have, we could’ve easily given up. But we’ve continued to work hard and it’s paid off the last couple of games.”
The Nittany Lions have lost six straight at home, and are seeking their first victory over the Buckeyes since a 78-75 win Jan. 10, 2001.