Ohio State vs Penn State Odds, Picks and Predictions: Thornton Helps Power OSU

Penn State has had a rough start to the season, and our college basketball picks don't think Bruce Thornton and Ohio State will make life any easier for the Nittany Lions Saturday.

Dec 9, 2023 • 10:48 ET • 4 min read
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It’s been a rough start to Mike Rhoades’ career in State College, and now the former VCU head coach has a ferocious Ohio State program coming to town. Penn State is on a five-game skid and has to deal with a Buckeyes team that’s handled business since its loss to Texas A&M.

The college basketball odds have Chris Holtmann’s team as five-point road favorites at Bryce Jordan Center, but things could get ugly for the Nittany Lions with the different trajectories these two teams are on.

Find out where my best bets lie in our college basketball picks and predictions for Ohio State vs. Penn State on Saturday, December 9.

Ohio State vs Penn State best odds

Ohio State vs Penn State picks and predictions

After struggling with Oakland in the opener and dropping its second game of the season to the Aggies, Ohio State has been one of the best teams in the Big Ten. The program has won seven straight, including a dominant upset win over No.17 Alabama.

Behind an explosive offense, the Buckeyes are in a perfect spot to make a statement and beat this wounded Penn State team by more than five points.

The Nittany Lions have struggled on defense giving up 70.4 points per game, 174th in the country, while allowing teams to shoot 50% from the floor, 219th. They’re also putting opponents on the free throw line 19.6 times per game, 211th, with them hitting 76.1% of their free throws.

Rhoades’ team is giving up points at a high percentage and not making it easy on itself by putting opponents on the free throw line at a high clip for them to supplement their scoring. It’s a recipe for disaster against this Buckeyes team that’s been carried by the consistent shooting of its two lead guards.

It’s early, but Bruce Thornton is making his case to be first-team All-Big Ten with the way he’s been scoring each night. Behind him, Ohio State is scoring 80.9 points per game, 66th, while hitting 47.4% of its field goals, 71st, 40.1% of its threes, 12th, and 77% of its free throws, 30th.

The Buckeyes’ shooting has been stellar and it has led to some big wins in recent weeks. Since the loss to Texas A&M, Ohio State has beaten its Power Five opponents — Alabama and Minnesota — by an average margin of 10.5 points. Over its seven-game winning streak, OSU’s closest victory was a 10-point win over the Golden Gophers.

That’s been due in part to the emergence of Thornton and fellow sophomore star guard Roddy Gayle. Thornton, a former blue-chip recruit, is averaging 18.7 points per game while shooting 40.8% from behind the arc on 5.4 attempts per game. He’s also adding 5.6 free throws on 6.4 attempts, 86.2%.

Next to him, Gayle, also a former blue chip, is up to 14.7 points per game and has brought his best against Ohio State’s last two Power Five opponents averaging 19.5 points per game. Like Thornton, his shooting has been a big plus with him hitting 55.3% of his shots from the floor and 40% of his threes.

What will make everything that much more challenging for Penn State though is the emergence of Jamison Battle as the third option for Holtmann. Battle, a George Washington and Minnesota transfer, gives the Buckeyes a floor spacer in the front court. He’s averaging 13.9 points behind 2.4 threes per game at 41.5% from deep. 

The Buckeyes’ ability to hit the three is what has made them so dangerous this season. Led by Thornton, Gayle, and Battle, they have five players hitting at least one three per game and all five of them are shooting at least 40% from behind the arc. 

It’s going to be difficult for this Penn State team to contain them given the way it’s played defense against its higher-end opponents. The Nittany Lions have allowed at least 81 points to the opposing team in four games this season, including in both its losses to Power Five teams — Texas A&M and Maryland.

The other side of the Buckeyes covering will be ensuring Penn State doesn’t keep up in the scoring category, but with the way Rhoades' team has been shooting from deep, it won’t be easy to stay on pace with this 3-point sniping Ohio State team.

The Nittany Lions are shooting just 29.7% from three, 300th in the country, and both its leading scorers — Kanye Clary and Ace Baldwin — are shooting below 29% from deep. Penn State has one player — Jameel Brown — hitting above 40% from three and he’s questionable to play against Ohio State after missing the last two games.

My best bet: Ohio State -5 (-110 at bet365)

Ohio State vs Penn State same-game parlay

Ohio State -5.5

Over 146.5

Bruce Thornton Over 16.5 points

The Buckeyes can score, that’s been obvious all season, but will Penn State be able to do enough with the ball to hit the Over? Well, while they can’t shoot from deep, they have been consistent in the mid-range game and in the paint.

Clary has been hitting 56.8% of his twos and big man Qudus Wahab should create enough mismatches down low against a Buckeyes team that lacks a true rim protector. Between those two, Rhoades’ squad can put up enough for this Over to hit.

Penn State’s also going to have a hard time slowing Ohio State down enough, particularly its guards, to keep this total low. In both its Power Five games this year, the Nittany Lions have been cooked by lead guards. 

Maryland’s Jahmir Young put up 28 points and Texas A&M’s Wade Taylor IV poured in 23, that’s got to have Thornton licking his lips. He’s scored at least 17 points in five of nine games this season, including in all three Power Five games. In those three games he’s averaged 26.3 points.

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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Ohio State vs Penn State spread and Over/Under analysis

Most books opened with the Buckeyes as five to six-point favorites and have come down to between 4.5 and five. The Buckeyes are 3-5-1 ATS this season while Penn State is 3-6.

The total opened as high as 149.5, but most books have come down to between 146.5 and 147.5. Ohio State has been consistent when betting the Over going 6-3, including 4-1 in its last five outings. The Nittany Lions are 4-4-1 betting the Over but 4-0-1 in their last five games.

Ohio State vs Penn State betting trend to know

Penn State has hit the Over in 22 of its last 37 games (+5.50 Units / 14% ROI). Find more college basketball betting trends for Ohio State vs. Penn State.

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Ohio State vs Penn State game info

Location: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA
Date: Saturday, December 9, 2023
Tip-off: 6:00 p.m. ET

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