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Ohio State vs. Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse: Three things to watch

Johns Hopkins owns a 5-1 advantage in this series, but Ohio State won the last meeting, 15-12, on April 5. The Buckeyes are 5-3 on the road, while the Blue Jays are 3-4 away from Homewood Field.

Ohio State (11-5), the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Conference tournament, upset No. 2 seed Maryland, 9-6, in Thursday's semifinal to snap a two-game losing skid. A defense that ranks 14th in Division I in fewest goals allowed per game (8.4) has been anchored by goalkeeper Tom Carey. The redshirt sophomore ranks 14th in the nation in goals-against average (8.34) and 27th in save percentage (.537).

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Johns Hopkins (8-6), the No. 1 seed, is enjoying its first four-game winning streak of the season after Thursday's 14-9 victory over No. 4 seed Penn State. An offense that ranks ninth in the country in scoring (12.5 goals per game) has been fueled by junior attackman Ryan Brown. The Calvert Hall graduate has scored 52 goals this spring, tying the program's single-season record for goals shared by Jeff Cook (1981) and Terry Riordan (1995).

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome of the Big Ten tournament final at Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday at 8 p.m.

1) Johns Hopkins' defense. The unit has struggled this season, surrendering 10.6 goals per game, which ranks 43rd in Division I. But the Blue Jays exerted their dominance in the second half of Thursday's game, allowing Penn State to score just three goals in the second half. While coach Dave Pietramala was disappointed that the man-down defense gave up two of those goals, he was happier that the Nittany Lions scored just one even-strength goal. The unit would be wise to replicate that showing against an Ohio State team that scored 15 even-strength goals on April 5.

"It's been an area where we've been fighting," Pietramala said. "I thought our guys in a short turnaround understood their opponent [Penn State]. I thought when we had an opportunity, we won our matchups, and that was important. I thought we did a much better job in the second half than we did especially in the second quarter. I thought our approaches in the second quarter were poor. So we'd come out to a lefty and give him his left. A slide was a poor-angled slide. So fundamentally on defense in the first half, I didn't think we were great. I thought we were much better later on."

2) Ohio State's defense. The Buckeyes have been one of the top teams in the nation in stifling opposing offenses, and they demonstrated that by limiting Maryland to more than four goals below its season average. But Johns Hopkins joined Marquette, Denver and Rutgers as the only opponents to score at least 10 goals against Ohio State, and the offense has scored 10 goals or more in each of its last five games. Buckeyes coach Nick Myers, who witnessed Brown score eight goals in that regular-season meeting, is fully aware of how potent the Blue Jays offense is.

"They are playing some really great lacrosse right now, and we'll have a good plan," Myers said. "They are certainly a team we are familiar with. They are shooting the ball and scoring at an extremely high clip."

3) Faceoffs. Johns Hopkins has fared well on draws, ranking 21st in the country in faceoff percentage (54 percent, 198 of 367). But the team won just 12 of 25 against the Nittany Lions, including 5 of 12 in the second half.

That might not bode well against Ohio State, which won 64.7 percent (11 of 17) of its draws in the win over Maryland. And the Buckeyes won 18 of 30 in the regular-season meeting. Pietramala is hoping that the Blue Jays' wing players can put forth an effort similar to the team's 10-for-14 performance in the second half of a 15-12 victory over Maryland on April 25.

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"I didn't think we were great on the wings [Thursday]," Pietramala said. "I thought we were terrific on the wings in the last game we had, and I thought we weren't very good there today."

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