Sam Thompson wasn't the second scorer Ohio State needed, but he was the one they deserved. - USA TODAY Sports
It won't win any beauty pageants, but the Buckeyes were able to ride their lockdown defense and a strong performance from Sam Thompson for another road Big Ten victory, their 18th in a row over Penn State.
The game didn't really reach the blowout level that so many expected, but Ohio State controlled the game more or less after the first five minutes to grind out the win. Sam Thompson was nearly perfect from the field with 16, along with 4 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals and a partridge in a pear tree. Penn State was led by Jermaine Marshall's 16, but the rest of the Nittany Lions struggled profoundly to score, paced by a stretch in the first half where they missed 13 consecutive shots. Ohio State's own offensive inconsistency prevented this game from ever properly becoming the blowout it always felt like, as Penn State was able to hang around, but poor free throw shooting and rushes possessions from the Nittany Lions eventually did them in.
Both teams shot very well in the game's first five minutes, as the Buckeyes were 4-5 and Penn State 4-6, (and many of those makes were in traffic), but the wheels promptly fell off. A steal and a breakaway slam from Flyin' Sam Thompson started a 13-1 run for the Buckeyes to eventually push the margin to 24-12, a lead they would not relinquish.
The Buckeyes led 29-18 at the half, and the Nittany Lions were fortunate to be that close. Penn State shot only 29.2% from the field, and were outrebounded 20-12. Deshaun Thomas and Sam Thompson led the Buckeyes with 7 points each, as Ohio State shot 44%. Thomas missed several minutes near the end of the first half with his second foul, and the Buckeyes struggled to build a huge cushion in his absence.
Penn State threatened a few times to turn things into a game in the second half, preventing Ohio State from pulling away from them, but were never able to mount a proper run. They cut the lead down to single digits with 16:00 left after Patrick Ackerman hit a jumper, but Aaron Craft drove and hit a difficult layup in traffic to push the margin back to 11, and the game never moved much from there.
Penn State climbed back to within 10, 59-49 with only 2 minutes left, but a pair of Lenzelle Smith free throws and a putback by Ravenel extinguished the rally.
A big reason for that came from the divergent performances at the free throw line. Penn State had no problem getting to the free throw line, but struggled to convert, shooting 13-20. Ohio State had plenty of chances as well, going 19-23 from the charity stripe.
Deshaun Thomas finished with 11 points for the Buckeyes, but shot only 4-13 and was limited to only 3 rebounds, but a surprisingly balanced Buckeye attack proved to be enough for the win.
The big story was clearly Sam Thompson, who added two clutch three pointers and a relentless defensive performance to accompany the usual buckets in transition and GIF worthy slams. Aaron Craft added 7 points, 6 boards and 5 assists, and Evan Ravenel added another 7 rebounds before fouling out for the Buckeyes.
DJ Newbill added 15 points and 6 dimes for Penn State, and Sasa Borovnjak added 9. The Nittany Lion's guard duo did a great job limiting turnovers (2 combined, with 8 assists), but it wasn't enough to overcome a teamwide listless offensive performance. Brandon Taylor was perhaps the chief culprit, missing all five of his first half three point attempts en route to a 1-8 shooting day. The Nittany Lion bench only made two field goals as well, often settling for quick or contested shots early in the shot clock, instead of allowing Newbill to run their offense.
The margin probably wasn't what Buckeye fans wanted, but there were a lot of good takeaways from the game, despite the less than spectacular margin. This was probably the most balanced the Buckeyes have been, scoring wise, the entire season. Lenzelle Smith added 11 points, Ravenel 6, and Ross 5, and Trey McDonald scored. Quality free throw shooting and a career day from Sam Thompson allowed Ohio State to build and maintain a comfortable margin even when Deshuan was having an off night, as will likely happen again at some point this season.
Ohio State has a home game against a suddenly resurgent Wisconsin squad before a road tilt against Nebraska, and both are highly winnable games before matchups with Indians and Michigan loom. Time is running out for Ohio State to get their secondary players in a quality offensive flow, but today was certainly a good step in that direction. Double digit road wins in the Big Ten are hard to come by, even against the likes of Penn State.
|SMITH JR.,LENZELLE *||11||2||1||8||2||2||4||7||8||1||35||17|