After struggling, especially offensively, through a four-game losing streak, the 23rd-ranked Buckeyes were looking to piece together back-to-back wins for the first time in almost a month. Penn State had other ideas, however, handing the Buckeyes their fifth loss of the season on Wednesday night.
Since the beginning of the calendar year, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions have had identical records, and a lack of offensive production from the scarlet and gray is the reason why. In their previous four losses, the Buckeyes had recorded 64 turnovers, but in their recent win over Illinois, the Buckeyes only coughed up the ball 12 times.
Looking for their first win against Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, who fell to 17-1 in his career against Penn State, the Nittany Lions came out strong from the opening tip. Sophomore Brandon Taylor recorded 11 first half points and redshirt junior D.J. Newbill chipped in eight, as the team from State College was within four at the half.
The Buckeyes received a boost from Amir Williams, staying out of foul trouble to pitch in seven points, as well asAmedeo Della Valle, coming off the bench to knock down a couple from behind the arc. LaQuinton Ross also chipped in a solid nine points to lead the Buckeyes to a 35-31 lead at intermission.
Although the Buckeyes are far removed from playing their best ball of the season, the talent gap between these two teams was apparent in the second half. However, the Nittany Lions did just enough to hang around. With their last four games decided by four points or less, it was no surprise that the game was in the balance until the final seconds and into overtime.
With just under eight minutes remaining, it looked as if the Buckeyes had all but wrapped up the win as they had extended the lead to double digits. A pair of free throws from LaQuinton Ross put the Buckeyes up 59-48, but there was no quit in the blue and white.
Seemingly controlling the pace all game, Ohio State's shot abandoned them down the stretch and Penn State's all-time leader in assists, senior Tim Frazier, led an inspired comeback. Despite only converting two of their final eleven shots in regulation, the Buckeyes held a two point lead with 28 seconds left.
After being fouled on the ensuing possession, Frazier, an 80% free throw shooter, missed a pair of free throws to tie the game. However, Ohio State's Aaron Craft split a pair of free throws seconds later, keeping Nittany Lions within one possession. With the clock winding down, the Buckeyes left Newbill wide open to knock down the game-tying three-point shot.
Penn State jumped out to a quick two-point lead in the overtime period, but if it was up to Lenzelle Smith, the Buckeye faithful were not about to leave the arena with their heads hanging. Smith knocked down a jumper from the top of the key to give Ohio State a 68-67 lead. Smith was then fouled behind the arc on the ensuing possession, knocking down a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three.
In the final minute, with the Buckeyes up by one, a great defensive possession from the road team allowed them to have the last shot of the game. With Aaron Craft draped all over him, Newbill knocked down a game-winning jumper from the top of the key with 1.9 seconds remaining. Having to go the length of the court to put up a shot, Craft was double teamed immediately after receiving the inbounds pass and was unable to get off a shot as the clock expired.
Hoping to be the beneficiary of home cooking in their past two games, the Buckeyes schedule will only get tougher as the team hits the road to take on #14 Wisconsin, before taking on 15th-ranked Iowa. Saturday's game will be the first matchup with the Badgers this season, who won last year's matchup in Madison, but dropped games in Columbus and in the Big Ten Tournament. Earlier this month, Iowa stormed into Value City Arena and handed the Buckeyes their first home loss of the season, 84-74. Likely to be unranked for the first time since 2007-08, Ohio State will look to avenge that loss on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
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