In the penultimate game of the regular season for Ohio State basketball (17-13, 7-10), the Buckeyes pulled off another thrilling win by downing the Penn State Nittany Lions (14-16, 6-11) in State College, Penn., 71-70, behind a last-second layup from junior forward Jae’Sean Tate.
Four Buckeyes crossed double-figures in scoring, with sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle leading the team with 17 points. On the opposite end, the Buckeyes held off the onslaught from the Nittany Lions top scorers. Tony Carr led his squad with 21 points, and Shep Garner contributed 20 points in PSU’s bid to topple Ohio State.
Lyle led the Buckeyes with four assists and Jae’Sean Tate was the best for the Bucks on the boards with nine rebounds.
The wild finish came came after a mistake-filled first half. A combined 19 turnovers were committed in the first 20 minutes of basketball at Bryce Jordan Arena — with the Buckeyes committing 11 of those turnovers.
Despite the turnovers, the Buckeyes led at halftime 40-36 thanks to double-digit scoring from senior forward Marc Loving and Lyle.
Early in the second half, though, the Nittany Lions clawed their way back and took their first lead of the contest behind second chance opportunities and deep three-point shots. The Nittany Lions opened up on a 15-4 scoring break in the first five minutes of the second half. That run was associated with PSU connecting on 3-of-4 from three-point range.
The hot-hand by the Nittany Lions early in the second half kept their lead afloat, even after going over five minutes without connecting on a field goal. A reason for that: the Buckeyes kept center Trevor Thompson on the bench, as he had three fouls early in the half.
However, the stagnant offense by the Nittany Lions gave life back to the Buckeyes. Ohio State was able to manifest a quick 7-0 run behind free throws from Loving and a three pointer from freshman forward Andre Wesson.
Things got worse for PSU, as guard Josh Reaves fouled out with just over six minutes left in regulation. Before the game started, the Nittany Lions learned they would be without forward Payton Banks, one of the three-point leaders in the Big Ten, due to illness.
As fatigue set in late in the half, another close game was taking shape (again). With under three minutes left, the Bucks clung to a 65-63 lead. After both teams struggled to make shots late, Lyle made a floater with under 80 seconds left to push the Buckeyes’ lead to 69-65. After Lyle’s make, the Nittany Lions scored two points off a layup from guard Tony Carr.
After Carr made the shot to bring the game to 69-67 with 42.3 seconds left in regulation, the referees took a lengthy review to determine how much time was left on the clock. Coming off the free timeout, Jae’Sean Tate drove to the lane for a layup. However, he was called for a travel.
The travel proved costly, as Carr buried a three pointer to put the Nittany Lions up 70-69. But, in Buckeye fashion, the flare for the dramatics weren’t over. Tate drove to the lane after a spin, and went up with a left hand layup. The shot was contested, but it went through with three seconds left. Penn State would miss the desperation heave from half-court, securing the Buckeyes win on the road.
Ohio State goes into the final contest of the year riding a two-game win streak. The season finale for the Buckeyes will be at home on March 4 against the Indiana Hoosiers (16-14, 6-11). Tip-off is scheduled for noon.
3 things we learned:
1. When Marc Loving turns it on, there really isn’t anything that can be done to stop him. In the first six minutes of the game against the Nittany Lions, Loving buried two three pointers—and had a total of 9 points.
However, when Loving goes cold, he goes cold. After the hot start, Loving missed two threes (one of them an open looked) and ended the first half with 11 points. Even though Loving cooled off going into the midway point, his point total was able to tie him for the most on the Buckeyes.
The cold streak for Loving carried over for the first 10 minutes in the second half, which featured the senior going 0-of-2 from the field and getting two points from the free throw line. Loving would end the second half without making a field goal; he ended up 0-for-6 in the half and finished the game 4-of-12 with 14 points.
2. Turnovers are still a problem. The Buckeyes were giving up the rock an average of 12.6 times per Big Ten contest before playing PSU. The first possession against the Nittany Lions was, you guessed it, a turnover by sophomore guard C.J. Jackson. Travels happened sporadically in the first half for Thad Matta’s squad, as did possessions that ended with the ball slipping out of the hands and falling out of bounds.
At the end of the first half, OSU had 11 turnovers. (Yes, the Buckeyes almost equaled the full-game TO totals in the first half.) While the Nittany Lions coughed up the ball a handful of times in the first half, they were still able to cash the Buckeye turnovers into 11 points. Not even three minutes into the second half, OSU committed two more TOs.
With less than 30 seconds left in regulation, Tate committed a travel—which was his sixth turnover of the game. At the time of the travel, it was a two point game, 69-67. If that travel doesn’t happen, maybe Carr doesn’t get the go-ahead three pointer. Mistakes like this have cost teams before, and they cost even more as March shows up on the calendar.
Entering the Penn State game, the Buckeyes were in 10 conference clashes that came within 6 points. Giving away free point opportunities kept opponents in the game, and added a few more ‘Ls’ in the loss column for Matta’s bunch.
3. Teamwork makes the dream work. In the first half, the Buckeyes worked the rebounds well and limited Penn State to second-chance points. On the offensive end, the Bucks made five assists and never trailed in the first half to the Nittany Lions.
The little things Ohio State did in the first half enabled them to have the lead. When the Bucks, as a team, start to click, they can be a team that is hard to beat. However, it seems the Columbus, Ohio bunch can’t be a cohesive unit for the full 40 minutes in the game.
When the lead slipped away in the second half, the little things Ohio State was doing in the first 20 minutes of basketball weren’t being duplicated in the final 20 minutes of basketball. A cold shooting display combined with bad fouls (including a technical on freshman center Micah Potter for hanging on the rim after a dunk) made the road contest against Penn State harder.
Late in the game, Wesson committed a foul after a free throw, which gave the Nittany Lions a chance to add more points to the box score. Penn State went 13-for-19 from the free throw line against the Buckeyes. The fouls gave the Nittany Lions ample chances to beat the Bucks. While they didn’t do it, giving the opponent more chances to pull off the win is something you don’t want.
With the team being as young as they are (Loving is the lone senior on the squad) these errors can be ironed out. With one regular season game left and at least one game in the Big Ten tournament, Matta has a chance make a push in the waning moments of the season to iron out the problems—and maybe surprise some critics.