It had to happen sometime. The Ohio State Buckeyes (18-5, 9-1) lost their first Big Ten game of the season, falling to the Penn State Nittany Lions (14-8, 4-5), 82-79, on Thursday night inside the Value City Arena.
After trailing by as many as 12 in the first half, the Buckeyes battled back—making it a one-point game at the halftime break. In the closing minutes of the game, the Scarlet and Gray were trailing by as many as nine. Once again overcoming the deficit, Keita Bates-Diop nailed a three-pointer with five seconds left to tie the game at 79-79.
However, Penn State’s Tony Carr banked in a three-point shot as time expired, ending the Buckeyes’ unbeaten conference run in the Chris Holtmann era.
Keita Bates-Diop, who was listed as questionable—due to illness—early on Thursday, ended up starting against the Nittany Lions. It took nearly eight minutes for the Buckeyes’ star player to make his first shot, but he played a critical role down the stretch in bringing the Scarlet and Gray back into the game. KBD ended the game with 25 points and 4 rebounds, with 12 of those points and three of those rebounds happening in the first half.
In addition to Bates-Diop, four other Buckeyes reached double figures. Jae’Sean tate had 17 points, C.J. Jackson had 12 points, Kaleb Wesson and Kam Williams both got 10.
Tate reached double-double status, grabbing 10 rebounds. For the night, he lead the Buckeyes’ rebounding efforts.
Carr, who hit the game-winner, led all players on the floor with 28 points. Lamar Stevens, who was PSU’s leading scorer in January with a 19.3 point per game average, scored 15 points against the Buckeyes.
All night long, Penn State found success from behind the arc. The Nittany Lions went 11-of-14 from downtown, including a 5-of-5 mark in the second half. Ohio State went 7-of-15 from three-point range, with six of those coming in the second half.
Here’s how this one went down.
Out of the gate, the Nittany Lions weren’t messing around; guard Shep Garner knocked down a three. On the Buckeyes’ first possession, Kam Williams got a jumper of his own to fall. However, Garner and Tony Carr put together three point makes before Kaleb Wesson connected on a layup. PSU’s barrage from downtown was a recurring theme throughout the game, and especially early, as forward Lamar Stevens rattled off another triple. The Nittany Lions sank their first five three-point shots and held a 16-6 lead with 15:46 left in the first half.
Coming out of the under-16 media timeout, the Bucks had to burn a timeout on the inbound as the Nittany Lions pressed everyone. Once the ball was inbounded after the timeout, the Buckeyes worked it inside to Wesson, however, a shot clock violation occurred—leading to the Buckeyes’ first turnover of the night.
Penn State’s hot hand from beyond the arc cooled off as Josh Reaves missed on his first shot from the land of three. While the crowd cheered after the PSU miss, the Buckeyes failed to make anything out of their next possession, as C.J. Jackson couldn’t connect on a three of his own.
Stevens, the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer, put together a couple free throw makes after getting fouled by Wesson. A little later, he knocked down a jumper. Penn State held a 20-10 lead with 13:48 left in the half, with Stevens leading all players on the floor with eight points.
After Garner sunk another three, the Nittany Lions pulled back up to a double-digit lead, 25-14, with a tad bit more than 10 minutes left in the first frame. Ohio State would make a push back into the game, as KBD rebounded the ball following a Micah Potter block, and took it home for a layup; a couple of minutes later, a missed Garner three was rebounded by Andrew Dakich, who then passed the ball to Bates-Diop—leading to a Tate layup.
Reaves took PSU’s next possession in for a layup of his own, as the Buckeyes’ made their rebuttal shot, a jumper, courtesy of Williams. Reaves took the ball on the next possession, but got it picked away by Tate. The turnover took the game into the under-8 minute media timeout with the Buckeyes trailing 27-20.
Ohio State would get even closer to ending Penn State’s lead after the timeout. Williams and Tate made shots—with Tate getting an and-1 after being fouled by Reeves. Stevens made a free throw for the visitors to push their lead back up to five, 30-25.
With the game within striking distance, it was time for the Buckeyes’ star to start making plays. Bates-Diop nailed a three-pointer, and then followed that up with a layup—which was made possible by a steal from Kam Williams. Ohio State tied the game at 30-30 with 4:40 left before halftime.
A timeout needed to be taken by PSU coach Patrick Chambers, as his team’s double-digit lead, which had gotten up to as many as 12, had evaporated within 10 minutes. The timeout worked, as Stevens connected on two free throws after getting fouled by Dakich. After a missed three by KBD, Watkins put in a layup after a missed shot from Stevens.
KBD wasn’t done, though, as he made three (!) free throws after being fouled by Stevens. Within one, 34-33, the Buckeyes couldn’t get their first taste of the lead. Carr made a jumper, and Watkins made one as well after Musa Jallow missed a field goal.
Watkins’ basket was the last one PSU would get in the half, but the Buckeyes couldn’t capture their first lead. Williams made a jumper with 1:55 left, and it would be 89 seconds until the next basket (a layup by Wesson) would fall. Ohio State went into the break down 38-37, but there was now a ballgame.
Penn State didn’t score in the final 2:27 and had three turnovers, but had the lead thanks to a 6-for-9 mark from beyond the arc. Ohio State made 52 percent of their first half shots, but only 1-of-6 from three point range.
The Nittany Lions lead was about to meet its end, as the Buckeyes came out of the second half looking to take over. Tate took the Scarlet and Gray’s first possession in for a layup, giving the home team the advantage, 39-38. Both teams traded blows—a variety of free throws answered by layups, and layups answered by three-pointers—before the Nittany Lions emerged with a 46-43 lead with just under 16 minutes left in regulation.
OSU’s offense began to buckle; three turnovers were committed within a 2:15 time span. On top of that, the Buckeyes went over 2:15 without scoring a point. Compound that with PSU going on an 8-0 run over 1:30, and you have a problem brewing in Columbus. The Nittany Lions held a 50-43 lead with 15 minutes left.
Even though the Bucks got free throws, they would go over four minutes without a made basket. Tate’s drive into the lane with 11:55 cut the deficit down to eight, 55-47. On their next possession, Dakich came down the floor and made a huge three to bring the Buckeyes within five.
That would be the closest the Buckeyes would get, as Penn State put together a string of made shots—two mid-range jumpers and two three-pointers—to pull away from the Scarlet and Gray. At the under-8 media break, OSU trailed by 13, 67-54. Even though the Bucks hit 50 percent of their shots at this point in the second half, the Nittany Lions were shooting 62.5 percent in the second half, with a 4-of-4 mark from downtown.
Ohio State battled back, getting within nine, 69-60, at the under-6 minute timeout. Off the media break, Wesson slammed home a dunk to bring the Buckeyes within seven—making the game interesting. A Carr jumper and a pair of KBD free throws made it a 71-64 game at the 4:14 point of the half.
As the Buckeyes were on the path to a comeback, Jackson was called for a foul on Carr. However, it appeared that Carr was off-balance and fell on his own accord. The fans booed, but the fact remained: Carr got two shots at the free throw line. He made both, pushing the Nittany Lions lead back to nine.
Tate made a jumper after fighting off contact, but Carr came back down and put a shot up from the right side of the lane—making it. On the ensuing OSU possession, Carr fouled Wesson after getting around a screen; the foul would take the game to the under-4 minute timeout with 3:12 left.
With the final media timeout out of the way, the game resumed with the Buckeyes down 75-66. In a frenzy, the home team put together big plays. Wesson made both his free throws after the foul prior to the media timeout. After Stevens’ layup, Bates-Diop uncorked a three-pointer that connected with the twine. Chambers called a timeout for PSU, as OSU closed within six points, 77-71, with 1:49 left in the game.
Bates-Diop got the Buckeyes within three after making another shot from downtown from the left of the key. As the fans roared within VCA, a miss by Stevens was recovered by Tate—leading to Holtmann burning a timeout.
Twenty-nine seconds remained, and the Buckeyes had possession. After the timeout, Tate drove in for a quick layup, making it a one-point game, 77-76. Jackson fouled Carr to force two free throws. Carr made both, leaving 15 seconds left—and the Buckeyes trailing by three. With four seconds left, KBD made another clutch play: a three pointer.
The game was tied with five seconds left. However, more drama was about to arrive. Carr buried (and banked in) a three as time expired, giving the Nittany Lions the walk-off win—and the Buckeyes’ first loss in conference play in the Holtmann era.
Ohio State Buckeyes is back in action on Tuesday, Jan. 30 against the Indiana Hoosiers. That game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. ET tipoff, with ESPN2 broadcasting the game.